The Dogfooding Days are Over

Dan CagenDan Cagen
minute read

Why it’s time to move your QA strategy past dogfooding.

Every dog has its day, and dogfooding has had its day too.

Originating from a 1970s advertisement for Alpo where actor Lorne Greene endorsed the product by saying his own dog ate Alpo, dogfooding became the synonym for in-house testing, and it has remained a go-to product testing strategy for decades. After all, there are several marketing and technical benefits to performing in-house testing on your own products.

However, dogfooding is no longer viable or effective for modern organizations, especially those that release continuous updates and need the kind of high-quality, detailed feedback that makes a tangible difference for customers.

This quick guide explains why dogfooding is outdated, and how the Applause crowdtesting approach offers a modern alternative that delivers immediate, actionable and unbiased feedback without administrative hassle.

Unexperienced testers can only get you so far

In a dogfooding program, companies ask employees to validate product functionality. For example, the company invites employees from finance, marketing and other non-technical departments to use the application or platform, and report back on any bugs, issues or negative experiences they have.

Sure, employees will discover the obvious problems — you don’t need to be a QA expert to see when an image doesn’t load into your app — but there are many critical bugs that an average employee won’t find. They search haphazardly and don’t know what to look for. Due to time constraints, their testing is often at the end of a busy day, when they aren’t committed to finding the bugs that really matter.

However, a well-trained and experienced tester uses a scripted testing method to ensure that core features work as intended. These trained testers also execute exploratory testing to discover issues stemming from unexpected usage patterns and testing in diverse locations and scenarios. That kind of expertise isn’t available internally.

Applause has a community of digital experts who understand what digital quality really looks like at different stages of the SDLC. They guide our community of testers, who go through a rigorous testing academy that teaches them how to search for bugs that the average person cannot identify. More importantly, they are incentivized to find high-impact bugs that are disruptive to the customer journey. For example, our testers uncovered a significant usability bug for a major financial institution that caused the company to stop everything and immediately redesign its iOS and Android mobile apps. The average marketer misses that bug.

Testing features and applications in a dogfooding program is akin to judging a baseball player solely on batting practice.

Dogfooding isn’t done solely in real-world environments

Most dogfooding is done in a controlled environment often with a specific, pre-selected group of people. Testing features and applications in this way is akin to judging a baseball player solely on batting practice. You don’t really know if someone is a good hitter until it’s game time. There’s a difference between performance in ideal circumstances, and performance in the real world.

A dogfooding program doesn’t simulate the real-world environments in which customers experience your applications. It has consistent WiFi, and cannot replicate the growing matrix of device/OS/network combinations.

Applause tests your products in the same real-world environments as your customers — anywhere from a busy coffee shop to a moving train. Applause can also access any device combination you need to maximize your testing coverage. That’s how you ensure your product can still hit a home run when it’s game time.

Save yourself administrative headaches

If you want to run a dogfooding program, which department will own it? And how will you recruit testers on an ongoing basis?

These two questions trip up many dogfooding wannabes. When it comes to ownership, some companies put QA in charge. However, QA typically lacks exposure to other departments and struggles to recruit testers. Product Management seems like a natural fit, but they don’t have the resources to run a dogfooding program. UX understands the importance of testing, but devalues the technical bugs that testers find.

Applause takes care of these management issues for you. Our team of experts understands your needs and identifies the correct testers for you. We validate all bug reports and triage them for you, enabling you to correct critical issues.

If you want to run a dogfooding program, which department will own it? And how will you recruit testers on an ongoing basis?

The bias is real

Let’s be honest, your employees won’t always be honest in their reviews of your products. No employee wants to be critical of a coworker’s hard work.

The fact is, there is inherent bias to dogfooding programs. This bias is stronger the closer the testers are to the developers. You can anonymize the feedback in the dogfooding program, but you can never completely remove internal bias.

With a global testing community to source from, Applause offers an unbiased, third-party analysis of your platforms that you cannot replicate while dogfooding. Think of it as having a consultant evaluate your work. Put simply, Applause testers will be as brutally honest as you would expect your customers to be.

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