A Comprehensive Guide to the Definition of Done for Agile Teams

Robust Theme

Take our Quiz and determine your training path!

A Comprehensive Guide to the Definition of Done for Agile Teams

By Chris Daily

When it comes to Agile software development, one term you’ll often come across is the “Definition of Done” or DoD. But what does it truly signify and why is it so crucial in the Agile realm? Imagine working on a complex project with multiple team members, each having their own understanding of when a task is considered finished. Sounds chaotic, right? That’s where the Definition of Done comes into play. It serves as a shared understanding among all team members about what it means for a task to be complete, bringing order to the chaos and setting the groundwork for efficient and effective Agile practices.

Short Summary

  • The Definition of Done is a checklist to ensure tasks meet quality standards and provide value.

  • Acceptance criteria explain functional and non-functional requirements for user stories.

  • A shared understanding among team members ensures efficient sprint planning, improved velocity, increased quality assurance, and customer satisfaction.

The Essence of the Definition of Done

An image illustrating the definition of done with a checklist and a tick mark.

The Definition of Done (DoD) is essentially a checklist that outlines the necessary steps for a task or a user story to be considered complete. It includes activities like verifying if the code performs as intended, passing functional tests, and ensuring it does not disrupt the existing system. The DoD is crucial in Agile teams as it guarantees a common understanding of expectations regarding the development and delivery of the product, playing a key role in preventing user stories from being incomplete.

The DoD, in addition to guiding the development team, also creates transparency among other stakeholders, including the product owner, the consuming system, and the customers. It ensures that everyone involved is on the same page about what constitutes the completion of a product increment, thus establishing a uniform standard of quality across the board.

After all, the success of Agile software development hinges on the organization’s full commitment to Agile principles, and the DoD is a key component in this process.

The Role of Acceptance Criteria

Part of the beauty of the DoD is its versatility. It’s not a one-size-fits-all checklist but a living document that can be tailored to suit each Agile team's specific needs and practices. One key component of this customization is acceptance criteria, which are the specific requirements that must be met for a user story to be considered complete. These criteria explain functional and non-functional requirements and evaluate whether the development team has met the user story’s expectations.

However, it’s important to note that acceptance criteria are not just a bureaucratic hurdle to clear. They serve a practical purpose by reducing the risk of disruptions caused by incomplete user stories making their way into the sprint backlog. By defining and adhering to clear acceptance criteria, Scrum teams can ensure smoother planning for the next sprint and avoid unnecessary production delays.

Shared Understanding Among Team Members

While it’s important to define the DoD and acceptance criteria, it’s equally crucial for this understanding to be shared among all team members. After all, the DoD is not just a checklist to be ticked off—it’s a tool for maintaining uniformity and consistency across the team and ensuring everyone is working towards the same goals. This shared understanding prevents confusion and miscommunication, promoting a more harmonious and productive working environment.

Moreover, having a shared understanding of the DoD can boost the team’s efficiency. By agreeing on the gates a feature must pass through to reach completion, teams can better manage their workload and time, leading to a more streamlined and effective workflow. This shared understanding, facilitated by the Scrum Master, ensures everyone is on the same page and working towards the same objectives.

Establishing the Definition of Done

A product owner and a scrum team discussing the definition of done

Creating a Definition of Done is not a task to be taken lightly. It requires careful thought, collaboration, and ongoing refinement. The DoD is an agreed-upon list of activities necessary to bring a product increment to a completed state by the end of a sprint. This definition is established by the development team of the Scrum team and is used to ensure that all product backlog items (PBIs) meet the set quality standard.

Moreover, the DoD is not a one-time task. It’s an evolving document that should be reviewed and updated as the product, team, and organization evolve. Ensuring that the DoD remains relevant and effective in guiding the team toward achieving its objectives is crucial. This evolution is facilitated by the Product Owner, who ensures that the DoD aligns with Agile principles and satisfies the customer’s requirements.

Involving the Product Owner

The Product Owner plays a pivotal role in defining and refining the DoD. Representing the customer or end-user, the Product Owner is responsible for providing input and reviewing the criteria to ensure they align with the customer’s requirements and expectations. This involvement ensures that the DoD looks good on paper and delivers value to the end user. Product managers can collaborate with the Product Owner to achieve the desired outcome in this process.

