The concept of dogfooding refers to the practice of using one’s own products within one’s company as they are being developed. Made famous by Netscape and then Google, it was actually implemented at least a decade earlier at Microsoft. As far back as 1984, there existed a need for software that could manage the complex projects that were being undertaken at Microsoft’s Redmond campus.
As bandwidth was limited at the time, the first revision of the software which came to be known as Microsoft Project was actually written by another company to Microsoft specifications. The emphasis on best practices and using business standards like Gantt charts was integrated early on and expanded upon in future releases.
The first several years of Microsoft Project, it was only released for DOS. Later, of course, Windows and Macintosh versions became synonymous with project planning in most of the Fortune 500 companies in North America.
The requirements for project were so closely aligned with the best practices being taught in business schools, it often seemed to be the paradigm that Microsoft Project courses for new users in fact trained them in using the software and in how they should be actually managing projects.
The backlash, if there was any, was not to come for another decade, when Agile planning in software and other industry-specific project management efforts began to pick up steam. Microsoft Project, however, continued to receive most the market share for business project software and continued to expand its functionality on behalf of its users. Using the mantra ‘No one was ever sacked for purchasing a Microsoft product’, many IT managers continue to make it available widely for their business users.
As a package, it has been both lauded and reviewed by management experts.
Most of the criticism hinges upon the same fulcrum that seems to be a fountain of its strength. The critics state that it lends business people who likely haven’t taken management courses, a vanilla way of managing projects, giving them the structure that they need to in fact claim that they are actually business experts that are accomplishing things. On the other hand, those who applaud the software package have usually had a chance to see the ROI or return on investment that it provides to project teams that might not communicate or coordinate quite as well without it.
With the release of Office Online 365 to combat the Google Apps offering that provides a cloud-based alternative to standard productivity packages, it will be interesting to chart the progress of Microsoft Project’s transition to a cloud-based app.