5 tips for effective sprint demos by distributed teams

By Posted in - Agile on June 8th, 2009 0 Comments
Demo during Lego Scrum simulation. Everything goes better with Lego.

Demo during Lego Scrum simulation. Everything goes better with Lego.

What is a sprint demo?

Agile teams using Scrum work in a time box called a sprint to get software built early and often. A meeting is held at the end of each sprint with the whole team including product owner and anyone else who would like to attend. The goals of the demo are to:

  1. Demonstrate work is done done. Nothing like taking work for a test drive to see if there is more than chicken wire holding pieces together. Teams demonstrate that acceptance tests pass. Acceptance tests are the product owner’s requirements for a user story to be considered done. I agree with Ron Jeffries‘ view that acceptance tests provide clarity, remove subjectivity over whether a story is done or not.
  2. Generate new insights. Seeing and interacting with real software leads to new insights. The client might want new features or enhancements, or realize a corrective change in direction is needed. The product owner has new information on a regular basis to adjust priorities going forward.
  3. Progress report. Forget Gantt charts. Seeing the product is the best method for a senior manager to know where the project is at.
  4. Team satisfaction. Demos give the team a sense of accomplishment, satisfaction from positive feedback and the client accepting stories. There is also greater confidence in the project’s direction based on feedback.

How to prepare

One or more persons on the team is responsible for presenting the demo of completed stories to the client and the rest of the team. Note, only completed stories are demoed, no recognition for stuff 90% done.

  1. Don’t use slides, show real working stuff with ‘just enough’ prep work. Preparation should take no more than an hour for a two hour demo.
  2. Plan your demo in advance. Write down the steps you are going to use, and try them out. Make sure the demo is going to work as expected. You’ll look much more professional and the demo will go faster, plus no surprise ‘gotchas’.
  3. Use acceptance tests for the basis of the demonstration. Bonus points for automating those tests ahead of time and running the script (at slower speed) during the demo.
  4. Know your agenda. The simplest approach is to go through completed stories in priority order.

5 tips for demos by distributed teams

Distributed teams face additional hurdles to giving demos… time lags, less interaction, limited presentation options. Here are some tricks I’ve learned after 3 years of facilitating distributed demos:

  1. Test drive without the blindfold. Save time and improve the experience by using a screen sharing tool so everyone can follow along – much better than walking others through a series of clicks and hoping they see want you want them to see. Screen sharing tools that work well and cost little or nothing include Yuuguu, Yugma, and DimDim. Newer versions of Skype offer desktop sharing, though you can’t do video conferencing with Skype at the same time.
  2. Remove distractions. Nothing like having your buddy’s IM rant about last night’s hockey game appear on the screen to lose momentum. Close any applications that use pop-up notifications. You don’t want those interrupting the demo. Better yet, close all applications you won’t need for the demo by default so your machine runs optimally.
  3. Hearing is everything. I’ve suffered through too many conference calls with poor audio quality. While Skype and some conference calling services are free, you get what you pay for in my experience. I’m a fan of HiDef Conferencing, which supports phone and Skype participants on the same call. There have been a number of times where we’ve jumped onto HiDef after a client’s service ran into problems.
  4. Test tools ahead of time. Make sure everyone knows in advance what tools will be used and what they need to do to set them up. Make sure first time users test the tool ahead of time, perhaps a scheduled time before the call so you can help troubleshoot. Avoid the 15 minute scramble at the start of a call to fix issues.
  5. Provide an agenda. If everyone has access to the team task board, use that to walk through the list of stories and their itemized acceptance tests. If not, send out an email beforehand with the list of stories to be shown, and any relevant links that will be shown during the demo. Make it as easy for people to follow along and keep up. Alternatively, show the agenda to everyone after each completed step via screen sharing tool.

Bonus tip: Don’t forget to turn off screen sharing when you are done, before you start reading your email. 🙂

Do you work on a distributed team? What are your tips for giving effective demos?

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