Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Magic of Demos

When I started writing software, I enjoyed the thrill of showing people something they hadn’t seen before. Even today, one of the main reasons I enjoy working in the software industry is the thrill of demoing new software. When you demonstrate new software, you become a magician, conjuring feats of computation that dazzle the imagination. The audience starts out skeptical, wondering if you are just a two-bit side-show act. You slowly build up to the main event and then, when you’re lucky, they gasp in amazement as you show them something that they’ll no longer be able to live without.

One of my favorite demos was many years ago when I was showing an early version of a product to some folks for feedback. As part of the demonstration I interrupted the power to the laptop (with the battery already removed), and showed them that the software continued as though nothing had happened when the power was restored.

Even though we had told them that the software wouldn't ship for at least six more months, they called us the next day to place an order anyway. For them, the value outweighed the risk. We decided to accept the order. That early exposure to a real customer changed the way we thought about things. Even though we considered the product to be pre-release, we made sure that every new feature worked as it was developed instead of waiting until the end game of the official release. As a result, the end game was much smoother than we had expected.

The Magic of Agile Development
From a business perspective, the main reasons I appreciate Agile development are an increase in quality and ROI, more options, and higher visibility into progress and status compared to traditional development. But from a purely personal perspective, the reason I enjoy Agile development is because it made my job more fun.

Today, thanks to Agile development, I interact with customers more than ever before. As a product owner, I do more demos and am able to provide new features that hit closer to the mark faster and more frequently than ever before. This in turn means more oohs and ahs from customers which is more fun for me and more profitable for the business.


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