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Agile Handbook: What is the Definition of Done?

20 Jul 202315 min read

Wojciech Frank

Wojciech Frank


Agile Handbook: What is the Definition of Done?

Welcome, Product Owners, Project Managers, and Software Engineers! In the dynamic world of software development, where adaptability and efficiency reign supreme, understanding the "Definition of Done" is like having a compass that guides your project to success. Whether you're an experienced agile practitioner or just starting your journey, this blog post is tailored to shed light on the vital concept of the "Definition of Done" and its profound significance in software projects.

Clarifying what constitutes a shippable and valuable increment is crucial for fostering collaboration, delivering high-quality products, and ultimately delighting your end users. Join me as I explore this cornerstone Agile practice, unraveling its principles, benefits, and practical implementation tips. Let's dive in and unlock the true potential of your software development endeavors!

Understanding Agile Development

Having established our bearings with the core notion of the "Definition of Done," let us commence an expedition to delve into the essence of Agile development, the guiding principles underpinning this potent methodology.

Unlike traditional waterfall methods, Agile development emphasizes flexibility, collaboration, and iterative progress. It delivers potentially shippable product increments through smaller sprints and cross-functional teams, fostering continuous feedback and adaptability. Customer collaboration and constant improvement are its core principles. Agile values individuals and interactions over processes and tools, with working software taking precedence over extensive documentation. Face-to-face communication is preferred for greater effectiveness. Recently, I've broken done Agile Principles in the blog post; feel free to read more.

What is the definition of Done?

Before you start working with the team, it is essential to understand the Definition of Done because it is by no means a one-size-fits-all concept; instead, it adapts to the unique circumstances of each Agile team. The "Definition of Done" (DoD) is a concept in Agile software development that outlines all the criteria that must be met for a product increment to be considered complete and ready for release. It is a shared understanding among all development team members about what it means for a task, user story, or feature to be truly finished and potentially shippable.

The Definition of Done is specific to each Agile team and can vary depending on the project, the technology used, the team velocity, and the team's overall capabilities. However, it typically includes various criteria such as:

  • Functional requirements: The product increment must meet all the applicable needs and fulfill the acceptance criteria defined for the task or user story.
  • Code Quality: The code must be well-written, maintainable, and follow the team's coding standards and best practices. It should also pass any required code reviews.
  • Testing: The increment should be thoroughly tested, and any bugs or defects found during testing should be fixed before considering it done.
  • Documentation: All necessary documentation, such as user guides or technical documentation, should be complete and current.
  • Integration: The feature or task should be integrated into the overall system without causing any adverse effects on existing functionality.
  • Performance: The increment should meet the specified performance criteria and not negatively impact the system's overall performance.
  • User acceptance: The product owner or stakeholders should demonstrate and accept the product increment during the sprint review.

With a meticulously defined and transparent Definition of Done, Agile teams reap numerous benefits, which we will discuss later, so stay tuned.

Why Definition of Done is Important?

The "Definition of Done" (DoD) is a foundational element in Agile development that carries immense significance for all stakeholders involved. From Product Owners and Project Managers to diligent Developers, its impact resonates throughout the entire software development process. Let's explore why the Definition of Done holds such a vital role in ensuring the success and quality of Agile projects.

Product Owner (PO):

  1. Clarity of Acceptance: The DoD ensures that the PO and the development team understand what it means for a task or user story to be complete and potentially shippable. This clarity helps the PO provide more accurate acceptance criteria and minimizes the chances of misunderstandings or miscommunications between the PO and the team.
  2. Release Planning: The DoD plays a significant role in release planning. It helps the PO gauge the readiness of product increments for release. By ensuring that each increment meets the Definition of Done, the PO gains confidence in the product's quality and can plan releases accordingly.

Project Manager (PM):

  1. Progress Tracking: The DoD is a reference point for the PM to track the team's progress during a sprint. It allows the PM to monitor whether the group consistently meets the required quality standards and delivers potentially shippable increments at the end of each sprint.
  2. Quality Control: The DoD aids the PM in overseeing the quality of the development process. By adhering to the Definition of Done, the team maintains a high standard of work, reducing the risk of defects and rework, which can affect project timelines and budgets.

Software Engineers:

  1. Clarity of Expectations: The DoD provides clear expectations to developers about the completeness and quality required for each task or user story. This clarity eliminates ambiguity and helps developers focus on achieving the agreed-upon standards.
  2. Self-Organization: The DoD empowers developers to self-organize and take ownership of their work. When the Definition of Done is well-defined, developers can make informed decisions during development, knowing what is expected from them to consider a task done.

Overall The Definition of Done serves as the adhesive that unites all Agile stakeholders, harmonizing the perspectives of Product Owners, Project Managers, and Developers toward delivering exceptional, valuable, and reliable software.

Benefits of a Well-Defined Definition of Done

A well-crafted Definition of Done opens the door to many advantages for Agile teams and projects. Firstly, it instills crystal-clear criteria for completeness, uniting all team members under a shared vision of what marks a truly finished product increment. This newfound clarity empowers better time management and more precise sprint planning, as each team member confidently estimates the effort needed to meet the DoD.

