Feb 1, 2021
Lessons From the Field
Part 6: The Power of the Demo
Written by Craig Vosper, Chief Delivery Officer
We all love a good demo. There is nothing better than being able to see the output of your delivery team. Through 28+ years of providing custom software solutions, we have come to find that there are very few things more important than regular demos.
Back in 2005, I became more involved with project delivery at Clientek. We had two big ongoing projects at the time that I was asked to manage. Back then, we typically did not demonstrate the results of our projects to the customer until we were nearing the end of our planned releases. In both projects, once the demo had been delivered, we received feedback that required significant changes to meet the business goals.
This meant the delivery of value for both solutions was delayed and thus, sparked our focus on delivering value sooner. We realized that this focus on delivering value sooner not only benefited our customers but also allowed us to mitigate risks and secure follow-up work. This shift in focus led us to implementing several key practices in our delivery approach. The first being to provide customer demos both early and often to gather feedback.
We began by executing project demos at the end of each of our two-week sprints. This effort started to provide immediate benefits as we were able to gather feedback sooner and make the appropriate changes for the customer. Over time we realized that in some instances this turnaround was still not fast enough to keep us from significant re-work efforts.
This led us to providing demos when each of our user stories was either completed or nearing completion. We began planning when demos would take place in order to set expectations with both the team and the customer. We have continued to improve this practice and now nearly every daily standup ends with the demo of a story.
This approach has given us the ability to immediately react to feedback and ensure that we’re delivering what the customer truly needs. We do it regardless of the nature of the story, even if it’s “too technical” or “we want more done before we show”. We have found these excuses just lead to heightened expectations and disappointing results.
These demos have provided other improvements as well. We have found that our testing is now more complete, and our user stories more clearly written – given the focus on how to demo their output. We’ve also become much more disciplined with our DevOps practices in order to enable these regular demos.
All in all, this one simple activity has allowed us deliver value sooner, with more predictability, and maintain focus on the customer’s needs!