With so many company initiatives competing for often limited resources, understanding the return-on-investment of dogfooding is essential to proving its organizational value. Luckily, the benefits of dogfooding programs are immense. By identifying key metrics, you can make informed tweaks that improve program performance throughout your company.
Last week’s blog post explored the basic concepts of dogfooding – what it is, where it might live in an organization, when it occurs in development, and who participates. This week, we’re taking a closer look at the why: why eat your own dog food? What are the product and organizational benefits of dogfooding?
Keep reading for nine ways a successful dogfooding program spreads value company-wide.
1) Improves product quality
By leveraging employees as testers for your dogfooding projects, you discover defects and make product-improving insights. This guarantees that your product has been tested in real environments by the time of release. Rather than relying on common use cases, you’ll gather product data about scenarios in which your customers will actually use your product.
2) Saves on development and support costs
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that when development teams resolve bugs before release, it saves time and money. But how about this: bugs found after release can be up to 100 times more costly to fix. In addition to minimizing hours spent and saving money for dev, dogfooding can put support teams at ease. By discovering and working through issues that would have demanded extensive customer support, they now have an opportunity to prepare before launch.
3) Nurtures a customer and product-centric culture
When more of the company gets involved in testing and providing feedback on a product, they generally produce higher quality work. As contributors, your employees invest more of themselves into the brand. A company culture that promotes a customer and product mindset gets team members excited about the products that they produce. When they get into the customers’ shoes, they better understand the larger mission they’ve set out to achieve.
4) Better product knowledge and awareness
Companies that don’t adopt an approach of dogfooding typically require formal product training for departments outside of development. This means carving out time to teach Marketing, Sales, or Support teams about a new product release. A hands-on learning approach through dogfooding, however, offers your employees the chance to teach themselves how the product works. Rather than hearing about it, they – and you – will be able to discover firsthand what they enjoy, what they’d improve, and how their preferences shape the product experience.
5) Expertise from other teams and roles
Teams or departments that don’t work directly on product development or release can bring a wealth of knowledge into your product. By treating your colleagues as testers – or better yet, as customers – they can lend you an objective look into your product by leveraging their role and industry experience.
For example, Marketing team members from a different product line may be able to provide some interesting messaging insights. This is one of the biggest benefits of dogfooding: your employees’ continued feedback has the ability to continuously improve your product over time.
6) Improves your product roadmap
Even though dogfooding leverages employees, the customer is still king. In that same spirit, treating employee feedback like customer feedback – weighted based on the number of people that share similar views – can easily help you prioritize the direction your product is heading.
7) Promotes a collaborative work environment
Employees can feel like their feedback goes unheard or falls into a black hole. They may feel insignificant or disconnected from the products you’re developing. By enabling collaboration and requesting feedback through dogfooding, you give your employees a forum to share their thoughts, opinions, and insights.
8) Scales test environments immensely
Lab environments can at times limit your Quality Assurance and Engineering teams. By leveraging resources within your company, you can dramatically scale their efforts to include employees’ natural technical environments and ecosystems.
9) Showcases product usefulness and usability in market
Like the Alpo commercial that gave dogfooding its name and ambitious statements from Apple about proving the typewriter’s obsolescence internally, showing the market that your employees use your product can tangibly demonstrate its usefulness. It speaks to a belief in your products and the work you do. It also represents solidarity with the customer experience. If it’s good enough for your customers, then it’s good enough for you.
What could prevent an organization from reaping the benefits of dogfooding?
- Sometimes the context where you would use a product doesn’t lend itself to dogfooding. For example, oil or gas pipeline management tools need to leverage customer feedback rather than employee feedback because employees can’t manage a pipeline.
- Company culture can definitely hinder the adoption of a dogfooding program. If feedback isn’t accepted or seen as valuable, management won’t set it as a company initiative.
- Limited bandwidth or resources to undertake dogfooding efforts can stop a program from starting before it leaves the drawing board.
We’ll speak more to the challenges of dogfooding – and what you can do to overcome them – in next week’s blog post. If you want to see what you can do today to start bringing more value into your dogfooding program, download our new e-book, Essential Tips for Dogfooding Success!
Special thanks to Centercode’s Software Architect Nathan Stokes for lending his pup, Rocco, an Alaskan Klee Kai. Thanks as well to Office Jedi Nelly Ahmadi, and Account Managers Iris Peña and Ryan Calzaretta.