One Demo to Rule Them All

My team, like many teams these days, is distributed around the world. We’re currently working on a project where the client is in the Eastern Time Zone of the US, team members are in the CST and PST as well as in Seoul and Singapore. This is a fairly common situation and we’re just glad we don’t have someone in London that we’re collaborating with.

The project in question is using sensors and beacon technology with mobile apps and data collection services. Since this is early in the project and hardware is being tested along with software, there aren’t really enough sensors for everyone to have a set in their location. Much of the functionality that is being developed has to be demonstrated in real time — is the sensor detecting an event? Is the beacon data updating quick enough on the mobile app? Are we collecting relevant data for more in-depth analysis later? Since not everyone has the hardware at their disposal, we needed to find a way to demonstrate working software to team members in different time zones and locations at different times.

It would be very difficult to schedule live demos with all of the stakeholders and interested developers that might be doing something with this data downstream. Instead of dealing with that logistical nightmare, the development team that’s working in Seoul put together a short video demonstrating the working software.

Dev team demo video. Sensor/Beacon on the left, Firebase on the right. Sorry for the blurred out images of the sensor and Firebase.

The devs included a live stream of Firebase (which we’re using for this initial phase of the project), to show how it is updating as the demo is progressing. They needed a few takes and it took them a couple of hours to edit the video together. This is the first time that this group has put together a demo like this, so next time it should be much faster. I would argue that it still might have taken less effort than doing all of the demos if they were live. Since video editing has become fairly straight forward, the production quality was great considering the audience.

It helped that the team put a little effort into scripting the demo and had fun with creating it. Although, this is probably the case with any demo, live or canned. Overall everyone very happy with the results and fewer people had to have early mornings or late nights to coordinate with the other side of the Earth. In the end we scheduled a time with the client during US business hours to show the video to them and to gather feedback and answer questions. I’m sure we’re not the first team to use this technique, but it’s another tool in our distributed team toolbelt.

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