Cloudwards Video Courses New may earn a small commission from some purchases made through our site. However, any earnings do not affect how we review services. Learn more about our editorial integrity and research process.

What Is Definition of Done (DOD)

What Is a Definition of Done in Agile Methodology & How to Implement It in 2024

If you’re new to agile project management and are confused by terms such as the definition of done, the definition of ready and acceptance criteria, don’t miss our guide to the definition of done.

Brett DayAleksander HougenAlison Spedale

Written by Brett Day (Writer, Editor)

Reviewed by Aleksander Hougen (Co-Chief Editor)

Facts checked by Alison Spedale (Fact-checking editor)

Last Updated: 2024-02-27T12:06:00+00:00

All our content is written fully by humans; we do not publish AI writing. Learn more here.

Key Takeaways: How to create and implement a definition of done (DoD)
  1. Identify key team members for the upcoming work.
  2. Hold a meeting to define task acceptance criteria and establish the definition of done.
  3. Create a checklist for the DoD and place it in an area where it can be checked daily.
  4. Continuously update the definition of done as the project progresses.
  5. Hold a retrospective meeting to discuss performance.

Facts & Expert Analysis

  • What Is DoD: The definition of done is an understanding between an agile product team about conditions that must be met to consider backlog items done or completed
  • Expectation: Due to issues and change requests that occur throughout a sprint or work period, a definition of done should be flexible and adaptable and should never be considered static.
  • Accessibility: To ensure all team members are on the same page and to prevent incorrect or incomplete work from being submitted, a DoD checklist should be placed in a visible area.

Agile project management methods and the scrum framework are ideal for teams that need to be highly flexible. However, these frameworks can be littered with complicated terminology, like “definition of done” (DoD) and “definition of ready” (DoR), which can cause confusion. However, there’s no need to panic — these terms aren’t as scary as they seem.

Below, we explain the definition of done and compare it to similar terms. We also give an example of the definition of done, some tips to help you succeed and a tutorial on how to create your own definition of done. So, without further ado, let’s jump in.

What Is the Definition of Done & What Is Its Role in Project Management?

The agile definition of done is when agile and scrum teams agree on a set of criteria that must be met for user stories (tasks in a product backlog) to be considered done. At the end of a work period or sprint, any task or user story that does not meet the team’s criteria for the definition of done is not accounted for in a team’s sprint velocity (the amount of work completed).

The role the definition of done plays in the scrum framework and on any agile team is important and should not be overlooked. Not setting criteria can lead to project and development teams not properly completing tasks or features in the backlog, which can cause missed deadlines, scope creep and more.

Project Management

Check out our project management courses and grab a limited-time offer.
Registration available now!

Enroll Now

Definition of Done vs Definition of Ready

The definition of done refers to the minimum work generally required for a task to be considered finished. The definition of ready refers to a user story that has been developed and is ready to be worked on. Once there’s a shared understanding of what’s required for a feature to be ready, it will be included in an upcoming sprint or work period.

Definition of Done and Definition of Ready Similarities:

  1. The product manager and the development team agree on the definition of done and the definition of ready during sprint planning meetings.
  2. Everyone on agile teams must fully understand and agree on all definitions in the DoD and the criteria set in each DoR.

Definition of Done and Definition of Ready Differences:

  1. DoDs feature a set of criteria that must be met for a user story to be considered done.
  2. DoR lists contain criteria that must be defined for each user story so they can be considered ready to work on.

Definition of Done vs Acceptance Criteria

Definition of done refers to a task in the backlog that meets the set general criteria to be considered completed. On the other hand, acceptance criteria (AC) are determined and set for specific tasks or features in the backlog.

Generally, acceptance criteria include statements about the work at hand and include items like “Instructions must be clear and concise,” “Work must be focused on customer satisfaction” and “Work must be verifiable.” The AC conditions must be met for a task or work increment to be accepted.

Definition of Done and Acceptance Criteria Similarities:

  1. Product managers and development teams are responsible for creating definition of done (DoD) criteria and acceptance criteria (AC) during planning meetings.

Definition of Done and Acceptance Criteria Differences:

  1. The DoD is a set of guidelines that backlog items must meet to be considered done.
  2. Acceptance criteria are goals for backlog items. AC statements can call for work that is testable or verifiable, is customer-oriented and requires concise instructions.

