Sprint Demo Vs Sprint Review | What Is the Difference


Have you ever wondered what the differences are between Sprint Demo and Sprint Review? It’s important to understand them, especially if you use Scrum.

Many people mix up a Sprint Demo and a Sprint Review, and while this might seem like a case of semantics, it is quite an important distinction. A Sprint Review is an official part of the Scrum process, while a Demo is not part of the process at all and usually only refers to a part of the Sprint Review.

It can make an enormous difference in how people approach these events! In this article, we’ll learn more about the differences between a Sprint Review and a Sprint Demo, so you understand how to use both terms. Let’s look at Sprint Demo Vs. Sprint Review| What Is the Difference?

What Is a Sprint Review?

Sprint Demo Vs Sprint Review | What Is the Difference?

Sprint Review

First, let’s start by looking at what a Sprint Review is. Sprint Reviews are held at the end of a Sprint, and they are generally seen as informal meetings that are used to discuss the project, discuss the accomplishments, and look at feedback. On the whole, these meetings involve everyone and don’t have a single team member or small group presenting. 

Related: What is a sprint review?

The environment is collaborative, and there’s a problem-solving approach. If you follow the official Scrum process, you’ll have a Sprint Review as one of the five steps. It usually comes before the Sprint Retrospective, and it’s an excellent opportunity for everyone to reflect on how the project went, what could be improved, and what should be changed in the future.

Often, the Product Owner will lead the Sprint Review, but everybody needs to be involved in it. The stakeholders will usually provide feedback to the team, and in many cases, the Review will contain some or all of the following elements:

Bullet Point Items

There is some confusion surrounding this because a Demo is often a critical part of the Sprint Review – but the Demo itself is not the step being taken and should not be confused with the Review stage.

Related: Babbel vs Pimsleur

What Is a Sprint Demo?

Sprint Demo Vs Sprint Review | What Is the Difference?

Sprint Demo
Photo by cottonbro studio

So when we think about a Sprint Demo vs Sprint Review, this term can vary depending on who you talk to, but for most people, a Demo refers to a specific demonstration of the product/project. It will be shorter than the Review and is usually an integral part of it rather than a separate aspect of the whole process. Usually, the demo will only take a few minutes, but it can be longer.

Some of the aspects will overlap during the demo phase because people will still be offering some feedback on the product and how it functions. However, this has a significantly smaller scope and will not look at the “big picture” of the journey. A demo is purely focused on the product’s success, not Scrum.

Related: The art of the sprint demo

People may define demo in other ways, but this is generally understood to be the gist of it. You should include a demo and the feedback process in your Sprint review, but it is not an alternative or a separate part of the process. See it as an integral step rather than a complete, detached process.

Remember, the official steps of the Scrum process are:

Sprint Demo Items

You may find that you repeat specific parts of this process several times before you reach the Release phase, but as you can see, Demo is nowhere in this list. It is only a part of the Review process, and it should not be viewed as a separate step because it is helpful in the context of reviewing.

Why Does It Matter If “Demo” Is Used Instead Of “Review”

Sprint Demo Vs Sprint Review | What Is the Difference?

Sprint demo vs review
Photo by cottonbro studio

Calling the process a “demo” instead of a review can confuse everybody involved. Individuals may wrongly assume that the whole purpose of the stage is to see the product working and that they are coming to passively view (or, if they are involved in the demonstration, show off) the product in action.

If people don’t expect to be talking and engaging, they will not think in advance about the things they need to bring to the meeting themselves. They may not take the time to reflect on the challenges and highlights of the project entirely. That means people cannot prepare appropriately for this crucial step of the Scrum process.

This can reduce the effectiveness of the review because people will need help to contribute appropriately. They will be expected to engage passively and won’t recognize how they should get ready to offer input and thoughts. People will have to think on the spot in the meeting, which won’t produce in-depth, valuable insights.

It can cause a similar problem for those responsible for demoing the project. If this is all that they expect to do, they may take a similarly shallow approach rather than being prepared to explain and explore the journey so far and where to go next.

It does nobody any favors to mislabel the meeting, therefore. Tell people you will review, and you’ll see far more engagement and valuable input, see, that question Sprint Demo vs Sprint Review… it’s not as easy to answer as first thought right?

