Eating your own dog food or Dogfooding is very common in SaaS companies. It is a practice where companies test the product or service by letting people use them. In real-life when these products are tested, you get to know them in detail. The whole point is letting employees use the software like any customer would. That will give a detailed purview of how the product works. This will help validate the idea proactively and help improve it before it being a part of the world. It is also easier for companies to know about its quality, understand marketing, and make sure the product reaches the right audience. In SaaS B2B companies, the core idea is to solve a problem. This is what drives dogfooding. When the solution needs to be tested for its viability, dogfooding becomes pivotal.
It works like testimonial advertising. It gives the management a chance to understand how the people will respond and react to a product. It also gives an idea of the various questions that customers might face. Dogfooding is considered to offer an advantage in marketing and product launch.
Origin of the Term
In 1988, Microsoft has its LAN manager test their own product. In an email famously titled “Eating our own Dogfood’’, the email asked the manager to use the product internally and increase the usage as well. This led to the term becoming popular as a way of testing the product internally among employees before leading it to the world.
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Stages of Dogfooding
- The software is used with a single new feature added. This is relatively a stable model as dogfood.
- Many new features can be added to create a bundle of features that can be tested together.
Here are some examples of Dogfooding.
The licensing feature on Youtube was dogfood before it got released. The feature that allows users to choose between a standard or a creative commons license was internal dogfood. In 2011, employees tested how the commercial licensing worked on all Youtube videos before it became public.
Oracle runs Oracle through Oracle Linux. More than 20, 000 developers use Oracle Linux to develop Oracle.
HP tested its own products under a name called Project Alpo. Internal employees widely used HP products to build and improve processes.
Did you know that Gmail was dogfood? Google has a lot of products and the team tests these products to get to know the details better. This information can be used to make the products much better than they are.
Facebook’s React feature is one of the results of dogfooding. Employees found that it helped them express best when they could react to a post or video in a manner they wished with an array of emoticons. This helped let it out to the audience and realised that the feature was effective in helping people emote better.
Microsoft is one of the first companies to start dogfooding. They have found it beneficial to improve their programs and products. In fact, almost every product is now tested, and the process is integrated into their release culture. Microsoft Excel improved through the dogfood mailing lists at Microsoft.
Asana uses dogfooding to engineer task lists, take feedback, run through interview questions, surveys, design the product roadmap, find bugs, capture user feedback, and understand product better.
Who does the Dogfooding?
- Colleagues and coworkers in a company
- Company managers
- Quality assurance teams
- Bug discovery teams
- Customer support teams
- Product management teams
- User experience and behaviour teams
It is important to take note you need to pick people who are different from you. That is, you need to pick people who might the similar to your target set of customer fit. Instead of a set of random beta testers, employees who are like the customer-fit will help give the right feedback.
Pros of Dogfooding for SaaS Companies
- Helps understand the product better
- Improves product quality through finding bugs
- Saves time by addressing issues
- Scales testing environments and helps find bigger issues
- Displays product usability and functions
- Saves costs by leveraging internal resources for testing
- Gives feedback on features- both released and work in progress
- Allows for a better understanding of user experience
- You get to know customer perspective or what the client feels
Cons of Dogfooding for SaaS Companies
- Will increase the release time of the product
- Might increase the product cost
- If the audience is not right, it might backfire the results
- Not a substitute for traditional testing
Why is Dogfooding Important?
By using your own product, you can understand how customers will react to it. There are multiple benefits of it as we saw earlier. There can be an increase in innovation, bugs can be caught, and new solutions can be devised for problems that exist internally. The lack of dogfooding makes issues blind when they need to be solved. If your solution has a product-market fit, employees can use it to understand their product better.
For example- At SmartKarrot, customer success teams use the intelligent platform themselves. This will make product teams aware of any issues they face. This can then be aligned to clear and resolve the issues. Also, dogfooding is an ongoing process. It begins from pre-onboarding to the end. This keeps the team up to date with whatever is happening on the product front.
The core theory is if you feel the pinch, you will fix it. So if your code crashes, you are likely to fix it faster. If your customer success reports are not showing up, you will dig deeper to find that issue.18
Dogfooding helps the company stay motivated to fix the features, add new ones, fix bugs, resolve issues, and keep the overall quality high. This is because employees are using the product which can affect their happiness, productivity, and efficiency. Also, dogfooding is no longer an optional activity. If you want to become a cutting-edge company, dogfooding is almost something essential your team must engage in.
Niyathi is an experienced content marketer with a love for SaaS tech products. She reads a lot (mostly fiction) and is a huge news junkie. Niyathi loves exploring different forms of inbound marketing and taking on challenges.
Published March 25, 2021, Updated March 25, 2021