Definition of Done Example

Now we’re ready to see what a definition of done checklist might look like. The checklist below may differ from the one you see in your workplace, as scrum teams and agile groups generally have specific criteria for the tasks they’re working on. A DoD checklist for a marketing team might look like this:

  • All acceptance guidelines have been met
  • Work meets AP style guidelines 
  • Documents have been proofread
  • Colors in the documents match the client’s
  • Images and graphics meet quality standards and have been approved
  • Documents match the client’s voice
  • All documents have been converted into the required format
  • Documents have been printed and are of consistent quality
  • Stakeholders have approved the deliverable

Team Dynamics: Who Defines Done?

The whole agile team decides on the definition of done. Project leaders generally hold a work or sprint planning meeting, but a product owner controls the backlog, tasks or user stories. The team expects the definition of done and the acceptance criteria to be set during the meeting, so the project manager or scrum master shouldn’t let work start before defining these terms.

Auditable and Dynamic Checklist: Keeping the DoD Relevant

A DoD isn’t static; it’s a constantly evolving document. As a result, creating a perfect DoD is challenging, as it’s impossible to factor in all risks and change requests. Any DoD must be adaptable. 

During the planning meeting, create a checklist with all the agreed-upon DoD criteria. Place the checklist in a highly visible area so team members can easily reference it. However, be sure to mention that the DoD will change as bugs and change requests occur. In addition, look over the checklist at the end of every work period to make sure that each task meets the definition of done.

How to Create & Implement a Definition of Done

Below, we cover the steps you should take to create and implement the definition of done for an upcoming project.

  1. Identify Team Members

    Project leaders should identify which scrum team or team members should participate in certain meetings. Only include those working on the tasks in the next sprint or round of work.

  2. Hold a Planning Meeting

    Project managers and product owners should hold a planning meeting. The meeting creates transparency and will give the team time to discuss the project, define acceptance criteria for tasks and mutually define the definition of done.

  3. Create a Definition of Done Checklist

    During the meeting, the team should create a checklist that can be used at the end of the work period to ensure the agreed-upon definition of done criteria have been met. Once created, post the checklist so that any team member can reference it as often as needed.

  4. Continuously Update the Definition of Done

    The definition of done is a living, breathing document that constantly evolves. As agile principles and guidelines stipulate, be adaptable and be willing to alter the DoD as issues and change requests occur.

  5. Hold a Retrospective Meeting to Discuss Performance

    Project leaders should hold a retrospective meeting at the end of each sprint or work period. During this meeting, the team can discuss what worked, what didn’t and which processes can be improved for future projects.

The Strategic Benefits of Having a Clear DoD

If you want your team to deliver high-quality products, you need to have a clear definition of done. Creating a DoD will bring many benefits to your team, such as the ones we list below.

  • High-quality deliverables: A DoD helps remind team members of all tasks that must be completed. Knowing what’s expected will help teams deliver quality products.
  • Measurable progress: DoD checklists enable leaders to measure progress, as they allow them to track how many feature increments have met the team’s definition of done.
  • Enhanced risk management: A clearly defined DoD can help teams minimize the risk of incorrect or incomplete work. By posting the definition of done checklist, team members can be reminded of expectations for user stories.
  • Improved team morale: A clear definition of done can boost morale, as the DoD creation process requires transparent communication and collaboration. A mutually agreed-upon DoD can also help minimize conflict between team members and project leaders.

Ensuring the Success of Your DoD in Real-World Scenarios

The tips below can help ensure that any DoD you create guides your team to success.

  1. Pick the right team
  2. Hold a planning meeting
  3. Mutually agree on DoD criteria
  4. Constantly update the DoD
  5. Openly communicate

Final Thoughts

The definition of done plays a critical role in agile methodology and can be the difference between handing over high-quality deliverables to your client and project failure. Project leaders and team members should always take the time to create a definition of done, so the entire team is on the same page.

We hope that our guide to the definition of done in agile has helped you understand the importance of DoD and how it can positively impact project outcomes. What do you think about our guide? Is there anything you’d add to our list of tips? Let us know in the comments section below, and as always, thanks for reading.

FAQ: The Definition of Done

  • In agile methodology, the definition of done is a set of mutually agreed-upon criteria that all project tasks and backlog items must meet to be considered finished or done.

  • A good definition of done will have a checklist of all the requirements for a task to be considered done. Every project and its tasks will require different definitions of done, but a DoD will generally include specific criteria to guide the team to task success.

  • DoD (definition of done) refers to the general criteria that must be met for a task, feature or user story to be considered done. DoR (definition of ready) refers to specific criteria that individual tasks or features must meet to be considered ready to work on.

↑ Top