Related: LinkedIn Learning vs Pluralsight

Do You Have to Include a Demo in a Review?

Sprint Demo Vs Sprint Review | What Is the Difference?

Scrum Demo and Review
Photo by cottonbro studio

Almost all Reviews will include a demo of the product because doing so ensures that everyone understands how it currently works and can assess how much more work is needed before it’s released. If a demo is not included, you’re working with hypotheticals, and people may need clarification about what stage has been reached.

Including a demo in the review is generally helpful, even if the project is far from finished. This will guide the discussion and make it easier to determine the next steps based on the current reality. It helps to bring focus to the Review and gets all team members on the same page.

Related: A Sprint Review should be much more than just a Demo

You can include a demo long before the product is finished and even when it is in its early stages (although very early-stage demos may not be particularly useful). As you reach the end phases of a Scrum, including a demo will be extremely important because it will help to highlight any pitfalls and ensure that issues are addressed.

Some companies will choose to run a Review without a demo, and you will know best if this works for you but remember the value of having a demo. This step is vital for pulling everybody together and also gives people a chance to showcase what they have achieved, which can improve motivation in the following stages.

Isn’t The Demo All You Truly Need?

Sprint Demo Vs Sprint Review | What Is the Difference?

Is a demo all you need
Photo by Fox

You might think that demonstrating the product in action and discussing its flaws and strengths is all necessary to create a good Scrum at this stage – but that isn’t the case. The other aspects of the Review process are critically important too, and you shouldn’t miss them out just because the sprint demo purpose is the most straightforward part of the process.

Many companies fail to recognize the value of this part of the Scrum and don’t bother to ask deep questions about the product and the process so far. The Review process is invaluable to improving both the current Sprint and future Sprints, but if individuals are disengaged and don’t understand the purpose of reviewing, this opportunity will be lost.

Use the 30 minutes to an hour that you have to show how your product works, but then get people talking about the whole process so that you can get to the heart of problems and address them. Too often, people accept the Demo, assume things are progressing smoothly, and don’t bother with the rest of the Review.

Showcasing the product is important, but finding out what people think about it and the whole process is more important. This can make the entire review process feel perfunctory and prevent people from adequately investing time and thought into it. This can lead to a lack of collaboration and makes people feel that their input isn’t valued and that they aren’t being properly heard. 

What do you think, does this help with our title question, Sprint Demo vs Sprint Review?

Related: Udemy vs LinkedIn Learning

How Much of The Sprint Review Should Be the Sprint Demo

Sprint Demo Vs Sprint Review | What Is the Difference?

This depends heavily on the product, the team, the length of the full review, and numerous other factors. Sprint Reviews are generally kept short to maximize the team’s focus during them, and most are shorter than 3 hours in total. If your Sprints are short, your meetings will be significantly shorter. For example, if you have week-long Sprints, your meetings will probably be less than an hour.

Your demo should be only a short part of this, a sixth of the total meeting time, or a little more or less. Every company will find that a different time frame works for them, but make sure you aren’t focusing too heavily on the demo and neglecting the other aspects of the meeting.

It helps to break your Sprint meetings into defined sections and allot specific periods to each part to ensure you are fulfilling the purpose of the meeting. Some people find this structure too rigid, but others prefer it because it helps them stay on track. A simple approach is as follows:

  1. Goal Review (what did we want to accomplish, what have we accomplished, what’s left?)
  2. Demonstration (how does the product work, and does it serve its purpose yet, what is left to do?)
  3. Feedback (opportunity for the team to give thoughts on the product)
  4. Release plan (what’s the anticipated delivery date?)
  5. Discussion (how is the project going, is the release on track?)
  6. Next steps (what are you going to now?)

If you use this structure, you can give the demo its proper place in your Review process without allowing it to dominate or leaving it out entirely.

Final Thoughts

Never confuse a Sprint Demo for a Review; a Review is a significantly more in-depth and useful look at the product and the journey to create it. A Review involves everyone and engages them in the process and the upcoming steps. A demo is a key part of your Review, but it’s only one piece of the puzzle.

I hope this has put to rest the comparison of Sprint Demo vs Sprint Review, they are definitely not the same thing, and knowing the difference between the two can only help your career in Scrum. 

Sign up for our Newsletter

Click edit button to change this text. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit