Eating your own dog food, also called dogfooding, is a slang term used to reference a scenario in which a company uses its own product to test and promote the product.
I started actively thinking about how I ate my own dog food as a product manager when I started listening to the podcast This is Product Management. In there, Mike Fishbein (the host) always asks his interviewees a series of questions at the end of the show for their own reflection. One of them used to be “how do you eat your own dog food?” [it has been replaced now by how to learn about the topic of that episode].
It had always come naturally to me that if you work on creating, building, writing something, you always try it yourself to see how it came out. The problem is that you cannot always use a product for your own benefit because the product is trying to solve a problem that you don’t have. In this case, you have to make an effort and find a similar problem so you can truly feel you’re using the product with real purpose. Once you have a purpose, things start happening. You see the real value, you find the flaws, you think of ways to make it better. If you combine this with a constant effort to understand your customers point of view, their frustrations, what is important to them, etc… you almost start thinking like the customers, and so it’s easier for you to build something of value to them. You could also argue that thinking differently to them gives you a different perspective, which is also good.
That’s my experience with Pipedrive, where I work as a Product Manager: I am not a salesperson, so I don’t have a need to manage any sales pipeline in there. However, I do have people (colleagues, customers) that I have “deals” with (projects, events, roadmaps), for which I need to have an action plan. The action plan is my main focus at the moment: You see? My role has recently changed: I have more responsibility, therefore I am accountable to more people. It is critical to me that I spend my time doing the right things that will help my teams move forward, or that at least won’t get in their way.
Pipedrive allows users to create custom activity types, so what I did is I created activities matching the areas where I usually spend my time: Research, team events, planning, business trips, etc:
Pipedrive Custom Activity Types
I plan my day and my week using the calendar in the app, and choose the corresponding activity type for each scheduled thing:
My weekly calendar in Pipedrive
Whenever I plan an activity or mark one as done, this will be reflected in my activity reports. This is my favorite part. I can have a look at where I have been spending my time and make sure I adjust if I see I can be using my time more wisely next week. I can also take preemptive measures as I can also see reports for planned things. So I don’t have to wait for things to go wrong before I fix them:
My activities report in Pipedrive
In the end I gain in two ways: I get to use the product I am responsible for in a really meaningful way to me, that allows me to learn about the product and about myself.
This is just one of the many ways in which I eat my own dog food. I do recommend product people doing the same if you are not doing so already.
If you are doing it, I’d love to hear some of your experiences and what you have learned from it? Or even better, do you think there’s something wrong with this approach?