Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Potato Farmers and Software Companies

The expression "eat your own dogfood" is a really odd expression. Its meaning, however, is straightforward: if you sell a product or service, you should use it yourself. I read recently that many potato farmers don't eat the potatoes they grow for the market. Apparently they have a small private patch where they grow potatoes for their own use -- free of toxic insecticides and fungicides. In other words, they don't eat what they sell to others -- they don't "eat their own dogfood." Ever since reading the article, I only eat organic potatoes.

What applies to farmers applies equally to software companies. In a now famous blog, Phil Wainewright says: "SaaS vendors, eat your own dogfood — or die." He writes that companies selling Web-based on-demand software won't survive if they don't use the software themselves. He argues that this is especially true because of incredibly rapid software development cycles. At CatalystWeb, we use CatalystOffice as our online office and have done so for the past two years. Many of the improvements that our customers see are the results of our frustrations. We are our own toughest customer. We know that we are accountable to every small business that uses our service and that we have serious responsibilities in serving them. And if we don't use our own service, we shouldn't expect others to use it either or pay for it. But we do use it -- every single day.

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