The demo – usage gap

It is one thing to demo software that’s being developed, it can be a good way to get early feedback. But the feedback is nothing compared to the feedback you will get from people using the software.

For example, a week ago I received a notice about a new software system, basically a mini demo of the new features. There were screenshots and explanations. Everything looked great, I was optimistic. I had no feedback because it seemed great. 

Then last night I used the software for the first time, doing real work. Not just a test drive. That’s when it became patently obvious that the software was  flawed. I couldn’t even get my work done with the new system.

If you rely solely on demos to determine if you’re doing the right thing, you’re in for a rude awakening when you finally put the software into the hands of users to do real work.

And don’t conflate making the software available for a test drive with using the software to do real work. 

If the usage isn’t real, the feedback isn’t real.
This works the opposite way too, feedback from a demo or test drive can overturn stones that shouldn’t be. People can give counterproductive feedback like suggesting changes that they don’t need, that seem and sound like a good idea in the moment. 

Real usage ensures that feedback is necessary and sufficient.