August 6, 2011

How Mature Is You Definition Of Done?

Verifying that your team’s DoD meets these criteria will ensure that you are delivering features that are truly done, not only in terms of functionality but in terms of quality as well.

  • DoD is a checklist of valuable activities required to produce software. Definition of Done is a simple list of activities (writing code, coding comments, unit testing, integration testing, release notes, design documents, etc.) that add verifiable/demonstrable value to the product. Focusing on value-added steps allows the team to focus on what must be completed in order to build software while eliminating wasteful activities that only complicate software development efforts.
  • DoD is the primary reporting mechanism for team members. Reporting in its simplest form is the ability to say, “This feature is done.” After all, a feature or Product Backlog Item is either done or it is not-done. DoD is a simple artifact that adds clarity to the “Feature’s done” statement.  Using DoD as a reference for this conversation a team member can effectively update other team members and the product owner.
  • DoD is informed by reality. Scrum asks that teams deliver “potentially shippable software” at the end of every Iteration. To me, potentially shippable software is a feature(s) that can be released, with limited notice, to end users at the product owner’s discretion. Products that can be released to end users with two days can be reasonably said to be in potentially shippable state. Ideally, potentially shippable is equivalent to the Definition of Done.
  • DoD is not static. The DoD changes over time. Organizational support and the team’s ability to remove impediments may enable the inclusion of additional activities into the DoD for features or Iterations.
  • DoD is an auditable checklist. Features/stories are broken down into tasks both during Iteration planning and also within a Iteration. The DoD is used to validate whether all major tasks are accounted for (hours remaining). Also, after a feature or Iteration is done, DoD is used as a checklist to verify whether all necessary value-added activities were completed.

It is important to note that the generic nature of the definition of done has some limitations. Not all value-added activities will be applicable to each feature since the definition of done is intended to be a comprehensive checklist. The team has to consciously decide the applicability of value-added activities on a feature-by-feature basis.