GuidesProduct developmentWhat does ‘dogfooding’ mean in tech?

What does ‘dogfooding’ mean in tech?

Last updated

23 May 2023

Author

Dovetail Editorial Team

Reviewed by

Sophia Emifoniye

Dogfooding is what internal quality testing of a product or service is called, typically from their own employees. This feedback is then implemented before any future testing or launch.

Why would a company "eat their own dog food?"

"Eat your own dog food" is a phrase that comes from making a product or service (dog food) that you would consume (eat). It was once used for items that are good enough that you yourself would use. It has evolved to mean using your company's product or service close to the release date for quality testing and ensuring a good user experience.

Who implements dogfooding?

Wondering who in your company could spearhead the dogfooding program? Here are a few departments capable of running the testing and getting the customer experience data down.

User experience (UX)

Your UX team is an excellent choice for optimizing user experience through product interactions, as they already have a deep understanding of client behavior and can make necessary tweaks. 

By having the UX team handle implementation, the IT team can focus on problem-solving and fixing any technical issues that arise. This allows the UX team to stay fully focused on their area of expertise.

IT/support

IT departments already know how to manage bugs and update products, but dogfooding is another logical choice. 

While they are running the dogfooding project, they can also debug and fix issues as they are known to help guide the project to a finalized launch-ready end.

Quality assurance/quality control

Your quality assurance (QA) team understands the intended purpose of the product or service and can provide valuable feedback to ensure that it meets the intended goals. They can communicate its usability and keep bugs and code issues in the quality control area.

Product management

Leaders in step-by-step project management can find the pain points and workflow to keep your dogfooding project on track and work with other teams seamlessly to ensure that the results needed are the results achieved. The only problem with a project manager spearheading the project is that they usually work on several projects.

When does dogfooding occur in product development?

Dogfooding with employee testing is typically done first, so there is time to shake out the bugs in the systems before going to a beta test or pre-launch stage.

Who submits feedback for dogfooding?

To evaluate user readiness, most dogfooding feedback is given by the same employees testing the product or service. Any fixes can be implemented before the beta testing or the launch stage.

Problems during dogfooding and how to fix them

Bugs and other issues can always come up during dogfooding, and that is a good thing. Getting these problems fixed early can make for a smoother implementation.

Bugs or end-user issues

By using the same methods to report bugs and issues that a customer would take, you can see the workflow of the entire process and help the team test out all aspects of the project.

Poor feedback

If you're not getting the feedback you need from the program, you can reiterate the project's goals and ask specific questions as to whether the test is proving or failing to reach those goals.

Inconsistent use of the product or lack of employee participation

By getting on board with a project roadmap that connects the goals to the project, you can help increase the participation of the employees in testing the service or product.

Your company culture doesn't value dogfooding

Change is hard. If your company isn't used to dogfooding, you may have to start slow and work up to a larger project. With a small team start, you can lay the groundwork for future larger-scale projects down the road. Keeping the communication open and presenting all the values of the implementation of dogfooding can get more on board with the idea of it.

Benefits of dogfooding

There are several benefits to dogfooding any product or service you are close to launching. Here are a few:

Reduces the need for outsourcing testers

When a company outsources testers, it can be costly and time-consuming. Dogfooding is easier and cheaper when company members test out the product or service. You'll get actionable information and feedback without searching for product or service testers.

Puts an emphasis on privacy

By not outsourcing, you're also keeping new and innovative technology and launches unexposed, where they can be accidentally put out into the public eye before you're ready. In a closed dogfooding setting, with perhaps NDA signings, you won't have anything disclosed without repercussions.

Saves money

You can save resources and money by not outsourcing testers and still gain insights into the strengths and weaknesses of your service or product. This allows you to identify and fix any issues before it is released to the public. Putting it out to the public and then having to debug it will cost more.

Risks of dogfooding

Like anything, there are also risks to dogfooding, including:

Targeting the wrong audience

If you target the wrong market or don't get feedback that helps enhance the testing of the product or service, then dogfooding is useless. Targeting the wrong audience can create a product or service that may work for your employees or testers but does not benefit or work for your end-users.

Item familiarity

Remember that your employees and business co-workers are more familiar with your product or service than your end-user. They already know how to work it, including features and value. 

You'll want to diversify your dogfooding so that there are also those who have not interacted with the item. This way, you can see how it is for a consumer that has not had the familiarity with it that your employees have had. For the best results, good beta testing after dogfooding can help.

Biased opinion

Bias can creep in and taint the project. After all, it is the team's hard work that brings the service or product to fruition. Removing the bias by having those that are not part of the team included in the testing can help even out the feedback.

Over-reliance

Dogfooding can be beneficial for several reasons, but it is not a substitute for quality testing. 

QA assurance and testing should never be skipped when doing dogfooding. The first and foremost reason behind dogfooding is understanding your market and how your product or service can benefit that market. Secondly, it can always be from finding issues and bugs.

Overlooked Scenarios

Many dogfooding projects only test the actual product, service, or application. They forgo starting at the very first step of the onboarding—the signup. 

You can improve your product or service by testing out the scenarios that have been overlooked. This way, you can fine-tune and test every step of the process and provide feedback that covers every aspect of the user experience.

FAQs

Why is it called dogfooding?

Dogfooding is using a product or service before any official release or launch date. It comes from the phrase "eat your own dog food," meaning to make an item that you yourself would consume.

What is an example of dogfooding?

An example of dogfooding would be Facebook's react feature. It was used by Facebook employees that wanted to express their reactions to a video or post through emoticons. After employees tested and used this feature, it was then rolled out to end-users and consumers of Facebook.

What is the difference between dogfooding and fishfooding?

The term dogfooding is used when you're using your product or service before the official launch date. Fishfooding is a more subtle form of dogfooding where you have a select group of testers for an earlier, more beta-version of the product or service.

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