Four Kitchens

Adding ‘how to demo’ to Scrum user stories leads to stronger results

5 Min. ReadDigital strategy

At Four Kitchens, we build content platforms, design systems, and other digital experiences for organizations aiming to accomplish great things. Every job varies in complexity, but none of them would be possible without effective project management.

We bring all the moving parts of a project together using the Scrum framework. The process works a certain way, but we’re making a plan so our version deviates from the “textbook” definition. (Here’s a great resource if you need a refresher.)

‘How to demo’ descriptions in user stories will improve development from the start

“How to demo” provides proof that your web agency has completed a new feature (or user story) after a development sprint. Typically, instructions for how to demonstrate work has been completed to specs isn’t planned until developers prepare for the sprint review presentation. Without the right planning, this can lead to a rushed or even inadequate demo compared with what you want to see.

The demo traditionally has been viewed as the domain of the development team. After all, they’re proud of their work and are eager to showcase the results. But with more than 15 years of experience with clients, we believe our application of Scrum should evolve toward writing steps for “how to demo” earlier.

Outlining instructions to show how a new feature has been successfully developed in a ticket during sprint planning will offer several advantages:

  1. Your stakeholders and agency development team come to an agreement about the user story and clarify what success looks like.
  2. You stay informed about how the functionality of a new feature in development will be demonstrated during the review presentation.
  3. The scope of the user story is outlined to prevent new requirements from being introduced later, which avoids delays in the project schedule.
  4. Clear instructions provide a way for your teams to test new features if schedules don’t allow a formal demo meeting to take place.
  5. Your development team saves time preparing for a sprint review. Instead of writing a demo script, instructions are included in the story description during planning.

Including ‘how to demo’ descriptions early increases transparency

When your digital agency includes “how to demo” details in a ticket as part of a story’s acceptance criteria, your agency’s development team will better understand what the new feature looks like when completed. But just as importantly, your internal stakeholders will be able to clarify requirements and prevent misunderstandings later in the process.

As you define your expectations for a new feature, your developers then communicate how those requirements may impact their work. Clarifying a feature’s functionality generates a clearer picture of the amount of development time it will require to fulfill. Upon reaching that understanding, both you and your agency will be able to adjust the schedule and scope of a development sprint.

‘How to demo’ criteria clarifies what ‘done’ looks like

Instructions for “how to demo” don’t need to be comprehensive to make an impact on your project. Step-by-step instructions for how to produce a given result if a user performs a set of tasks are enough for the instructions to be useful for your team and your development agency. Allowing your development team to outline these details removes ambiguity about how a new feature should function.

But sharing “how to demo” instructions sooner will also provide flexibility in planning a sprint review. 

Instead of relying on the developer who created a feature to perform the demo, anyone on your agency’s team will understand how to validate a new feature. Plus, defining the demo process earlier allows your agency’s team to think about how to communicate results that much sooner.

Defining demo requirements upfront encourages more productive sprint reviews. Scrum recommends developers plan a demo prep meeting, but the sprint reviews can still feel rushed. Most reviews incorporate three to five stories, which leaves only so much time for each.

Allowing your agency to apply planning and forethought into “how to demo” sooner will enable the project’s sprints and meetings to run more smoothly.

Incorporating demo requirements into sprint planning isn’t always easy

Adding “how to demo” descriptions during sprint planning hasn’t yet been integrated into every project at Four Kitchens. But we’re starting to formalize it within our project team. Though the effort only constitutes a shift in process, it hasn’t always been easy in practice.

You have a finite amount of time to plan the project’s priorities and ensure things get done on time. Steps can fall by the wayside to meet a deadline, especially when you’re trying to manage a big project along with the rest of your duties. So instead, you and your agency partner cram specifics about each story into the sprint planning meeting.

However, writing a “how to demo” script in advance will deliver benefits that outweigh the cost.

Why ‘how to demo’ instructions empower client teams

Defining how to demo a completed story also grants you greater control over your ability to test new functionality. Rather than waiting for your developers to host a meeting, you and your stakeholders will be able to independently verify a new feature has been created.

Assuming your project has both testing and production environments, your team can use “how to demo” instructions to verify that a new feature works. Then your teams can demonstrate that part of the project within your organization rather than relying on separate meetings with developers.

Just as importantly, “how to demo” instructions will leave your teams better prepared when a project involves switching digital platforms. Performing the steps to demo a feature gives your teams a foothold in understanding how new site functionality will work. Rather than having to schedule a meeting with a developer to train other team members, your team will already be on the path to becoming educators.

Modern website tools like Drupal and WordPress are inherently empowering for the teams you rely on for content authoring and editing.

By setting a foundation for your project that includes instructions for how to demonstrate a project’s progress, your organization will be on a clearer path for success.