The Ultimate Guide to Understanding 'Definition of Done' in Agile

In the Agile methodology, the concept of 'done' holds great importance. It is a crucial element that determines the completion of a task or a project. However, understanding the true meaning of 'done' in Agile can be quite challenging, especially for those new to the Agile framework. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the intricacies of the 'Definition of Done' in Agile and provide you with a clear understanding of its significance and implementation.

Decoding the Meaning of 'Done' in Agile

Before we dive into the details, let's begin by decoding the meaning of 'done' in Agile. At its core, 'done' refers to a state where a feature, user story, or any other work item has reached a level of completion that meets all the necessary requirements and meets the expectations set by the Agile team. It signifies that the work has been thoroughly executed, reviewed, and is ready for deployment. By establishing a well-defined 'Definition of Done,' Agile teams ensure that there are predefined criteria that need to be met before a work item can be considered complete.

Key Players in Establishing the Definition of Done

Establishing the 'Definition of Done' is a collaborative effort that involves several key players within the Agile team. Let's take a closer look at who these players are and the role they play in this process:

  • Product Owner: As the primary stakeholder, the Product Owner provides valuable insights and sets the overall vision for the project. Their contribution in defining what constitutes 'done' is crucial.
  • Scrum Master: The Scrum Master facilitates the Agile process and ensures that the team adheres to the Agile principles. They play a pivotal role in guiding the team to establish a comprehensive 'Definition of Done.'
  • Development Team: The Development Team consists of the individuals responsible for executing the work. Their expertise and input are critical in defining the criteria that determine when a work item is considered 'done.'

Distinguishing Between 'Done' and Acceptance Criteria

It is important to note that the 'Definition of Done' is distinct from the acceptance criteria. While the acceptance criteria outline the specific conditions that must be met for a work item to be considered satisfactory, the 'Definition of Done' sets the universal standards that need to be met for any work item to be deemed complete. The acceptance criteria are typically defined at the user story level, while the 'Definition of Done' applies to the entire project or product.

Now, let's delve deeper into the role of each key player in establishing the 'Definition of Done.' The Product Owner, being the primary stakeholder, brings a unique perspective to the table. Their insights and understanding of the business goals and customer requirements help shape the criteria for 'done.' They ensure that the work item meets the desired outcomes and aligns with the overall vision of the project.

The Scrum Master, on the other hand, acts as a facilitator and coach for the Agile team. They guide the team in defining the 'Definition of Done' by encouraging collaboration and ensuring that all perspectives are considered. The Scrum Master helps the team understand the importance of setting clear criteria for completion and ensures that these criteria are consistently applied throughout the project.

Lastly, the Development Team, consisting of skilled individuals responsible for executing the work, plays a crucial role in defining the criteria for 'done.' Their expertise and technical knowledge help determine the specific requirements that need to be met for a work item to be considered complete. They bring their insights into the technical aspects, quality standards, and best practices to ensure that the 'Definition of Done' encompasses all necessary elements.

By involving these key players in the process of establishing the 'Definition of Done,' Agile teams create a shared understanding and commitment to quality. This collaborative effort ensures that everyone is aligned and working towards a common goal, ultimately leading to successful project outcomes.

Illustrating the Definition of Done Through Examples

Examples are often the best way to understand complex concepts. Let's illustrate the 'Definition of Done' with a few examples:

  1. Code Review: A crucial step in the development process is code review. The 'Definition of Done' may include a requirement that all code must pass a review process before being considered complete.
  2. Unit Testing: The 'Definition of Done' may specify that all code must undergo thorough unit testing to ensure its functionality and stability.
  3. Integration Testing: In addition to unit testing, the 'Definition of Done' may require integration testing to ensure that all components work seamlessly together.

By setting clear examples, the 'Definition of Done' establishes guidelines that ensure consistency and quality throughout the development process.

Moreover, the 'Definition of Done' can also encompass criteria related to documentation. This could involve ensuring that all code is well-documented, with clear comments and explanations to aid future developers in understanding the functionality and purpose of the code.

Unpacking the Significance of the Definition of Done

Now that we have a better understanding of what the 'Definition of Done' entails, let's explore its significance in the Agile methodology. The 'Definition of Done' serves several crucial purposes:

  • Ensures Consistency: By establishing a standardized set of criteria, the 'Definition of Done' ensures that all work items are approached and completed consistently across the Agile team.
  • Improves Transparency: The 'Definition of Done' provides transparency and clarity regarding the expectations and requirements for each work item. This allows for more effective communication and collaboration within the team.
  • Enhances Quality: By setting high-quality standards, the 'Definition of Done' promotes a culture of excellence within the Agile team. It compels team members to deliver work items of superior quality, resulting in a higher level of customer satisfaction.

Moreover, the 'Definition of Done' acts as a checkpoint for the team, signaling the completion of a task or user story. This clear demarcation helps in tracking progress and determining when a particular deliverable is ready for review or deployment.

