AoAD2 Practice: Stakeholder Demos

This is an excerpt from The Art of Agile Development, Second Edition. Visit the Second Edition home page for additional excerpts and more!

This excerpt is copyright 2007, 2021 by James Shore and Shane Warden. Although you are welcome to share this link, do not distribute or republish the content without James Shore’s express written permission.

Stakeholder Demos

Audience
Product Managers, Whole Team

We keep it real.

Agile teams can produce working software every week, starting from their very first week. This may sound impossible, but it’s not; it’s merely difficult. And the key to learning how to do it well is feedback.

Stakeholder demos are a powerful way of providing your team with the feedback it needs. They’re just what they sound like: a demonstration, to key stakeholders, of what your team has completed recently, along with a way for stakeholders to try the software for themselves.

Feedback Loops

Stakeholder demos provide feedback in multiple ways. First, the obvious: stakeholders will tell you what they think of your software.

Allies
Incremental Requirements
Real Customer Involvement

Although this feedback is valuable, it’s not the most valuable feedback you get from a stakeholder demo. The team’s on-site customers work with stakeholders throughout development, so they should already know what stakeholders want and expect.

So the real feedback provided by stakeholder comments is not the feedback itself, but how surprising that feedback is. If you’re surprised, you’ve learned that you need to work harder to understand your stakeholders.

Another type of feedback is the reactions of the people involved. If team members are proud of their work and stakeholders are happy to see it, that’s a good sign. If team members aren’t proud, or are burned out, or stakeholders are unhappy, something is wrong.

The people who attend are another form of feedback. If there are people attending whom you didn’t consider stakeholders, consider reaching out to them to learn more, especially if they’re active participants. Similarly, if there are people who you expected to be vitally interested in your work, and they’re not present, it’s a good idea to learn why.

The demo itself is a “rubber meets the road” moment for the team. It gives you feedback about your team’s ability to finish its work. It’s harder to fool yourself into thinking work is done when you can’t demo it to stakeholders.

Ally
Stakeholder Trust

Finally, the demo provides feedback to stakeholders, too. It shows them that your team is accountable: that you’re listening to their needs and making steady progress. This is vital for helping stakeholders trust that your team has their best interests at heart.

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In this Section

  1. Stakeholder Demos
    1. Feedback Loops
    2. The Demo Cadence
    3. How to Conduct a Stakeholder Demo
    4. Be Prepared
    5. When Things Go Wrong
    6. Questions
    7. Prerequisites
    8. Indicators
    9. Alternatives and Experiments

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