The Product Owner’s involvement in the DoD isn’t just about providing input. They also play a crucial role in reviewing the criteria and providing feedback to ensure they are comprehensive and precise. This continuous feedback loop helps keep the DoD relevant and effective, ensuring that the team’s efforts always align with delivering value to the end user.

Collaboration with Scrum Teams

While the Product Owner plays a key role, establishing the DoD is a team effort. The entire Scrum team, including the Scrum Master, Product Owner, and developers, collaborates to define and maintain the DoD. They deliberate on the scope of the DoD, the criteria to be included, and how to ensure the DoD is applied uniformly across the board.

This collaborative approach not only ensures that the DoD reflects the team’s specific needs and practices, but also fosters a sense of ownership and commitment among team members. By working together to establish the DoD, the team is more likely to adhere to it, leading to increased team velocity, enhanced quality assurance, and a shared understanding among team members.

Benefits of Implementing a Definition of Done

A group of people discussing the benefits of implementing a definition of done

Implementing a Definition of Done comes with a plethora of benefits. It helps the team.

  • Make steady and predictable progress

  • Boost the accuracy of estimates

  • Raise transparency within the team

  • Focus on quality and processes

Moreover, it provides a checklist that guides pre-implementation activities and helps reduce the risk of delays.

The DoD also facilitates transparency within the team by providing a shared understanding of what needs to be accomplished for a task to be considered complete. This helps the team communicate and collaborate on tasks, as everyone knows the required standards and expectations. These benefits make the effort to craft a comprehensive DoD well worth it.

Enhanced Team Velocity

One of the key benefits of a well-defined DoD is enhanced team velocity. In Agile terms, team velocity refers to the work a team can complete in a given time frame. A clear DoD helps optimize the team’s capacity, remove any roadblocks, decrease the size of work items, and set objectives, all of which contribute to increased team velocity.

By providing a clear understanding of the requirements for a task to be considered complete, the DoD helps the team better understand the scope of the task and the effort required to complete it. This clarity allows the team to make more accurate estimates and plan more effectively, ultimately increasing team velocity.

Improved Quality Assurance

Quality assurance is critical to any software development project, and implementing a DoD can significantly enhance it. By clearly outlining the standards that need to be met for a task to be considered complete, the DoD serves as a roadmap for maintaining quality.

The DoD isn’t just about ticking off items on a checklist—it’s about instilling a culture of quality within the team. When each team member understands and adheres to the DoD, they are not just completing tasks—they are ensuring that each task meets the highest standards of quality. This commitment to quality reduces the risk of bugs and rework, ultimately leading to a better product and a more satisfied customer.

Real-World Examples of Definition of Done

A group of people discussing real-world examples of definition of done

By now, you may be wondering what a DoD looks like in practice. The truth is, a DoD can take many forms, depending on the specific needs and practices of the team. To give you a better idea of what a DoD might look like, let’s look at some real-world examples of DoD at different levels of an organization.

Whether it’s user stories at the Scrum team level, features/epics at the enterprise/product management level, or themes/initiatives at the portfolio management level, the DoD serves as a guiding light, ensuring that every task is done to the highest standards of quality and efficiency. Let’s delve deeper into these examples.

User Stories: Scrum Team Level

At the Scrum team level, a user story is considered “done” when it meets all the acceptance criteria and is reviewed and accepted by the Product Owner. This could mean that the story’s functionality has been implemented, the code has been reviewed, automated tests have passed, and the story has been demonstrated to and accepted by the Product Owner.

So, what might this look like in practice? A user story involves adding a new feature to a mobile app. The acceptance criteria might include things like:

  • The feature works as intended on all supported devices

  • Passing all functional tests

  • The code is being reviewed and approved by another developer

  • The feature being demonstrated to and accepted by the Product Owner

Once all the criteria are met, the user story can be considered “done.”

Features/Epics: Enterprise/Product Management Level

At the enterprise or product management level, a feature or epic is considered “done” when it has been prepared and released to the end user. This means it has met all the requirements and met user expectations.

This could involve various teams, including the engineering team, working together to ensure the feature or epic meets all the acceptance criteria. This might include:

  • Conducting a comprehensive review of the feature

  • Performing extensive testing to ensure it works as expected

  • Integrating it with the rest of the system

  • Documenting the feature

  • Releasing it to the users

Themes/Initiatives: Portfolio Management Level

At the portfolio management level, the DoD for themes or initiatives facilitates alignment during prioritization, allows for reallocating resources to new initiatives, and enables the discontinuation of development on existing products for future consideration.

This might involve establishing clear objectives for each initiative, setting measurable KPIs, and ensuring all stakeholders are aligned on the expected outcomes. Once these objectives are met, and the KPIs are achieved, the initiative can be considered “done”.

The Relationship Between the Definition of Done and the Definition of Ready

A product owner and a scrum team discussing the relationship between definition of done and definition of ready

While the Definition of Done is a crucial aspect of Agile software development, it’s not the only definition teams must know. The Definition of Ready also ensures tasks are adequately prepared before the team starts working on them. Note: The definition of ready is not defined in the Scrum Guide.

While the DoD ensures that tasks are satisfactorily completed, the Definition of Ready ensures that tasks are properly prepared before they are undertaken. This includes:

  • Making sure that the user stories are well-defined

  • Ensuring that all necessary information is available

  • Ensuring that the team has a clear understanding of what needs to be done

These two definitions help Agile teams work more efficiently, reducing confusion and potential impediments.

Wrapping Up

The Definition of Done is more than just a checklist—it’s a crucial tool for Agile teams, promoting efficiency, transparency, and quality. By establishing a clear DoD, teams can ensure a shared understanding of when a task is complete, enhancing team velocity and improving quality assurance.

Whether working at the Scrum team, enterprise, or portfolio management levels, a well-defined DoD can guide you toward delivering high-quality work that meets the customer’s expectations. It’s a living document that evolves with your team, reflecting your specific needs and practices and ensuring everyone is working towards the same goals.

Implementing a Definition of Done may seem like a daunting task, but the benefits it provides make it well worth the effort. So why not take the first step towards defining what “done” means for your Agile team? After all, when everyone is on the same page, you can make steady progress toward delivering a product that meets and exceeds the customer’s expectations.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the definition of done in Devops?

Done in Devops is a team agreement to establish standards that identify a task as complete. This allows for Agile software development, where tasks can be iteratively worked on and ultimately deemed done.

Agile software development is a methodology that emphasizes collaboration, flexibility, and continuous improvement. It allows teams to respond to changes in customer needs and market conditions quickly. By establishing standards for when a service is provided.

What is the definition of done and is it a Scrum checklist?

Definition of Done (DoD) is an agreed-upon checklist used in Scrum to ensure user stories, epics, or themes are considered fully accomplished. It provides transparency by clearly stating the work completed as part of the increment.

The DoD is a shared understanding of what needs to be done for a user story to be considered complete. It should be created collaboratively by the Scrum team and reviewed and updated regularly. It should include all the necessary tasks.

What is the definition of done for a Product Owner?

The Definition of Done is when all necessary conditions or acceptance criteria for a software product have been met and it is ready to be accepted by the user, customer, team, or consuming system.

Quality assurance is only achieved when the DoD is met.

Who creates the definition of done in Scrum?

The Development Team of the Scrum Team is responsible for creating the Definition of Done. They must define a definition of “Done” appropriate for the product, and if multiple Scrum Teams are involved, the Development Teams must mutually define it.

What is typically included in the definition of done for the team increment?

A user story is considered done when all acceptance criteria are met and accepted by the product owner, contributing to team velocity.

The user story should also be reviewed for any artifacts that might have been unintentionally included.


Navigating the intricate paths of task quality, acceptance criteria, and shared team understanding is crucial in the Agile realm. But there's more to it than just understanding - it's about mastering the practice.

Arm yourself with the skills to steer industry-leading companies through their Agile endeavors. Master the nuances of guiding Agile teams, orchestrating key Agile ceremonies, and aligning tasks with overarching objectives. Join Agile Meridian's Scrum Master course now.

Subscribe To Newsletter