Software vendors sell software, obviously. But software vendors also use software, also fairly obviously. What’s not always as obvious from the outside is to what degree the software business uses its own products.
It makes sense, the software business is typified by large-scale enterprise companies that need all the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) tools, database services, Human Resources (HR) applications, financial IT solutions, big data analytics functions and Artificial Intelligence (AI) advancements that actual customers want to get hold of.
As the saying goes, if your product is good enough, then you should be able to eat your own dog food. The term has been popularized in technology circles to the extent that it is now sometimes referred to as dogfooding. But dogfooding doesn’t sound good to software marketing people, so they like to say ‘we drink our own champagne’ instead. But that’s cheesy and real champagne only comes from France, so let’s stick with dogfood.
While human beings are discouraged from actually eating dog food, companies like to engage in dogfooding for a number of reasons, so here are a few Kibbles ‘n Bits to munch through.
Validation of product
Probably the key reason companies dogfood is to attempt to validate and substantiate the functionality of the software they produce. Whether they need to make sure their products do all that they claim or whether they want to confirm that investments in R&D actually deliver, it’s a proven way to get a reality check.
“Building a proposition based on ‘customer asks and requests’ and then evolving it as a result of feedback… and further iterating it based on observing user behavior are all valid ways for a software vendor to become more customer-centric… but nothing beats walking a mile in the shoes of your customer,” said Sal Laher, chief digital & information officer at IFS. “The experience of implementing your own software and setting your business up for success can have a profound effect on everything from internal process improvement, through to any company’s culture adoption of new technology like [cloud] Software-as-a-Service.”
Laher explains that at the beginning of 2019, IFS embarked on a journey to implement its own full ERP suite, along with other supporting cloud solutions including its payroll and marketing software. The company aimed to ‘stress test’ itself and perform this exercise faster than it had done for any individual customer to date, knowing that time-to-value, ease of use, simplified best practice processes and total cost of ownership are the most important things for customers. So did it go as smoothly as Laher had hoped?
“We had some issues that took us more than a month to get settled, but that’s only half the point. We knocked our goals out the park and developed crucial learnings that benefit how we engage and deliver for our customers. It also served as a workforce boost to help inspire further pride among our team,” added Laher.
It might be the most obvious reason of all, but some technology dogfooding is simply down to the fact that it makes sense from a cost-saving point of view. No specialist in HR software is going to buy another competing vendor’s product in order to handle its HR function. Firms may buy competitor’s products in order to craft interoperability connections, but even this is rare because most enterprise software companies that need to do this will form partnerships. – Read more