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It’s a BYOD world, but you still need to eat your own dog food

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Dogfooding is the yucky-sounding policy of many tech companies that try to mandate their employees use that company’s products (and only that company’s products) at work.

As Microsoft(s msft) launches Windows Server 2012, preps the release of Windows Phone 8 later this fall, and more people bring their own smartphones and tablets to work, the debate gets more relevant. If you use your own iPhone(s aapl) while working at Microsoft, are you a traitor to the cause? (Microsoft gives employees a phone stipend, but only for Windows Phone devices.)

Over the weekend, Jeff Shuey, a former Microsoft developer platform evangelist raised the  “should you eat your own dogfood,” issue again in a blog post.

Shuey cited current Microsoft insiders who said the answer is definitely yes. That if employees are not troubleshooting and using their own products, they’re not working for the greater good and should be fired. Shuey’s own, more equivocal answer, is that if you’re not doing this on your own, you should probably “fire yourself.”

Wow. Talk about strict.

Dogfooding is for the greater good, or is it?

The rationale for dogfooding is understandable. Getting feedback from tens of thousands of Microsoft (or Google (s goog) or Amazon(s amzn) or Apple(s aapl)) employees should lead to better products. But then again, working in a single-vendor bubble is no way to be competitive.

Some commenters — myself included — feel the use of competitive products is one way to see what’s good, bad and indifferent in the rival’s approach and all of that should lead to better products. Maybe if Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer let his kids use iPods, iPhones and/or iPads, it wouldn’t have taken the company so long to get with the program with its own tablet and smartphone improvements.

Still another commenter on Shuey’s Facebook page summed it up —  that as more workers use their own smart phones and tablets on the job, not even tech companies can or should dictate what tools its employees use to do their best work. He wrote:

… the really important point is that I would never even want to work for a company that would dictate what device I could and couldn’t use to get my work done. If I were to choose an iPhone over Windows Phone then there must have been a reason and Microsoft, in this case, should be most interested what that reason was and strive to improve. So I say “absolutely not” more from a corporate culture standpoint than anything else.

So maybe the debate over dog food isn’t about whether or not it helps a company build better products, but whether or not forcing them to use a company device even makes sense when it comes to attracting talent in a BYOD era.

Feature photo courtesy of Shutterstock user 6493866629

6 Responses to “It’s a BYOD world, but you still need to eat your own dog food”

  1. paul martin

    Remember what happened to the well known scottish restaurant employee who swapped his free lunch for a pizza. I feel that this was poor PR for the companies concerned. BYOD needs better PR too

  2. Using your own products doesn’t have to be some that is mutually exclusive to making use of competitor products. It is important to make daily use of what you’re building so you can understand your own use case and find problems, but there will always be people using it in a way you never intended so that usefulness only goes so far. It’s quite interesting to understand when competitor products are preferred and why, so you can improve your own functionality for that particular case.

  3. Jeff Shuey

    Thank you barb for picking up on this thread. I think this presents more than a few challenges, especially for tech companies, as they seek to show that their stuff is the best while balancing the BYOD and COIT sides of the equation. Ultimately it comes down to accountability. Personal accountability and accountability to the companies we choose to work for and with.

    • Yes I want to work any kind of Organizations. Microsoft,Apple,Google or any kind of organizations if I use my ideology,and touch my Blood,& use my difficult type of Soundly than that Mobile works same to Mé. You understand my Bro? Last & Latest Technology come Form ALLAH by Quran. Thats a mean Thinks. ALLAH all Elements gives humans. But you must be know. Do you know? Microsoft chit with me. What he open,he going Down & fall in the Hell. Is my wish-Google also. You know man,ALLAH make a two type of human-1..Zin & 2..Insun. We are Insun. Zin…we are did in see. Zin one kind of ALIEN. Thats why My Mobile is to much Upgrade. Now you understand my Friend? My Friend I want help,my Body have to problam,take some different type of food. No body understand Me. I want to Developed everythink in the World. May be use the Last Technology. I have to see lot of Thinks. But I cannot explain any body. Onely Belive my Wife. She is great for me. Ök guys…..valo thaykan,Parla amar shatay daka kora keco Kara jay kena sata chinta kora Daykan? U understand? ALLAH-HAFAJ……………BY…………….hkabir’

  4. Andrew Staples

    When we developed Kerio Workspace, our collaboration/file sharing product, we used it internally for two years before it went to market. That process led to a lot of feedback and changes. I think the product is much stronger because of it and it has made our own employees much better at describing what it can do.