The Difference Between a Sprint Review and a Demo

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Want to succeed with agile? Do me a favor. Stop referring to the sprint review as the sprint demo.

Not only is it wrong, it also takes away from the true purpose of a sprint review.

Learn more by watching this video. Or if you’d prefer, read the video transcript that follows.

Sprint Review vs Sprint Demo

Calling the sprint review a demo is wrong. A well-run review is much more than just a demo.

When I think about a demo, I think of a slick salesperson on a stage showing off the new product. That type of demo is one directional.

The person is presenting. They aren’t asking for feedback. They don’t ask what you think of a feature, would you use it, or what could make it better?

This is very different from a sprint review, which should be a conversation, not a presentation. You want attendees engaged, asking questions, thinking about how and if they’d use the new features being shown.

So yes, a sprint review includes a demonstration of the functionality built during the sprint but a good sprint review includes more than just a demo.

What Happens During a Sprint Review

During the review, the team, product owner and stakeholders discuss ideas for new functionality based on what was shown.

  • Did users like something new in the user interface? If so, consider doing more of that.
  • Did showing a feature give someone an idea of how to make it even better?

The product owner doesn’t need to do any of these new ideas immediately but they should be turned into product backlog items and often a brief discussion during the review is helpful.

Participants in the review should also talk about whether anything that happened during the sprint has an impact on the schedule.

Maybe the team has a goal of putting out a significant new feature in a month. Did anything happen this sprint that changes that plan? Maybe the feature is so amazing that it’s worth releasing it now even with half of the ultimate functionality built.

Or maybe someone came up with a new idea and it’s worth waiting an extra Sprint until that can be added and released together. Or maybe the team is simply behind and needs another Sprint.

Why Calling a Sprint Review a Demo Is So Damaging

When you call the sprint review the sprint demo, you devalue all these other aspects of the review. Or they get skipped because they aren’t part of a demo.

You don’t want to skip them.

Those discussions are often the most important part of the sprint demo. Review, I mean sprint review, call it the sprint review.

How does your team refer to the Sprint Review? Let me know in the comments below.

And if you have any questions you’d like me to address in future blogs and videos, drop me a note in the comments as well. I read and value every comment.

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