Microsoft Elite takes dogfooding to a new level

Dave W. Shanahan

“Dogfooding” has absolutely nothing to do with dogs or food. Dogfooding means that you use your own company’s products and services. Dogfooding helped Microsoft employees create the Surface Pro 4 from using the Surface Pro 3 on a daily basis. Understanding the product that you are producing and what you can do to make it better is the core idea of dogfooding.

Microsoft is no stranger to dogfooding, almost 30 years ago, Microsoft manager Paul Maritz shot test manager Brian Valentine an email in 1988 with the subject line, “Eating our own Dogfood,” that changed everything. Maritz thought that if Microsoft used LAN Manager internally, Microsoft would be able to get better feedback on performance and other issues. Ultimately, dogfooding became an accepted practice at Microsoft.

According to Microsoft, Microsoft Elite was created from the same spirit of dogfooding. Deployed in July 2014, Microsoft Elite takes advantage of social media tools like Yammer and SharePoint Online and uses other methods of offering rewards to encourage feedback on Microsoft dogfooding.

Microsoft Elite business program manager Diana McCarty provides more information on how dogfooding brought about the Microsoft Elite program:

“Microsoft Elite is really a connection engine. We help connect products that need dogfood testing with people who are enthusiastic about testing. Our goal is to continue to find ways to improve that connection, so it’s easy for dogfood programs to onboard and for Elite members to find information, get involved and give feedback. When we do this well, everyone benefits: Elite members, product teams, Microsoft as a whole, and ultimately, Microsoft’s customers.”

Microsoft Elite is a subscription-based program that counts over 25,000 Microsoft employees as members. Microsoft employees have a small fraction of their work time available to work on any of the 50 dogfooding projects at any given time. Microsoft Elite memberships are annual and to keep your membership, Microsoft employees need to show that they are regular contributors to the Microsoft Elite program. Memberships are renewed annually, and to renew your Elite membership you need to demonstrate that you’ve been a contributing member of the dogfooding community.

microsoft elite

Microsoft Elite’s Yammer group is the most active private Yammer group at Microsoft, and thousands of Elite members and hundreds of product groups communicate with Elite administrators every day. The primary goal of Microsoft Elite is to grow a community of “truly elite dogfooders,” Microsoft employees that are willing to provide quality and in-depth feedback on Microsoft products to improve the products before they reach Microsoft customers.

The only downside to the Microsoft Elite program is that it is only available to Microsoft employees, so if you’re interested in taking part in the Microsoft Elite program, you need to be a Microsoft employee. If you think you have what it takes to be a part of Microsoft, apply today.