Eating your own dog food
One of the quickest ways to improve your product or service is to use it yourself. Not just try it out, but live your life with it – make use of it in your own business to the point where you are critically dependent on your own stuff.
Why? Because if you do, your engineers and marketing people will be the first ones exposed to mistakes or fiascos that could be devastating to your customers.
I've been a firm believer in the mantra of "Eat your own dog food before offering it to your customers" for years. At Cisco, the engineers and associated marketing folks sat behind alpha level software – new releases of the Cisco IOS were tested internally long before they saw the light of (public) day. Not surprisingly, the features that we depended on for our day to day business were always in the best shape and seldom caused problems. The features we used least (or didn't have internally) were always the problem children as they saw extensive lab testing, not real world exposure.
I was reminded of this manta over the weekend as I grappled with the failure of iTunes to sync my iPhone with my Outlook calendar. This problem dawned on me late last week as I was trying to schedule a meeting with a friend and realized that there were serious numbers of missing appointments on my calendar.
A search session over the weekend revealed that I wasn't the only one having the problem – I tried all the "fixes" that were described on the Apple support notes and those on numerous blogs. Then the penny dropped… iTunes had upgraded itself (yes, I know I had to click the button to do it – I'm culpable too) a couple of weeks ago from 7.5 to 7.6.
Regressing back to 7.5 (including restoring my old iTunes library from January 18th – the day of the "upgrade") fixed my problem and now I'm happily syncing again – not only that but the sync takes a couple of minutes instead of half an hour!
I have to believe that Apple's engineers are good ones and that they both care and test their product… But I'll bet there are few folks over at Apple that live behind a PC running Windows where their life depends on Outlook AND have an iPhone. If they did, my experience with non-syncing iPhone calendars would have been caught before 7.6 made it out into the wild.
So, the morale of the story is clear – make sure you eat your own dog food. Your customers will thank you and you will be amazed at what you find (and fix!) first!