During the execution of a project it is crucial to maintain stakeholder confidence and communications. Often during waterfall-style software build projects there is not a lot of visibility by the stakeholders into what the final product will look like or how exactly it will function – beyond what was shown as wire frame mock-ups during the requirements phase of the project. This approach is not only dangerous for your project but it creates an uncertainty around what the final build will be like. This can quickly snowball into escalations for the project manager to deal with rather than keeping the team on track.
Iterative or Agile projects mandate that each iteration ends with a demonstration to the customer. These aren’t intended to be a forum for new scope or changes but part of a greater initiative aimed at continued customer confidence and validation that the project team is on the right track. Effective scope management by the project manager will ensure that the integrity of the project is protected while ensuring that the project is meeting the needs of the customer. Even if a project is not being managed by iterations you can still provide consistent outputs to your customer.
Requirements will often change throughout the project and the earlier they can be integrated to the project, the smaller the impact (budget, schedule and risk) will be. Catching potential design flaws that may have slipped through requirements gathering is another benefit from having interim product demonstrations. When customers can see something real it goes a long way in establishing and maintaining trust and confidence in the project.
As with any good project, it takes discipline by the team and project manager to ensure that constant and consistent product demonstrations are being done on a regular basis. While the schedule for demonstrations doesn’t necessarily need to be set at the outset of the project, there should be a consensus understanding on what the expectations are for the demonstrations. The project team will commit to providing a comprehensive demonstration while the customer should be prepared to invest the time and/or people to commit to not only attending but being an active participant willing to provide constructive feedback. Attendees of the demonstrations should be equipped with business knowledge but don’t necessarily have to have been involved with the project however there should always be representation from the business project team in the demonstration.
Interim product demonstrations can not only bolster confidence in your stakeholders but also in your team members in that they know they are bringing real value to the customer.