The Dogfooding Project

Evelien Al
August 17, 2018

Our goal at Firmhouse is to build sustainable businesses. We give workshop, coach, but also make software to help teams test their business and customer assumptions quickly.

Giving workshops and doing general consulting and development has helped us to gain a very deep understanding of what our customers are struggling with on a day-to-day basis. It’s the foundation of the software tools we’ve created to help innovation teams and startups experiment as quickly as possible.

But as we’re not a starting business ourselves anymore we haven’t gotten to one of the most valuable things you can practice as a (software) product company: dogfooding on your own products.

What dogfooding is, and why to do it

Dogfooding means using your own products. It’s like giving your dog the food you’re selling if your working at a dog food manufacturer: if you don’t want to give it to your dog, or your dog does not want to eat it, why would you sell it? It should be good enough so you want to use it as well.

A famous example of the effect of dogfooding is the glass screen on the iPhone.
This product choice was made supposedly just a few weeks before the first iPhones were shipped, as Steve Jobs was dogfooding on the iPhone by using it for a month prior to release. He noticed the plastic screen scratched way too easily because of other things he carried in his pockets (like keys). Yes, the screen was originally of plastic! But as Jobs noticed the scratching he started setting everything into process to have the iPhone delivered with a glass screen instead, giving us the iPhone (and many other glass screens) we have now.

One of the products we use the most is a result of this dogfooding: 37signals, or nowadays Basecamp. It’s project management & team communication software, and they have and still are using their own products for their internal management. Because of this they can optimise their product to address pains of their customers (including themselves) as well as possible, notice bugs in updates asap, and understand any issues customers might mention as feedback.

Why we started the Dogfooding project

But Basecamp can do this because they are the target group of their products. We? For some, but for many of our products we’re a bit too far in our development. That’s why we’re starting a new project, or better said, a new business: the candy subscription business! Internally we call it “the dogfooding process” because that’s what it is: a project to get us to use our own products. To step into the shoes of our customers and be able to feel *and *(hopefully) *fix *their pains. And of course any bugs and usability issues.

We’re starting out with the idea of building a candy-subscription business, but of course we’re open to changing if our experiments tell us we need to pivot.. The idea was sparked by some colleagues of ours who have a bit too much of a sweet tooth (imagine our office) and have been dreaming of having candy delivered to their doorstep. And it’s a great way to test out our subscription service GoMonthly! (Our first assumption to test: “The candy can be shipped without Michiel devouring it all.”)

As this is also a great way to share our processes and ways of working publicly (so others can benefit from it), we’re making everything public. You can read more on why we did so here. Point is: you can follow everything we do, if you’re interested. How we decide on our strategy, our experiments to run, whether to pivot or not. So if you’re interested keep checking out our blog (and soon to come Youtube channel)! And you know what you gotta do when you want to get your sweet tooth on