How important is dogfooding in product companies? Lessons from Yahoo's journey to irrelevance.

Forcing usage of product leads to frustration and it helps nobody. If you are the product leader, you have only two options.

So Paytm is forcing its employees to use the Paytm Payment Bank and there are two schools of thought on this.

  1. This is dogfooding. If employees don’t want to use the company product, there is a serious issue. They don’t really trust the system, they don’t have love for the company product..so why even work here.
    [OR]
  2. This makes NO sense. There are many limitations (like Paytm will deposit Rs. 1 lakh of your salary in the bank account and rest will be put in FD account, as per RBI regulation on Payment banks). Employees have life beyond their job and several other commitments to fulfill. Atleast make it consent based?

My Twitter timeline is quite divided on this : with examples from Tata which doesn’t allow non-Tata cars inside the campus to banks always opening up salary account for its employees (and not allowing other bank accounts for salary deposit).
These are technicalities and you can be right if you wish to. Or wrong if others wished you to.

Leadership
Leadership

Well. I have worked for Yahoo product team and let me tell you something.

Dogfooding is important.

This is what I wrote from my Yahoo experience.


– Most of us were using Gmail and NOT Yahoo mail (for personal mails).
– Most of us moved to GTalk from Y! Messenger
– Same with most of the other Y! products (Picasa > Flickr etc etc).
That is, anything but the Y! products. And nobody cared to give this feedback to senior leadership – because for them, the BIG numbers were growing exponentially (UVs/Signups) and few whining people didn’t matter.
Result ? Slow death.
Today, Yahoo is irrelevant. It is dead.
And ditto is happening with a lot of Indian startups.

The product is getting irrelevant, but nobody dares to tell you.
The product is being ignored, but nobody will ever tell you.

And add a bit of organizational restructuring and there you go – missing leadership, disengaged employees and a golden path to deathbed . With lots of questions (“What the hell happened to us!”.. “Where do we go now?”).
At best, the teams are doing a job and NOT living the passion, product businesses are built on.
In fact, for any product, if team can’t evangelize the product, they shouldn’t even launch it (of course, applicable when team is part of the TG).
And this applies not just to startups, but to larger teams as well.
Otherwise, it’s just another 9 – 6 job. And the lack of passion shows up in the product quality.


Did you notice the keyword? Evangelize.

Product Leaders = Evangelists.

Forcing usage of product leads to frustration and it helps nobody. If you are the product leader, you have only two options.

  1. Share your big vision and inspire others to join you. They can volunteer by helping test the product.
    [OR]
  2. Force them to use the product. Collect data. Decide on the next move. Really don’t give a damn to anything else. You have a bigger motive and ‘these guys’ won’t get it.

The choice is yours. You can force them or inspire them to join the party.
Play it as you deem fit. What’s your take?

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