At Ondema we eat our own dog food.

Some of you may recognize that sentence’s reference to “dogfooding,” while others may think the sentence simply evidence that we’re a bunch of weirdos. Both are correct.

What is Dogfooding?

For the uninitiated, the term dogfooding (the streamlined version of “eating your own dog food”) is the habit of consuming your own products in a manner similar to how your customers use them.

In the most basic sense, dogfooding software translates to using the application you’re developing. However, it goes beyond simply consuming the software as a means of identifying bugs and rough edges during Alpha testing. Dogfooding gives those writing code a firsthand perspective of the user experience (UX) and establishes an immediate feedback loop on quality and areas for improvement. Dogfooding affords technical contributors a mechanism to deepen their understanding of UX and use this understanding to bake usability and quality into the product from the start.

Many software products suffer because those responsible for making and implementing technical decisions do not have a multifaceted understanding of their product’s UX. Sure, companies will use the software during development, quality assurance testing, or in controlled instances. They’ll obtain customer feedback and troves of usage data. But without dogfooding, all the above usage may limit insights from a firsthand understanding of UX and, as a consequence, impede the velocity of improvement.

Can’t Everything Be Dogfooded?

Some applications lend themselves more readily to dogfooding. Since we’re developing software to simplify tracking the flow of work, it makes sense we should use our own software to track every aspect of the business we can. However, if we were building software to control complex robotic surgery procedures, dogfooding on a daily basis may not be practical.

We built the Ondema Workspace because managing work with spreadsheets, or using a series of disconnected software tools, can be a hassle. Our engineering team dogfooded the Workspace in its early days by using it to prioritize software development tasks. We migrated management of our product roadmap from a spreadsheet to our software. Soon thereafter we used the Workspace to manage our sales pipeline and customer support motions.

Making it Better, Faster

Is it the best way of managing each of the functions mentioned above? In some cases, no. But dogfooding puts us in the customers’ shoes and gives us valuable perspective on how best to incrementally improve the entire journey.

We constantly look for ways to meaningfully improve UX at increased velocity. Deeply listening to customer feedback and eating our own dog food are engines to power this. Being our own first customer for everything built has been an invaluable part of the process.

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