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What is a Definition of Done?

The Definition of Done Commitment

If you are just getting started using Scrum and/or learning about it, you are going to hear a lot about Done and the Definition of Done. Think of Done as all of the ingredients it takes for an Increment of product to be complete. The Definition of Done is the commitment by the Developers for the Increment, much like the Sprint Goal is the commitment by the Developers for the Sprint Backlog and the Product Goal is the commitment by the Product Owner for the Product Backlog. The Definition of Done includes all of the characteristics and standards an Increment needs to meet in order to be released.

The Scrum Guide says the Definition of Done is a formal description of the state of the Increment when it meets the quality measures required for the product. Once the Definition of Done is met, the Increment is Done and can be delivered.

The Definition of Done creates transparency by providing everyone a shared understanding of what work was completed and what standards were met as part of the Increment. If a Product Backlog Item does not meet the Definition of Done, it cannot be released yet. Think of the Definition of Done as the standards set for the products delivered.

Sometimes the Definition of Done for an Increment includes the standards of the organization. In that case, all Scrum Teams must follow these standards as a minimum. They can elaborate on it with any other standards or characteristics that need to be met for the product. If there are not specific organizational standards, the Scrum Team must create a Definition of Done appropriate for the product.

How to create a Definition of Done

The Definition of Done creates transparency by providing everyone a shared understanding of the required standards of work that was required as part of the Increment. This can be as simple as the team collaborating and writing everything down together. Some Scrum Teams may also incorporate brainstorming activities from resources such as Liberating Structures.

To give context, below are some examples of items you may find in a Definition of Done:

Some examples of the items in a Definition of Done for a written Marketing Case Study:

  • Meets featured client branding guidelines
  • Written in AP style 
  • Reviewed by the client featured and feedback received
  • Feedback implemented
  • Final Draft Approved by Client

Some examples of the items in a Definition of Done for a health-focused software application

  • All testing completed
  • No known defects
  • Code review completed and passed
  • Meets HIPAA Compliance standards
  • Meets general security requirements

Once all of the items in the Definition of Done are checked off and complete, this Increment is considered Done. Of course, Scrum is used for complex work and many complex characteristics may be added to a Definition of Done to make it more stringent. 

Learn more about the Definition of Done