Secondly, a well-defined DoD champions consistency in deliverables, elevating the team's work to a higher standard throughout the project. This virtuous cycle reduces the risk of defects and rework, amplifying productivity and efficiency to new heights.

Beyond the tangible results, a well-crafted DoD fosters a thriving culture of continuous improvement within the team. Serving as the cornerstone for retrospectives, it becomes a guiding light for other teams, illuminating areas for process refinement and collective growth.

Most common mistakes and strategies to overcome them

In the dynamic realm of Agile development, even the most seasoned teams may encounter stumbling blocks on their journey to excellence. To pave the way for triumph, it's crucial to address common pitfalls of defining the Definition of Done head-on and equip our team expects ourselves with practical strategies to overcome them.

Lack of Clarity: One of the most common challenges is unclear or ambiguous DoD criteria. This can lead to misinterpretations and create inconsistent results across different team members. It's essential to ensure that the DoD is explicit and easily understandable to everyone.

Resistance to Change: Some team members or stakeholders may resist adopting a DoD, mainly if it introduces new practices or requires additional effort. Overcoming this resistance requires effective communication and emphasizing the long-term benefits of improved quality, product management, and productivity.

Incomplete DoD: If the DoD is not comprehensive and does not cover nonfunctional requirements of all essential aspects, it may lead to incomplete or subpar deliverables. Ensure that the DoD covers all relevant criteria for a truly finished product increment.

Unrealistic Expectations: Setting unrealistic DoD criteria for product teams can be counterproductive, leading to frustration and demotivation among product team members and product managers. The DoD should balance being achievable and maintaining a high standard of quality.

Lack of Consistency: Inconsistency in applying the exact definition of DoD across product teams to different tasks or sprints can result in varying quality in deliverables. Encourage the team to consistently adhere to the precise meaning of DoD and promptly address any deviations.

Lack of Buy-In: If team members do not fully buy into the value of the working agreement with the DoD, they may not actively work towards meeting its criteria. Building a shared understanding and commitment to the DoD is essential for successfully implementing minimum work together.

As we embark on this quest to conquer the most common mistakes, let us stand armed with these strategies, igniting the spark of success that will guide us towards unparalleled heights in the Agile landscape.

What is typically included in the definition of done?

A typical Definition of Done (DoD) in software development includes various components that collectively ensure the completion and quality of a product increment. Common aspects found in a DoD encompass code-related activities, testing, documentation, and user validation processes.

Examples of functional tests of components in a DoD include code review, where peers thoroughly examine code changes to ensure correctness and adherence to coding standards. Unit testing involves the creation of automated tests to verify the functionality of individual code units.

Documentation is crucial, with unit tests encompassing code comments and user documentation providing comprehensive information about the system.

User acceptance testing involves end-users or stakeholders validating that the software meets their requirements and expectations before deployment.

In the grand symphony of software development, these components dance harmoniously, weaving a tapestry of excellence. Code review and unit testing take center stage, skillfully catching errors early while gracefully enhancing maintainability. The spotlight then shifts to documentation, a guiding beacon that creates transparency illuminates the codebase, and fosters seamless collaboration among team members. And let's not forget the show-stopping finale - user acceptance testing, where the software's true mettle is tested and validated, ensuring it gracefully meets the needs of its eager audience.

Embracing these essential components, the development team rises to the occasion, setting a standard of brilliance that aligns with customer expectations and quality assurance benchmarks.

Definition of Done vs. Definition of Ready

In Agile software development, the Definition of Done (DoD) and the Definition of Ready (DoR) play distinct roles in ensuring a smooth and efficient development process.

The Definition of Ready sets a user story's criteria before it enters a sprint or product backlog. It ensures that user stories are well-prepared, preventing incomplete or ambiguous tasks from causing disruptions during sprint execution. Criteria like clear acceptance criteria, complexity estimates, and sufficient details for development are part of a well-defined DoR.

On the other hand, the Definition of Done outlines the criteria for a product increment to be completed and considered complete and ready for release. It encompasses code review, testing, documentation, and user acceptance, ensuring high-quality deliverables that meet the team's standards.

In summary, the Definition of Done focuses on the criteria for completing tasks or user stories, ensuring top-notch deliverables. In contrast, the Definition of Ready provides smooth sprint planning by defining prerequisites for selecting and working on user stories. Both concepts are vital for maintaining a consistent, quality disciplined and productive Agile development process.


In conclusion, the Definition of Done (DoD) is a powerful cornerstone in Agile software development. By embracing its clarity and criteria for completeness and quality, teams can foster seamless collaboration and elevate their final product's standard to new heights. Moreover, coupling it with the Definition of Ready (DoR) streamlines sprint planning and enhances efficiency throughout development.

Now is the time to take action and unleash the true potential of Agile! Reach out to our team of Agile Experts who can guide you and your team on this transformative journey. Embrace success with projects that delight customers and excel in every aspect. Contact us today to embark on an exciting adventure of growth, collaboration, and exceptional software creation!

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Wojciech Frank

Wojciech Frank


A true people person who combines his technical knowledge with strong management and personal relationship skills. In his free time, he is a great enthusiast of playing video games.