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Do You Eat Your Own ICT4D Dog Food?

By Guest Writer on November 30, 2016


In software development, there is a term called “eating your own dog food” – meaning using your own software to better understand and address your users’ pain points. I’m proud to say that at Dimagi, we’re making a push to eat more of our own dog food, and it’s making us better as a company and our solutions better for our users.

At our headquarters in Boston, it’s easy to tell which of our software engineers just returned from visiting a project that’s using CommCare. After spending a few weeks abroad, they return to Boston incredibly motivated to fix the user pain points they witnessed, whether it’s clarifying cryptic error messages, re-designing a part of CommCare’s interface to be more intuitive, or revamping documentation. During this time, they’re often always the last ones to leave the office, way after everyone else has gone home.

Eventually though, it’s easy to forget those pain points. You become re-accustomed to fast Internet and 4G in Boston, working in an office without language barriers, and the ability to use robust software like Google or GitHub as part of your job. Soon enough, you start to leave work when everyone else does. It’s no one’s fault – just part of falling back into a routine. But as soon as you become more removed from your software, you inadvertently impact your users.

In order to keep us closer to our software and our users, over the past year, we’ve been more intentional as a company in swapping out internal tools like Google Forms and SurveyMonkey for CommCare. We now use our own internal CommCare mobile apps to track job applicants, organize off-site retreats, and run fun activities like office-wide workouts.

In addition to using CommCare more as a company, more of my colleagues are using it for their personal lives. It’s a funny moment when your colleague Ben runs out of the office for his gymnastics workout…with his gymnastics CommCare app in hand. It’s just as memorable watching other colleagues build and use CommCare apps to help them with wedding planning, long hikes, and parenthood.

Watching more of my Dimagi colleagues build their own CommCare apps hit two points home for me. First, it’s great to see how CommCare can be localized for both ICT4D and ICT use cases. Even more importantly, it’s shown me that in order to truly understand our users and their CommCare pain points, we need to regularly experience our software ourselves.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve been meaning to update my own CommCare app that’s helping me work on some personal hobbies. Except I just realized that one of my forms isn’t working…so looks like I’m off to go do some troubleshooting instead!

Gillian Javetski is the Director of Partner Engagement at Dimagi.

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