Dead Sea Scrolls digital transformation

What can the Dead Sea Scrolls teach us about digital? Probably nothing, but…

..They may explain why many digital initiatives fail. In 1947, in the Judean Desert, in Qumran, an ancient settlement along the Dead Sea, a Bedouin shepherd found a collection of 3000 year-old documents commonly known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. Unknown to many, these documents are comprised of not only Biblical references, but non-Biblical references too.

Okay, so what?

Among the non-Biblical references found were the “Archive of Babatha.” These included thirty-five documents that included marriage contracts, land deeds and bills of sale. These were written in Aramaic, Nabatean and Greek. We therefore absolutely know for certain that the principles of accounting are at least 3000 years old, likely more.

So, where are you going with this?

Modern accounting, logistics, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and financial systems automate well-established processes that are generally accepted around the world, regardless of language or culture. Certainly there are nuances, but a debit is a debit, a general ledger is a general ledger, an income statement is an income statement, etc. Huge service industries exist to audit these systems to ensure they are in compliance with generally accepted practices, and the laws in which they are operating. These auditors do not randomly investigate systems, procedures and results. They compare how individuals and companies operate against published and well known practices.

Follow me now, this is where it gets important.

Following traditional (waterfall, for example) procedures to implement legacy, back-office systems, makes a lot of sense. Why? Because with greater than 3000 years of accounting history, we know, for the most part, what needs to be done. Having implemented ones successfully before is a good indication of success for future implementations.

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So what does this have to do with digital transformation?

Unlike in accounting, there are no commonly accepted practices associated with digital that are capable of being objectively audited. What works for one company does not necessarily work for another company. Further, the pace of change, evolution and revolution with digital technologies is so rapid, that within six months, you may need to decommission solutions and implement new ones. In fact, you need to be implementing new solutions all the time.

So you’re saying I’m doomed?

Companies that are successful at digitally transforming themselves do not rely upon old methodologies to implement new technologies. With back-office systems it makes a lot of sense to map out, to the nth degree, all of the processes in need of automation. This simply is not the case with digital.

To be successful with digital, one must take a more Agile approach. Define user journeys. Create a [general] roadmap of features and potential releases. Create a functional prototype, commonly known as a minimal viable product (MVP.) Test the MVP with users. Use their feedback to determine what subsequent features should be. Roll it out to a larger audience. Monitor results against predetermined KPI’s. Use the KPI’s to continually repeat the process. Always be continually improving.

Digital is not “set and forget.” The biggest difference between legacy systems and digital ones is that digital requires continual enhancement; legacy systems require, comparatively, minimal enhancements.

Well done, Bill, you actually tied the Dead Sea Scrolls to Digital.

I am a history enthusiast. I can’t help but see correlations between what is going on now, and what has occurred many times over the years. As George Santayana said, “ Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

If you are an executive at a Fortune 2000 company, found this article useful or interesting, and are looking to transform your business to remain relevant in the digital era, please get in touch with me. My team and I can help mitigate a lot of risk and significantly enhance your chance for success.

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