Definition of Done

scope management Oct 25, 2020
Definition of Done

An important concept for agile projects is the “definition of done.” The team must discuss and understand this concept in terms of the specific project at hand before the first iteration.  Without this understanding, the ability to deliver value will be both difficult and chaotic. 

There are two overarching concepts which are ingredients in the definition:

  • Requirements: Are all business, functional, and non-functional requirements met? Are all acceptance criteria developed for the user stories met? The degree to which requirements are met is a crucial part of the conversation. For some projects, meeting some requirements may be sufficient.  For requirements with significant consequences for the user, this may need to be 100%.
  • Quality: Is the level of quality acceptable? Once again, for some projects, some bugs may be acceptable. For others, they may not be.

George Bernard Shaw said it best:

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

An agile project manager needs to be sure the team has clarity and a shared understanding of when a user story is “done.”   Achieving “done” usually means that a certain number of steps in developing the product, service, or other results have taken place.  The steps could include categories of activities such as design, build, integrate, test, and customer review.

Once again, the team needs to have an agreement on the processes to be used to complete the work if the process is essential to the project and its outcomes.

The product owner plays a vital role here, as well, and needs to weigh in on the definition. For some projects, a “shippable” product may be sufficient.  A shippable product is one we may want feedback on but is not sufficiently done for general release to end-users.  A “releasable” product is one that is fit for end-users.

In general, “done” should mean we have high-value functionality to provide to the customer at the end of this iteration.  But the exact definition of high value needs to come from the customer (represented by the product owner), not from the agile project manager or team.  The team needs to discuss and agree upon how this definition will be achieved.

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