Defining "Done" in Agile: Definition of Done (DoD)

Defining "Done" in Agile: Definition of Done (DoD) Defining "Done" in Agile: Definition of Done (DoD)

The term "Definition of Done" (DoD) is a critical concept in Agile software development methodologies, particularly in Scrum.

It represents a set of criteria or conditions that a software product, feature, or user story must meet to be considered complete and ready for release or deployment.

The DoD acts as a shared understanding within the development team and serves as a quality assurance measure to ensure that the work done during a sprint or iteration meets the desired standards.


Typically, the Definition of Done includes various aspects such as coding standards, testing requirements, documentation, and potentially even user acceptance testing.

It helps ensure that all necessary work has been performed, and the product is in a shippable state. The DoD may vary from one project to another and can evolve over time as the team gains more experience and refines their processes.

In this article, we will discuss the importance of defining "done," the benefits it provides, and how to create an effective Definition of Done for your Scrum Team. Let's start by understanding what "doneness" means in the context of Scrum.

What is Doneness?

In Scrum, "doneness" refers to the state of completion of a Product Backlog Item (PBI) or an Increment.

It indicates that the work has been finished to a level of quality and completeness that is acceptable to the Scrum Team and the stakeholders.

To ensure a shared understanding of when a PBI or Increment is considered complete, Scrum Teams use the Definition of Done.

Definition of Done

The Definition of Done (DoD) is a shared understanding among the Scrum Team members of the criteria that must be met for a PBI or Increment to be considered complete.

It establishes a clear and consistent set of expectations, ensuring that everyone on the team knows what is required to finish a task successfully.

The Definition of Done is essentially an agreed-upon checklist of tasks and criteria that must be fulfilled before a project or user story can be considered complete.

While the specifics may vary from one organization to another, a typical DoD encompasses key items such as:

  • Code is peer-reviewed: Ensuring that code undergoes scrutiny by peers for quality and accuracy.
  • Code is checked in: Committing the code to version control for team access.
  • Code is deployed to a test environment: Making the code available for testing.
  • Code/feature passes regression testing: Verifying that changes don't break existing functionality.
  • Code/feature passes smoke testing: Conducting basic tests to ensure the feature works as intended.
  • Code is documented: Creating comprehensive documentation to aid future understanding and maintenance.
  • Help documentation is updated: Ensuring user-facing documentation is accurate and complete.
  • Feature is OK’d by stakeholders: Gaining approval from relevant stakeholders for the feature's readiness.

These checkpoints collectively serve as a gatekeeper, distinguishing between work that's "in progress" and that which is genuinely "done."

They act as a safety net to maintain quality and completeness throughout the development process.

The Scrum Guide Deciphered

According to the Scrum Guide, the Definition of Done serves as a formal blueprint of the state an Increment must achieve to meet the quality benchmarks required for the product.

Once the Definition of Done criteria are met, the Increment earns the coveted status of "Done" and is ready for delivery.

The Goals of Definition of Done

Building Consensus on Quality

One of the primary goals of DoD is to foster a common understanding within the team about quality and completeness.

When everyone agrees on what 'done' means, it eliminates confusion and streamlines the development process.

A Reliable Checklist

DoD acts as a reliable checklist that User Stories or Product Backlog Items are checked against.

This ensures that nothing falls through the cracks, and every aspect of a task is meticulously examined.

Ensuring High-Quality Increments

Ultimately, the overarching goal of DoD is to ensure that the increment shipped at the end of the Sprint is of high quality.

This quality should be clearly understood by all team members, stakeholders, and anyone involved in the project.

Benefits of the Definition of Done

Having a well-defined Definition of Done is essential in Agile development for several reasons:

  • It provides clarity and consistency: Team members and stakeholders have a clear understanding of what is expected for each completed task.
  • It improves quality: By defining quality standards and testing requirements, it helps deliver a higher-quality product.
  • It reduces misunderstandings: It minimizes the risk of miscommunication and ensures everyone is on the same page regarding project completion.
  • It aids in decision-making: It helps the team decide when a task or feature is ready for release, streamlining the development process.
  • It enhances transparency: Stakeholders can track progress more effectively, knowing that "done" means all necessary work is completed.

Where to Begin the Defining Process

Defining the DoD should be a collaborative effort involving stakeholders and those responsible for the actual work.

Whether it starts with brainstorming or a proposed framework from the technical team, ample opportunities for feedback and unanimous support for the final DoD are essential.

Assigning ownership to each criterion helps resolve disputes and maintains consistency.

In adherence to the Agile principle of simplicity, the DoD should be concise. Its purpose is to ensure consistent quality, not create bureaucratic obstacles.

Overcomplicating the DoD can impede progress rather than facilitate it.

Creating an Effective Definition of Done

To create an effective Definition of Done for your Scrum Team, follow these steps:

  1. Collaborate: Engage the entire Scrum Team in the creation of the DoD, ensuring that everyone's perspective is considered, and a shared understanding is established.

  2. Define Criteria: Identify the criteria that must be met for a PBI or Increment to be considered complete. Include aspects such as functionality, quality, performance, documentation, and compliance.

  3. Keep it Visible: Make the DoD easily accessible and visible to the entire Scrum Team, ensuring that team members are always aware of the expectations.

  4. Review and Update: Regularly review and update the DoD based on the Scrum Team's learnings, experiences, and changing requirements.

Three Critical Questions

To determine where an activity belongs in the DoD hierarchy, three questions should guide your decision-making process:

  • Can we do this activity for each feature?
  • If not, can we do this activity for each sprint?
  • If not, it becomes imperative to include this activity for our release.


The Definition of Done is crucial for maintaining transparency, aligning team members' expectations, and delivering a potentially releasable increment at the end of each sprint.

It goes beyond functionality to assert the quality of a feature. Informed by reality, it adapts to various levels, providing clarity, and fostering communication within the team and with stakeholders.

It helps prevent incomplete or low-quality work from being considered "done" and provides a clear guideline for when the development work is truly complete.

Understanding the DoD and applying it effectively is a journey towards delivering not just software but excellence in every line of code.

As you embark on this journey, remember that the Definition of Done is a dynamic tool, always ready to evolve and guide your team towards greater heights.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) / People Also Ask (PAA)

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