The Importance of Defining Done: Why Your Team Needs a Definition of Done

Natalia Plewniok
April 3, 2023
The Importance of Defining Done: Why Your Team Needs a Definition of Done

The Importance of Defining Done: Why Your Team Needs a Definition of Done

Imagine the frustration of working on a project that never seems to end. Every Sprint is a new struggle, with unclear expectations and unfinished work piling up. The team is exhausted and demotivated, unsure of what "done product" even means. This is the nightmare scenario that can occur when a Scrum team fails to establish a clear Definition of Done (DoD).

Without the Definition of Done, each Sprint becomes a guessing game, with developers unsure what criteria to meet before a user story or any other Product Backlog Item (PBI) is considered completed. This all leads to your team’s confusion, wasted time and money. And the final result usually is product failure.

Consider a team launching a product without fully testing it because they were unsure what "done" meant. The product is riddled with bugs and crashes, leading to a flood of negative reviews and customer complaints. The team must then spend weeks fixing the issues, delaying the release of new features and causing frustration for both the team and the customers. Don’t you think it would be much easier to invest some time at the very beginning of product delivery in defining and maintaining what “done” means?

What exactly is the Definition of Done

The Definition of Done is a commitment for product Increment. It’s a description of the state of the Increment from a quality standard perspective . It allows you and the team to establish a shared understanding when you consider our work as done, and under what quality standard.    In the Scrum framework, DoD is a shared understanding among the Scrum Team, including the Product Owner, Developers and Scrum Master, about what it means for the Increment to be "done." It serves as a reference point for the team to ensure that each increment of work is high quality, satisfies organisational standards, and is potentially releasable.

Why you and your team should use the Definition of Done

There are several reasons why it's important to use a Definition of Done. Let’s take a look at them. Definition of Done:

Assess progress toward goal

Ensuring that your team have the DoD defined supports transparency and gives you the information of the Increment current status, as a result you are able to measure and verify progress towards the Product Goal.

Enables empirical process

DoD is an essential element of the empirical process that Scrum is built upon. Empiricism is founded on the belief that knowledge comes from experience, and DoD enables team to gain valuable insights by establishing a feedback loop on the value of the product from the customer or user's perspective.

Facilitates coordination among multiple teams 

Utilising a Definition of Done (DoD) in a larger-scale Scrum implementation can support coordination among multiple teams working on the same product. By establishing a shared DoD understanding and standard for quality, each team can work towards the same Product Goal and lead to a more efficient and effective development process.

Maintains the product standard

A Definition of Done (DoD) is critical in maintaining the quality and integrity of a product. By including non-functional requirements such as stability, security, and performance in the DoD, you can ensure that the current and future Increments of the product meet these requirements. You make sure the product will operate as intended and meet the needs of its users, thereby increasing the product's overall value and quality.

Ensures clarity

The Definition of Done provides a clear and shared understanding of what is expected to complete a PBI. It sets the criteria for when a product increment is ready to be delivered to the customer or released in general.

Establishes quality standards

By setting specific criteria for each PBI, the Definition of Done helps you to establish quality standards that must be met before the increment is considered complete.

Helps to prevent technical debt

If a PBI is not fully implemented, it can lead to technical debt or unfinished work that can accumulate over time. The Definition of Done helps you to prevent this by ensuring that each increment is fully implemented before moving on to the next one.

Facilitates continuous improvement

The Definition of Done is not static and can be adjusted based on feedback and learning from each Sprint. By continuously improving the Definition of Done, the your team can raise its quality and productivity.

Who is accountable for crafting the Definition of Done 

According to the newest 2020 Scrum Guide update, “The entire Scrum Team is accountable for creating a valuable, useful Increment every Sprint.” So the entire Team is accountable for crafting it, while the Developers are required to conform to it. 

It's important to emphasize that organizational standards must be included in DoD. If the organization has specific requirements for quality, safety, or other aspects of the project, those requirements must fully comply with the DoD.

If the team wishes, they can add additional requirements to DoD to increase the quality of their product, but they should not negatively impact the quality of the product or the team's pace of work.

What are the key elements of the Definition of Done

The Definition of Done should be specific to each product and may include the following elements:

  • The DoD is a checklist of criteria that must be met for a Product Backlog Item (PBI) to be considered "done."
  • The DoD should be agreed   by the whole Scrum Team and inspected at Sprint Retrospective.
  • The DoD should include both functional and non-functional requirements, such as user acceptance testing, accessibility standards, security testing, and code reviews.
  • The DoD should be transparent and visible to the entire Scrum Team and organisation.
  • The DoD should be reviewed and updated regularly.
  • The DoD is not static and should be revised as the team's understanding of "done", the environment and the market evolves over time.
  • One Product one DoD.
  • Transparency of DoD, what currently we consider as done (no mater how fare away from what expected it is)  and what we need to do in future to improve. 

In conclusion

Without the Definition of Done, you and You and your team risk confusion, wasted time, and a product that fails to meet the team's quality standards and the customer's expectations. The consequences can be significant, including delays in releasing new features, negative customer feedback, team demotivation or even the product and/or company failure.

By establishing a clear Definition of Done, you and your team can overcome these challenges and deliver valuable products. The DoD helps teams to stay focused, ensure quality, and maintain a shared understanding of what constitutes "done." It also empowers teams to constant improvements. The DoD is an essential tool for ensuring quality and preventing unfinished work, reducing technical debt, and increasing accountability. If you want to learn more about value delivery in Scrum, we encourage you to join one of our accredited, interactive Scrum training courses. Take a deep look at Scrum Master Certification or Product Owner Certification if you want to be part of the Scrum Team.

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