Who Creates the Definition of Done?

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Jan 03, 2024

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In Agile methodologies, the Definition of Done (DoD) serves as a pivotal element, guiding teams toward the creation of shippable and valuable increments of a product. This section will delve into the significance of DoD and shed light on the repercussions that stem from operating without a well-defined DoD.  

Who Creates the Definition of Done?

The Definition of Done is crafted collaboratively by the Scrum Team, involving key stakeholders such as the product owner, Scrum master, and deve lopment team. This shared understanding ensures clarity on what constitutes a completed and acceptable deliverable for a specific product, feature, or iteration. The process begins by either inheriting organizational standards or, in the absence of such standards, through the creation of a custom Definition of Done. This inclusive approach fosters a sense of ownership, aligning the team with project goals and quality benchmarks. Ultimately, the Definition of Done is a dynamic document that evolves through continuous improvement and adaptation.

Importance of DoD

The Definition of Done stands as the compass for any development team within the Agile framework. It is a set of criteria that demarcates when a task or project can be considered truly complete. Picture it as a checklist that ensures the quality and completeness of each deliverable. With a clear DoD, the transparency of a product's release readiness becomes clear.

When a team's iteration aligns with the DoD, it signifies that the work is not only finished but also in a state where stakeholders can access and utilize the newly added value at their discretion. In essence, the DoD acts as a safeguard against unrealistic estimates, inaccurate Sprint work forecasts, and inadequate progress comprehension by the Product Owner. It serves as a beacon, signaling when a product increment is irrevocable.

Implications of Undefined DoD

Conversely, the absence of a well-defined DoD can lead to a cascade of challenges. Uncertainty looms over the reliability of a product increment, making it difficult for teams to gauge progress accurately. Estimates become unreliable, potentially jeopardizing project timelines and stakeholder expectations. The Sprint Review, a crucial aspect of Agile, may lack the depth required for meaningful inspection and adaptation.

An undefined DoD casts a shadow over the entire Agile process, hindering effective collaboration, transparency, and ultimately, the delivery of value to stakeholders. The implications ripple through every phase of the development cycle, potentially derailing the Agile framework's effectiveness.

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Creating DoD

Transitioning from the importance of DoD, this section will focus on the practical aspects of creating a Definition of Done. It emphasizes the collaborative responsibility of the development team and the need for tailoring the DoD to the unique characteristics of each product.

Team Responsibility

The creation of a Definition of Done falls squarely on the shoulders of the development or project team. This shared understanding of what constitutes a completed and acceptable deliverable is a collaborative effort that involves key stakeholders, including developers, the Product Owner, and any other relevant parties. It is a joint venture aimed at aligning perspectives on the completion criteria for a specific product, feature, or iteration.

Customizing for the Product

The process of creating a DoD begins with the team's recognition of organizational standards, if any. If the organization has predefined criteria for product development, these become the foundation of the team's DoD. However, in the absence of such standards, the Scrum Team must craft a DoD tailored to the product's unique requirements.

This customization involves inviting all relevant stakeholders, including the Product Owner, Scrum Master, and developers, to a collaborative discussion. During this session, all aspects of the product that contribute to its completeness are identified and detailed. Whether it's automated regression tests, documentation updates, or compliance requirements, each element is meticulously documented, forming the basis of the team's Definition of Done.

Creating a DoD is a dynamic process that blends organizational standards with product-specific criteria, ensuring a comprehensive checklist for evaluating the completeness and quality of each product increment.

Steps in Creating DoD

Creating a Definition of Done (DoD) is a pivotal process in the realm of Agile development, ensuring that a shared understanding of what constitutes a completed and acceptable deliverable is established within the team. Let's delve into the steps involved in crafting a robust DoD:

Inheriting Standards

Inheriting standards forms the foundational step in creating a Definition of Done. Many organizations have pre-established criteria for their products, encompassing aspects like quality, security, privacy, and availability. In this scenario, the development team initiates the process by adopting these existing standards as the baseline for their DoD. It serves as a pragmatic approach, aligning the team with the overarching organizational expectations.

For instance, an organization may have defined criteria for every product, irrespective of the technology or usage. These criteria could range from stringent quality checks to adherence to security protocols. By inheriting these standards, the team ensures consistency across different projects and aligns with the broader goals of the organization.

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Custom DoD Creation

When organizational standards are not in place or are not exhaustive, the Scrum Team proceeds with creating a custom Definition of Done tailored to the specific product, feature, or iteration. This step involves a collaborative effort, bringing together the key stakeholders, including the product owner, Scrum master, and developers.

Inviting Stakeholders

Creating a custom DoD is not a unilateral decision; it involves the active participation of all relevant stakeholders. This includes inviting the product owner, Scrum master, and developers, as well as representatives from end-users, product support staff, and system architects. The purpose is to ensure that the DoD is comprehensive and aligns with the diverse perspectives and expectations of those involved in the product development lifecycle.

By inviting stakeholders to the discussion, the team fosters a sense of shared responsibility and accountability. This collaborative approach helps in capturing a holistic view of what constitutes a 'done' increment, considering not only the technical aspects but also the end-user experience, documentation requirements, and any compliance specifications.

Covering All Aspects

To craft a meaningful and effective DoD, it's essential to cover all aspects of the product development process. This involves a meticulous identification of everything required before a change to the product can be considered part of a new increment. Each piece of work is scrutinized, with specific details outlined. For instance, if testing is mentioned, the team goes a step further to define the criteria, such as automated regression tests, passing acceptance/regression tests, and maintaining a certain unit test coverage.

These detailed aspects are documented, often using physical or virtual tools like sticky notes on a wall. The process continues until all necessary work items are identified, ensuring that the DoD is exhaustive and leaves no room for ambiguity. This step is crucial in maintaining transparency, allowing stakeholders to quickly provide feedback when an increment meets the defined criteria.


To conclude, the creation of the Definition of Done within the Scrum Team is a collaborative effort critical to project success. Emphasizing the significance of shared understanding and continuous improvement, this process involves the entire team, including SAFe Agile Certification holders. The journey from inheriting organizational standards to crafting a custom Definition of Done ensures alignment with broader goals. As teams evolve, the dynamic nature of the Definition of a Development Team, coupled with regular reviews and adaptation, becomes instrumental. In this Agile landscape, professionals with a SAFe Agilist Certification play a pivotal role, steering the team towards excellence in delivering high-quality, shippable increments.

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