Definition of Done – Never without

One of the keys to success in agile projects is a proper Definition of Done (DoD). Only if everybody knows what has to be produced in order to complete a sprint, the goal can be achieved. 

The ideal outcome of a sprint is a product increment that is potentially shippable. To achieve that, all necessary actions to create a high quality product, such as writing documentation and thorough testing, have to be carried out within a sprint.  

In order to be really sure whether a an artifact is done, acceptance criteria are needed. Otherwise “done” would not be measurable. The criteria depends on the produced artifact. 


Software products usually comprise the following: 

  • Database structures (tables, stored procedures, triggers, …)
  • Application (user interfaces, Services, …)
  • Interfaces to external systems
  • Data (probably migrated from older data, …)
  • User documentation (online help, …)
  • Installer
  • Acceptance criteria 

    In order to prove that the above artifacts are really done, they need to be tested. Because the amount of test grows for each sprint, there is no way around automated regression testing. Therefore a continuous build,test and integration system, such as Team Foundation Server or Hudson, is essential for agile projects. The following tasks should be automated (in the brackets you can see an example of acceptance criteria for each task).

    • Unit testing  (error ratio maximum=10%, code coverage minimum=60%)
    • Load + Performance testing (concurrent users=20)
    • User acceptance testing, UI tests (error ratio maximum = 15%)
    • Integration (successful installation and availability)
    • Code quality checks (warnings maximum = 20)

    Some tests, such as UI tests, might be difficult to automate. But if you do it, you team will be rewarded with a highly accepted software product at the end of each sprint. As you can see the acceptance criteria is not 0% errors or 100% coverage, because this would not be realistic.


    Some projects develop their concepts using Scrum as well. Something that I would encourage to do. Although in Scrum the amount of written documents is greatly reduced, concepts are often helpful and required. For instance to refine coarse grained user stories from the product backlog or if the implementation of an idea can not be realised immediately. Concepts can be written in many ways as long as they clearly describe the idea down to a level that is sufficient for the implementation. For instance text documents, wiki pages, prototypes or design sketches. 

    Acceptance criteria 

    How can a concept be defined as done in terms of a DoD? As always! Conduct a review with people from within the team or other stakeholders from within the organization. When a concept is successfully reviewed, it is done.


    Having a proper Definition of Done which clearly lists the required artifacts and acceptance critera is essential for successful Scrum projects. It creates a common understanding of what “done” actually means and is a key artifact to deliver high quality software in agile projects.

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