Additionally, the 'Definition of Done' evolves over time as the team learns and adapts. It is not a static document but a living agreement that reflects the team's continuous improvement efforts. As the team gains more experience and insights, they refine and enhance the criteria in the 'Definition of Done' to raise the bar for their work quality and efficiency.

Crafting Your Definition of Done: Step-by-Step Guide

To craft an effective 'Definition of Done' for your Agile projects, follow these step-by-step guidelines:

  1. Understand Project Requirements: Gain a clear understanding of the project requirements and align them with the Agile values and principles.
  2. Collaborative Discussion: Engage in collaborative discussions with the Product Owner, Scrum Master, and Development Team to define the minimum required criteria for a work item to be considered complete.
  3. Document the 'Definition of Done': Once the criteria are agreed upon, document them in a concise and easily accessible manner. This ensures that all team members have a comprehensive understanding of the 'Definition of Done.'
  4. Regular Review and Improvement: Continuously review and improve the 'Definition of Done' based on feedback and learnings from previous projects. This ensures that it remains relevant and effective.

Developing a robust 'Definition of Done' is crucial for the success of Agile projects. It serves as a quality standard that helps teams deliver valuable increments consistently. By following these steps, teams can enhance their project management practices and foster a culture of continuous improvement.

Top Tips for Crafting an Effective Definition of Done

Here are some top tips to consider when crafting your 'Definition of Done':

  • Be Specific: Clearly define each criterion to eliminate ambiguity.
  • Include Stakeholders: Involve all relevant stakeholders in the discussion to ensure a comprehensive 'Definition of Done.'
  • Regularly Update: Keep the 'Definition of Done' up-to-date as the project progresses. Adapt it to align with new insights and requirements.

Furthermore, it is essential to conduct regular retrospectives to evaluate the effectiveness of the 'Definition of Done' and make necessary adjustments. This practice promotes transparency and collaboration within the team, leading to improved project outcomes. Remember, the 'Definition of Done' is a living document that should evolve with the project's needs and the team's growth.

Maximizing the Power of Jira for a Clear Definition of Done

Jira, a popular Agile project management tool, can greatly assist in maintaining a clear and comprehensive 'Definition of Done.' With its customizable workflows and integration capabilities, Jira enables Agile teams to track and manage the completion criteria efficiently. By utilizing Jira's features, teams can enhance their understanding and adherence to the 'Definition of Done.'

One key feature of Jira that aids in defining and enforcing the 'Definition of Done' is its ability to create custom issue types. By setting up specific issue types that align with different stages of the development process, teams can clearly outline what needs to be completed at each phase. This helps in ensuring that all team members are on the same page regarding the acceptance criteria for a task before it can be considered 'done.'

Furthermore, Jira's reporting and dashboard capabilities provide valuable insights into the progress and bottlenecks in the workflow. Teams can create custom reports to visualize the status of tasks in relation to the 'Definition of Done,' allowing for quick identification of any deviations or delays. By leveraging these reporting tools, teams can proactively address any issues that may impact the quality and timeliness of deliverables.

Addressing Common Queries About the Definition of Done

Let's delve deeper into some common queries and concerns surrounding the concept of the 'Definition of Done' in Agile project management:

  • Does the 'Definition of Done' vary based on the type of project? While it is true that certain elements of the 'Definition of Done' may vary depending on the specific requirements and nature of a project, the core essence of ensuring quality and completeness remains a constant factor across all projects. For instance, the criteria for what constitutes a 'done' user story in a software development project may differ from that in a marketing campaign, but the underlying principle of meeting the agreed-upon standards is universal.
  • Who bears the responsibility for upholding the 'Definition of Done'? The responsibility for adhering to the 'Definition of Done' rests on the shoulders of the entire Agile team collectively. Each team member plays a crucial role in ensuring that the acceptance criteria are met, and the deliverables meet the required quality standards. This shared responsibility fosters a culture of collaboration and accountability within the team.
  • Can the 'Definition of Done' evolve during the course of a project? Absolutely, the 'Definition of Done' is not set in stone and can evolve throughout the project lifecycle. As projects progress and requirements shift, it is essential to have a mechanism in place for regularly reviewing and updating the 'Definition of Done' to align with the evolving needs of the project. This adaptability ensures that the team remains focused on delivering value and meeting the project objectives effectively.

By exploring these common queries in detail, we can gain a more comprehensive understanding of the significance of the 'Definition of Done' and its practical implications within Agile project management methodologies. This enhanced clarity can lead to improved project outcomes and a more streamlined delivery process.


Understanding the 'Definition of Done' is crucial for any Agile practitioner. It acts as a compass, guiding the Agile team towards successful project completion. By decoding its meaning, recognizing its significance, and crafting an effective 'Definition of Done,' Agile teams can foster a culture of excellence, transparency, and consistent quality. So, embrace the power of the 'Definition of Done' and unlock the true potential of Agile project management!

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