What Is a Sprint Demo?

Developers present progress made during the sprint to stakeholders for immediate feedback
A group of work colleagues is gathered around a table

Reviewed By: Punita Dave

Scrum and agile emphasize breaking down a large project into smaller iterations built upon and consistently delivering completed work throughout the project. 

Incremental delivery allows for value delivery sooner. Ensuring pieces of the project work before the entire application is complete reduces risk by identifying problems along the way and reducing the accumulation of technical debt. 

Smaller iterations help to reduce technical debt throughout the development process. Developers should track specific improvements like refactors, bug fixes, and quality improvements and make the product owner aware of prioritizing them in the backlog. The sprint demo is another way to help teams track technical debt and ensure quality code.

Agile Sprint Demo Explained

The agile sprint demo is usually part of the sprint review, depending on the function of the team and the work.

The demo is a meeting with the developers and stakeholders where the team demos what they accomplished during the sprint on the current product iteration, application, etc. The demo could include bug fixes, new features, or completed code and is an opportunity to demonstrate working user stories and get immediate feedback from stakeholders.

The real-time feedback from stakeholders ensures the project progresses correctly and can spark new ideas or subsequent iterations.

From this meeting, the ideas for the project’s next step feed back into the product backlog for prioritization. Each sprint builds on the last, and the project continues getting better without the risk of encountering a significant problem later on.

Why Sprint Reviews Aren’t Just Sprint Demos

There needs to be some clarification about the difference between a sprint demo and a sprint review. Many teams use these terms interchangeably, but they are different things.

Sprint Demo: Developers show completed functionality to stakeholders, discuss user stories, provide feedback on the product, and a demo of the actual increment. The demo can influence new things in the product backlog and is usually only a part of the sprint review.

Sprint Review: The scrum team and stakeholders discuss the business value delivered, focus on context and goals, discuss how to provide value to customers, and celebrate success. They use this event to update the product backlog and capture stakeholder feedback.

A sprint demo is usually part of a sprint review, but a sprint review is much more than that. Depending on the need, the team may discuss capabilities, landscape, release progress, budget, competition-related issues, market placement, etc. The sprint review is for reviewing the sprint in the context of the release and the product goal.

Depending on the team, demos might happen multiple times throughout the sprint, or it could be a separate meeting focused on demoing the project’s progress. A sprint review occurs only once at the end of the sprint.

How to Run a Sprint Demo

It’s crucial to run a valuable sprint demo. Typically, demos are presented by the scrum team developers because they are the ones who complete the work on the product backlog item and know the performance the best. However, depending on their comfort level, it may be the product owner or a shared responsibility.

Here are some tips for running an excellent sprint demo:

  • Be prepared and practice: Take a small amount of time to set the demo up before the meeting starts, and practice walking through it beforehand. This way, the presenter will feel more confident and not flustered pulling up the demo while people watch.
  • Focus on value: The acceptance criteria for the product backlog item or user story is defined; now is the time for the developer to demonstrate they have achieved it.
  • Tell a story: briefly touch on the user story’s purpose, sprint goal, and outcome.
  • Know your audience: stakeholders are busy people. They probably don’t need the gritty details, but remember what’s important to them.
  • Keep it short but impactful.
  • Allow space for stakeholders to ask questions.

The less clunky and time-consuming a demo can be, the better. Everyone’s time is precious, and no one wants a meeting that isn’t valuable.

The Benefits of Demos in Agile

Sprint demos are an opportunity to show tangible progress toward a product goal. When there are regular check-ins with stakeholders, the team can consistently deliver and demonstrate value with working, tested iterations.

When stakeholders are in the development loop, they can provide immediate feedback that the product is what they want. If not, correcting in smaller increments is more manageable than once the product is complete.

Sprint demos create fast feedback loops, regularly inspect and adapt the product backlog if necessary, and reduce costs and risks. Every sprint builds on the next and consistently delivers value when the development process is regularly inspected and adapted.

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