“The visionaries will forge ahead; those hoping for immediate industry and process transformation will give up.” This was the opening sentence of my blog post accompanying Forrester’s DLT/blockchain predictions for 2018. I’m repeating it here, because it’ll continue to hold true for 2019 — with one proviso: There’s a real risk that we’ll experience the beginning of a “blockchain winter,” as the continued absence of miracles and revolutionary developments leads decision makers to throw out the proverbial baby with the bath water and stop distributed-ledger-technology-related investments completely. While this wouldn’t have a major immediate impact on innovation in the wider ecosystem of public blockchains and ambitious startups, it would be a serious setback for the development of enterprise-grade solutions and networks.

Here’s what to watch for in blockchain and DLT in 2019:

  • In enterprises, we’ll see a shift in terminology from “blockchain” to DLT. The move toward different language has two key drivers. First, innovators within enterprises want to send a clear signal to executive teams that their projects have nothing to do with the Wild West of cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings. Second, adopting more neutral terminology avoids potentially endless arguments over whether a particular solution is or isn’t a real blockchain — an argument that’s unwinnable anyway, given the different architectures of the platforms that are available today.
  • Platform proliferation will continue. In 2018, Ethereum/Quorum, Hyperledger Fabric, R3’s Corda, Digital Asset Holdings’ software, and MultiChain have been the platforms we’ve most frequently encountered in live systems or major developments. We don’t see this changing significantly in 2019 but are expecting more contenders to emerge, given the number of well-funded projects that are under way and promise to address some of the key shortcomings in existing architectures.
  • Technology shortcomings won’t be the biggest inhibitor. That honor goes to non-tech issues, whether it’s agreeing on data and process definitions, smart contract rules, access permissions, or governance frameworks and legal agreements, ensuring that compliance will continue to challenge those in regulated industries. I often use the phrase, “blockchains are 80% business, 20% technology.” If anything, that 80% is on the low side, and we’ll continue to see projects held up or even fail because companies’ focus is on the 20%.

The pruning of projects that we predicted for 2018 has taken place and continues. We’ve also seen initiatives go live that deliver immediate benefit as well as laying the foundation for potential process redesign. When it comes to more transformational potential, the visionaries will continue on their path. While we won’t see any breakthrough deployments in 2019, the tokenization of digital and physical assets will be one of the key areas of innovation.

2019 is the year that transformation goes pragmatic. To understand the 14 major dynamics that will impact firms next year, download Forrester’s Predictions 2019 guide