Mike MacDonagh's Blog

Somewhere in the overlap between software development, process improvement and psychology

Definition of done

Teams are sometimes split into smaller sub-teams. Almost always they are part of a bigger team, which in turn is part of a bigger team and so on and so forth until we reach the organisational entity. Don’t get me started on B2B teams.  Imagine an onion, with lots of layers. A weird mutated onion with multiple cores and overlapping onions. One that has tendrils sticking out into other similarly mutated onions like a big brain… Ok metaphor taken too far. Back to the topic…

The point is that everything team is connected to everything else. At every boundary it’s necessary to have a “Definition of Done” so that teams and their stakeholders understand what they’re getting.  Any good or otherwise set of software development practices (like Scrum, RUP, waterfall  or whatever you’re using) should help the team define the levels of their Definition of Done. I’m not using a specific example so I’ll just make some up off the top of my head to illustrate the point:

  • Fully documented, discs printed, shrink wrapped and online distribution site fully functional, support systems in place ready for users.
  • Beta test program
  • Acceptance Tested
  • Integration Tested
  • System Tested
  • Unit Tested
  • Code Built
  • Code written
  • Code designed
  • Idea thought of
  • Requirement captured

Given some levels like this we need to ask the question where do we draw the line? As an R&D team, as a component team, as an integration team or business team I’d expect different answers. And for those answers to vary according to points in the lifecycle and relationships between teams and stakeholders.

The point is that these different levels of done take different amounts of work and are intended to differentiate different levels of quality (although I’ve used a fair few public release versions of software that don’t appear to have even been unit tested!). Without working out what the definition of done is between teams or parts of a team no one can estimate, plan or deliver any work.

If you have problems with multiple teams working together in your organisation, a lack of understanding of the Definition of Done is one of the common causes and is relatively easy to fix.

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One response to “Definition of done

  1. Pingback: Advanced RTC SCM Streaming – Part 1 Development, Integration and Release Streams « The Mac Daddy

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