A common issue in the product development world…
Let’s take the example of a mobile app. Developers work hard to create a complex app, they do some pre-testing, iron out some kinks, and launch it to customers. There isn’t much feedback, and only when prompted in some surveys and in-app questions do engineers begin to see that there are bugs or other problems.
This is not just helpful, but vital to know.
Some app developers actually use the apps that they create. Like a weather app developer using it each day. They get familiar with the user experience, notice what can be improved, and come up with new ideas to make it even better.
But what about a company that creates a product - in our case, an app - that is not relevant to their own lives?
For Choco - this was what we were faced with. Since our app is created for restaurants and suppliers, the individuals who developed it (and the Choco team as a whole) have no reason to use it on a regular basis, or for its intended use.
Since we are so geared towards understanding our customers’ needs and creating practical ways to improve the ordering process between restaurants and suppliers, we knew that we had to step it up.
Our solution to this app-development dilemma was Internal dogfooding.
What is dogfooding? & Why it’s a genius solution
Wait - Choco is feeding dogs now? Not quite...
Dogfooding, which is short for “eating your own dog food,” describes when a company uses its own product. The word may not elicit the most beautiful image, but it does make the point. When it comes to software development, it’s about using the application you’re building as if you were the target user. Doing so can help a company fix any technical issues and become more familiar with the product which is extremely valuable.
The Choco dogfooding initiative began in mid-2021. Connie Van Stroud, Product Manager and one of the project leaders, shares that the most obvious reason for it was to work on the product quality of the Choco app. A customer survey about their app experience resulted in the general consensus that there was definitely room for improvement. Connie adds:
“Without feedback, it’s hard to know this since we aren’t using the product ourselves. Even the engineers who built the product aren’t using it in real-life situations. We were getting very clear feedback from our customers that those bugs were something we needed to work on.”
There is also a strong sense of ownership over what we are doing as a company - to feel connected to the product that we’re creating. It’s important to create a relationship with the app so that employees can feel that connection to what their role is (even if they’re not engineers) and what the user experiences.
This covers two of our core company values defined as ‘TOFU’ (Team, Ownership, Focus, and Understanding (specifically, understanding our users deeply to inform our decision making.) “If you're working at Choco, you want to feel proud of the product that you're helping to create and bring to the world,” adds Connie.
Vikas Gupta, Choco's Chief Technology Officer, takes it one step further saying that it unifies the choco team. He emphasizes:
"If you are not truly connected with the problem, the solution will be hard to get and even harder to get right. Dogfooding enables us to use our app as our restaurants and suppliers would, discover and understand the problems from their perspectives, and build the right solutions that we can also really test before we ship to our users. And most importantly dogfooding unifies everyone at Choco into one big voice for our users."
How we made it fun for Chocorians
The whole Choco team came together for the Dogfooding project, and we made sure that it was an enjoyable experience for everyone.
As soon as they join Choco, employees are given a Choco dogfooding app account straight away.
Chocorians are signed-up to an account as either a ‘restaurant user’ or a ‘supplier user.’ Data is then populated into the accounts, like catalogs and order guides.
Connie shared why it was necessary to use dogfooding and implement it into the pre-release testing process. Previously, Choco product testing was assigned to a small number of users (who were employees in each of our regions), but there was very little feedback received from that testing.
Since everyone has different devices, app versions, and language settings, the user interface is very different. Now with over 200 people testing the app before product releases, feedback is more available and backed by more data.
Now for the fun part…
At Choco, we love a little competitive spirit to light the fire in our team and create an enjoyable environment to ignite innovation (side note - check out how successful our recent innovative and competitive ChocoHack was!)
As we rolled out the dogfooding initiative, we gave the team an extra incentive to use it and offer their feedback.
We keep the score of each person, with points being collected based on the number of events a Chocorian completes and how many bugs they report. An event is something like placing an order, sending a message to a supplier, or even just clicking a specific button.
Basically, the more Chocorians use the app, the more points they get… The greater chance they have to win! The team can even see how they are faring compared to others. Each week a leaderboard is shared in our dogfooding slack channel.
The winner of the most recent competition was from finance, and the prize was Choco dogfooding merchandise that’s being made by a Barcelona-based art collective that a fellow Chocorian is a part of.
We’re excited to keep the competitions coming as we continue dogfooding with the team.
The future of dogfooding
Already, the team was inspired to create a new bug reporting process alongside the dogfooding initiative.
Previously, in order to report a problem with the app, you’d have to go to slack, find a channel, fill in the report (with device information and app version). It was all a very manual and time-intensive process for the user - really deterring them from actually offering valuable feedback.
Thanks to our talented engineers, we have a fantastic solution. Choco engineers integrated the app with a bug reporting tool so users can take a screenshot from within the app and it triggers a bug report. This captures the information about the user’s device and what steps they took to get there. Connie says:
“More feedback has been received and it’s made the reporting process easier. A lot of bugs have been found that we didn’t see before.”
The dogfooding testing showed Choco that there were translation issues among the 15 different languages that are integrated within the app. Choco engineers rolled out a new format for email and SMS orders that suppliers receive from customers, and have begun to work on the translation issues.
The future of dogfooding at Choco is about finding creative ways to integrate it into everyday Choco work life.
The Choco team is looking to evolve the initiative moving forward. Ideally, we’d like to give internal users the same experience as we give our actual users. Perhaps by allowing Chocorians to use the app to order office supplies or something similar.
That way, we can have consistent engagement with the app to keep testing new versions and evolutions.
Inspired? Consider working with us
Having worked with the company for years now, we asked Connie about what keeps her here.
“One of the main reasons why I love working at Choco is because I’m working side by side with people who care so much. They’re driven, ambitious, and motivated…. Everyone's here because they want to be here.”
She continues, "there's so much opportunity for people to grow and to be challenged. It’s a constantly stimulating environment. People are there to support you in that learning.”
We’re still evolving as an organization and we love to bring on people who are excited to evolve with us, too. We love finding people with a passion for creating amazing things for users; knowing that it’s creating a positive impact on the world. We welcome unique talents and growth-focused individuals with ambition and different perspectives.
“You get to make your own mark here at Choco, and from day one, anyone will feel that.”
If you’re curious about what roles we have on offer and how you may be able to work with us, check out our open roles here.