It’s a Sprint Review Not a Sprint Demo!

Almost every week I visit one or two companies to teach an on-site Scrum class or do some form of agile coaching. These days people who take my agile classes are likely to have some experience or exposure (via reading or videos) to Scrum before they attend–and in most cases that’s a good thing.

But I do have a bone to pick. It concerns me when people refer to the Scrum “sprint review” practice as the “sprint demo” or just “demo.” While it might seem like a matter of semantics, calling the review a demo can have the very real effect of detracting from the true goal of the practice.

Although a demonstration is a helpful part of a sprint review, it is not the aim of the sprint review. The most important aspect of the sprint review is the in-depth conversation and collaboration among the participants that enable productive adaptations to surface and be exploited.

The demonstration of what actually got built is simply a very efficient way to energize that conversation around something concrete. Nothing provides focus to the conversation like being able to actually see how something works.

The following picture will clarify how I view the sprint review activity.

Visual AGILExicon image for Sprint Review

In the center of the picture you will see the icon for the sprint review. The essence of this activity is to inspect and adapt the product increment that was produced during the sprint. Below that icon you will notice an approach for conducting the sprint review.

Step 1 is to review the goal and set of committed features for the sprint and compare that to what actually got accomplished. Step 2 is to demonstrate a completed feature, discuss that feature, make any necessary adaptations to the product backlog or release plan to reflect new learnings from the discussion, and repeat. This cycle continues until all completed features have been discussed.

In this approach, the demonstration is simply an activity that is performed during the sprint review, it is not the goal of the sprint review. That’s why I think it’s so important to refer to the overall Scrum practice as a sprint review rather than a sprint demo.

To reiterate, the goal of the sprint review is to inspect and adapt the product that is being built. A successful review results in bidirectional information flow. The people who aren’t on the Scrum team get to sync up on the development effort and help guide its direction.

At the same time, the Scrum team members gain a deeper appreciation for the business and marketing side of their product by getting frequent feedback on the convergence of the product toward delighted customers or users. The sprint review therefore represents a scheduled opportunity to inspect and adapt the product.

Do you agree that this activity should be referred to as the sprint review and not the sprint demo? Please leave your comments below!

BTW, the sprint review image shown above is part of the Visual AGILExicon® that I created for my classroom presentations and to use in my Essential Scrum book. At no cost you can get hi-res copies of this picture and all of the other pictures in the Visual AGILExicon.  If you are interested in exploring the sprint review practice in more detail, I refer you to Chapter 21 of the Essential Scrum book.