The Gladys Principle

My co-workers–and some of my clients–are tired of this story. So of course, I’ll tell it once again. It has to do with the Gladys principle. Gladys was my first boss, at the ripe old age of 15. I worked in a Concession Stand at a local “Mini-Golf” business. The business is long gone, as I would assume Gladys is, but the story still works.
Here’s the crux: If Gladys gave me 100 things to do, and I did 99 of them perfectly, the one I left out was

  • The most important one (and it didn’t matter which of the 100 it was), and
  • The first thing she noticed

Businesses fall prey to the Gladys Principle all the time. In first meetings with businesses that are sure they need to replace their software, they usually have a list of all the things they need software to do that their current software doesn’t do. They ignore all the things the software they have does well.
The assumption is that if the current software is 10 years old, or only cost $100, or was put in by their next door neighbor’s dog’s owner’s friend, ANY new software will have all these features and then some.
Here’s a good example: In businesses that move from QuickBooks to something else, the most common question I get is, “How do I change the invoice once it’s been printed (or posted, etc.)? In QuickBooks, I could do that.”
Yep. That’s right. You can change invoices even after they’ve been printed…even, for that matter, after they’ve already been paid. And accountants all over the world are turning over in their leather chairs and pulling their hair out over this. “What about the audit trail?” they ask.
And the accountants are right. For most businesses, it would be a disaster if the employees could go back and change things after they have been finalized. Invoices sent to customers wouldn’t agree with invoices in the computer system. So “better” accounting software makes you issue a credit or debit memo (another transaction) to change the amount of the invoice. It’s been business practice for years, but…for the small business it’s somewhat annoying.
From their perspective, they lose a feature. But wait, didn’t they change software to get features they didn’t have. Yep. If you looked at the list of things they needed from software, this one wasn’t there. Because it was one of the 99…they only listed the “ones” they didn’t have.
It’s why Needs Analysis is critical to the selection of a business software product. It’s the place to start.

3 thoughts on “The Gladys Principle

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