Scrum teams have a definition of done based on consistent acceptance criteria. The definition of done drives the quality of work and will assess when a user story has been completed.
Quality is managed by the product owner, scrum master (facilitator-in-chief) and the development team. Quality is owned by all individuals whether it be through the execution of ceremonies, creation of measurable artifacts, or catching potential issues in the use of the scrum framework that could affect the product deliverable.
The Definition of Done (Dod) may contain different components of either quality assurance or quality controls depending on the phase or stage of product delivery. Quality assurance within an Agile scrum project delivery refers to the governance of processes and standards designed to provide support to the definition of done. Also, quality control is the execution of quality activities designed to manage the effort.
Definition of Done Focus Areas
The Definition of Done can be divided into 3 focus areas:
- First: Definition of Done at the epic or feature level,
- Second: Definition of Done at the user story and sprint level and
- Third: Definition of Done at the release of minimally viable product level.
Definition of Done – Epic and Feature level
The product owner is responsible for the creation of features and epics to represent the prioritized deliverables needed in a product. Agile is an iterative set of guidelines and principles that focuses on high quality workable software versus extensive documentation.
The product owner is responsible for producing the product backlog. The backlog is a living artifact that will be continuously prioritized throughout the life of the project. The backlog defines the functionality to be in a product and the order of prioritization considering risk and minimization of technical debt that increases the overall costs of maintenance. An epic is a large story with minimal detail that is created from a high-level feature definition and will be broken down at a later step in sprint planning. Features and subsequent epics define the scope of product delivery.
The scope is the vision of the end-product and is closely managed by quality metrics and processes. This ensures that only the features that are needed, viable and measurable are in sprints and subsequent releases. Quality is also measured during the feature and epic stages by the evaluation of the value or Return on Investment (ROI) of a feature to deliver acceptance criteria that are of high value to the organization and end users.
The backlog prioritization and sprint review ceremonies provides opportunities to review quality at the feature level. During the prioritization ceremony features and epics are validated, updated and added so that the priority level is continuously reviewed. During the sprint review ceremony, the product owner has the responsibility to review the features delivered to determine if the overall ROI and vision of the product have been met. If they have then the team may decide to stop delivery and divert resources to other activities. The team may also realize that the vision and ROI will not be met thereby ending a project that is not meeting value and quality.
Definition of Done – User story and Sprint level
All members of the team have a responsibility to deliver the best quality to meet the definition of done because it is the team members who determine what should be in a product and what can realistically be included. The decomposition of epics into user stories provides measurable units for inclusion in the sprint execution window. Sprints are time-boxed windows of development and testing that produce shippable features. The Agile Scrum Master is responsible for protecting the integrity of a sprint. Quality control is addressed by scope management of user story quality and keeping sprint deliverables consistent. It can be tempting to request that additional user stories are in a sprint but, this violates the quality control to provide the scrum team with the ability to ship a well-delivered product.
User stories must be detailed enough to be measured by story points to determine the velocity of deliverables in a sprint. Quality acceptance metrics are defined by unit testing results, acceptance criteria validation and the result of functional testing.
The definition of done within a sprint reflects the time when high quality user stories are turned into executables that meet acceptance criteria and other quality assurance metrics and are ready for the Scrum Product Owner evaluation.
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Definition of Done – Release level
The last focus area for the Definition of Done is the release of a shippable set of features into production. These activities focus first on the integration of a set of features and process – that may have been delivered over multiple sprints- to produce a product of high value. Additional quality touchpoints include:
- Metrics related to the successful inclusion of non-functional requirements,
- Regression testing to validate workflow and
- Release readiness for a production go-live.
An additional quality metric that is done after go-live is the evaluation of market acceptance of the product. This quality metric provides input for the sprint and release review ceremonies to determine the success of the product features in meeting the needs of end users.
Quality whether it be control or assurance based, determines if the Definition of Done has been met in the delivery of product features. Quality starts in the iterative stages of defining features, managing sprint planning and release planning. Organizations use a variety of processes and tools including testing automation to achieve the defined level of quality. Frequent communication and re-evaluation of the Definition of Done is important to ensure that all Scrum Development Team members understand the quality standards for successful delivery of a product.
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