Pacific Asia Journal of the Association for Information Systems


Background: Blockchain technology and accompanying programmed protocols (smart contracts) offer disruptive opportunities for businesses, public institutions, society, and its citizens. However, blockchain is a relatively young research area: the number of publications available regarding blockchain did not begin to rise significantly until 2012, and certain fields of the blockchain domain remain to be explored. A similar situation exists with research into the governance of blockchain solutions focusing on decision rights: the limited number of theoretical and empirical contributions hinders the proper adoption of governance mechanisms in practice.

Method: A mixed-method approach was conducted in which 1) a structured literature review, 2) semi-structured interviews, and 3) a focus group discussion were utilized to determine the current situation regarding decision rights in the context of blockchain governance.

Results: The structured literature review resulted in a total of 23 relevant contributions. Those contributions were consolidated to serve as input for a total of twelve semi-structured interviews, and for a focus group session with five participants, who were not part of the interviewee pool. Using that approach, an overview of the concepts, relationships and mechanisms pertinent to decision rights was composed.

Conclusions: Considered together, the results show that decision rights are often overlooked at the start of a blockchain project, where technical considerations are dominant in the discussion with stakeholders. However, research also points out that the longer it takes to address decision rights in a blockchain consortium, the more complex and costly it becomes to introduce governance mechanisms at a later stage. Another important conclusion is that consensus is currently lacking as to what constitutes blockchain governance and what part decision rights play in governance processes, in both theoretical and practical terms.