Sometimes some parts may need to be a little different.

Sometimes some parts may need to be a little different.

Demonstrations can be done using a simple, repeatable process that straight forward and to the point.  By making sure the process is interactive and the material concise, all of the participants will find the demo engaging and focused. Demonstrations deliver fast feedback, but only if they happen and only if they are engineered to facilitate a bi-directional exchange of information. The classic mechanism of showing functional software to stakeholders, having them interact with the software and asking (and listening) to feedback is fairly difficult to improve upon. Perhaps that is why there are so few true variants of demonstrations. The variants that have shown traction are driven either by scope or team distribution.

Two variants of the classic demonstration by scope are SAFe’s (Scaled Agile Framework) System Demos. It provides a demonstration of all of the software delivered (a systems view). A Technical Demo focuses on units of work that by nature are not interpretive by typical business stakeholders. While the Technical Demo makes me nervous, I believe we have all seen a story or unit of work that relates to technical infrastructure or relates to a specific audience of stakeholder.   Each of these demos use slightly different techniques to engage different audiences. What they don’t do is stray from the principle of showing completed work and activity soliciting feedback.

Executing demos for distributed teams and distributed stakeholders has generated a wide range of variants. As with the scope variants, most of the different techniques are used to ensure that completed work is shown, interacted with and that feedback is collected.  Many of the variants are driven by the communication technology being used, such as teleconferencing or video conferencing. Each of these technologies requires the team to plan in more depth to ensure interactivity and feedback. One interesting variant is the use of satellite demos (if there are multiple concentrations of team members or stakeholders) with feedback being rolled up to a higher level demo (somewhat akin to a scrum or scrums).  The concepts used in the SAFe System Demo may well be useful in this type of a distributed environment.

The basic mechanism of a demo is simple. Show stakeholders the completed work, let them interact with it and actively solicit feedback. I once heard someone describe this as running toward criticism. Where variations do happen they tend to be driven by scope, which implies different audiences, or by the geography of the team and stakeholders.  The variations in demonstration techniques are less about the goal of gathering feedback than about audiences and enabling the audience to provide the feedback.