Don't Forget the Catfood

You’re probably familiar with the concept of Dogfooding - rolling out your products within your organization. The goal is to have many internal eyes on the products so employees will be empowered to fix pain points that bother them. It’s largely a successful idea, but it can be difficult to foster organization-wide adoption. This is especially true when trying to integrate a new product inside an established ecosystem.

In fact, mandating dogfooding practices can actually alienate your employees. In some cases, that very alienation is also a form of dogfooding - it gives your marketing and sales people an opportunity to pitch the product internally so they can brace themselves for the onslaught of the real world. They should embrace this opportunity to educate themselves about your own product’s market fit.

But what about the competition?

If you only use your own product, you’ll naturally fall into usage patterns that minimize pain points. This is what real-world users end up doing, and it can have a negative impact on your product’s perception in the marketplace.

Enter: Catfooding.

What if you identified your number one competitor in a key market segment, and installed THEIR product in your organization? Sure, there are reasons to be paranoid about this (think: corporate espionage), but there are some positive advantages when your employees get direct hands-on experience with the competitor’s product.

They are able to ferret out its strengths and weaknesses; pain points are plain as day, because the experience is a jarring shift from your own product. This jarring shift can inspire some resistance to the effort, similar to the resistance that can come from dogfooding, so be aware of that.

When they return to your product, they will have an innate sense of where the competition is superior. Your own pain points will become easier to identify and address.

You wouldn’t necessarily have to run the entire company using the competition’s product. A small simulation would provide enough of an experience to achieve this effect, so there are some ways to counter the possible paranoia or resistance.

Overall it’s just a cute name for a raw idea, but hopefully someone can take it and run with it. Companies may already be practicing this, but as with all things, cute buzzwords can accelerate adoption and improve results.

That's all for now. Thanks for checking in, and get catfooding! :-)

Published: February 11, 2014

Categories: ideas

Tags: dev, development, opinion, entrepreneur, management

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