Accelerate product delivery with Demo Thursday
Demo Thursday is the unifying, weekly event that enables all stakeholders to come together and:
- Validate the product
- Assess progress
- Align priorities
- Mature the delivery mechanisms
The goal is a common understanding of the product, progress, and priorities.
Validate the product (by using working software)
If a picture is worth a thousand words, a working application is worth a thousand marketing, sales, engineering, and design drawings. Some products deserve to exist, others never achieve their vision or potential. Whether it is a mobile application, website, or satellite command and control software, having a subject matter expert use the system will reveal its true value. Demonstrating weekly drives value into the system.
On a recent project building a mobile application for the IRS, our weekly demos provided valuable insights for our customers, including:
- Astonishment at the amount of progress made each week
- A deep understanding of how the application would help taxpayers
- The opportunity to adjust the focus – over the course of a 6-month project we shifted from a federal tax form companion app to a fully interactive tax filing app including data entry and integrated, line sensitive help.
Assess progress (by seeing new capabilities)
Progress bars on a schedule chart are not the same as progress. If you cannot see changes in the system, whether they be new working functions in the user interface, or measurable (and demonstrable) improvements toward key performance indicators, then there is no progress. There are legitimate reasons for progress to stall. In cutting edge systems, science can hit a dead end or roadblock. If this happens the future of the project should be assessed, and new approaches developed. Barring this, progress should be real and demonstrable EVERY week.
Align priorities (by showing exactly what is being worked and adjusting as needed)
Knowing what to do next is the hardest and most important decision made each day. Balancing the needs of stakeholders and investors with the technical needs of the team requires a deep understanding of both. Letting priorities tip too far to the technical side can jeopardize funding, going too far to the marketing side may hinder the ability to deliver.
While we were working with a startup to solve a sensor fusion problem it became clear that developing an accurate AI classifier for a single sensor to support an investor demonstration was more important than solving the abstract fusion problem. From one Demo Thursday to the next we were able to shift the focus and deliver the required AI model within 2 weeks. Priorities shift during the life of a project – Demo Thursday provides the forum to redirect and the ability to ensure alignment.
Mature the delivery mechanisms (by exercising the CI/CD or DevSecOps pipelines)
Delivery is the ultimate measure of success. Improving peoples’ lives with new technologies is why we do what we do. But delivery, the last mile into the analyst or operator’s hands, can be the hardest mile. Demo Thursday is a forcing function to implement and perfect automated delivery pipelines and automated tests. Demoing in an environment that is as close as possible to the operational environment will uncover unforeseen issues and improve the value and quality of the product.
Deployments of a worldwide cost accounting system helped us reveal unreliable internet connections in remote regions of the world where not only internet, but electricity and other necessities are intermittent. Demonstrating in this environment led us to develop a mesh network that enables remote locations to update data asynchronously and without introducing conflicts or inconsistencies.
Saying you are Agile and being agile are two different things. Demo Thursday is an essential part of being agile and delivering valuable systems.
Scott Pringle is an experienced hands-on technology executive trained in applied mathematics and software systems engineering. He is passionate about using first principles to drive innovation and accelerate time to value.