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What Does “Done” Really Mean in Your Team?

Have you ever been in a situation where someone asks you about the progress of a feature and you say it’s done, only for them to ask, “done or done done?” If you’ve been there, you know that the difference between “done” and “done done” can mean weeks and weeks of additional work.

“Done done” means that it’s completely done and ready to ship, while “done” means that it’s not really done at all. This ambiguity can cause a lot of confusion and can derail your project.

You want to have clarity about what it means to be Done and all the things that you need to do to achieve Doneness.

The Magic of a Written Definition of Done

To avoid this confusion, it’s crucial to have a written definition of “done”. This definition is everything that it takes to call a feature done. It helps eliminate ambiguity and serves as a conversation starter within your team.

When you go through the exercise of defining “done” with your team, you’ll find that there’s a huge difference of opinion about what it actually means. This is why it’s important to write it down and make sure everyone is on the same page.

The Difference Between Software Development and Software Delivery

One thing you’ll notice when defining “done” is that software developers tend to think that software development begins and ends with them. However, what we’re really trying to do is deliver software, which is a lot bigger than just writing code.

Software delivery focuses on the big picture of getting software to the point that it can actually be used. This is relevant because code by itself isn’t useful. You’ve probably heard someone say, “well, it works on my box,” which is an indication that the software isn’t really done because it only works in one place.

A Sample Definition of Done

When developing your written Definition of Done, you’ll need to discuss a lot more than just coding. Here’s a sample Definition of Done that I use with teams:

  • Code is written with unit tests
  • Unit tests have a minimum 75% code coverage
  • Code has been merged to Main/trunk/master
  • Code compiles and unit tests pass as part of an automated build
  • Database schema objects and upgrade script are under source control
  • Code has been reviewed by someone other than the original author of the code
  • Written QA test plan has been run by someone other than the original author of the code
  • Software has been deployed and tested on a staging environment
  • Automated UI tests are written and they pass
  • No severity 1 or 2 bugs (no giant “show-stopper” bugs)
  • Reviewed by the Product Owner (aka. get feedback early)
  • Passes acceptance criteria for the Product Backlog Item (PBI)
  • Known deployment and rollback plan
  • Deployment plan has been reviewed by operations
  • Database changes have been reviewed by the DBA
  • Software has been load tested and deployed to Production

The Benefits of a Written Definition of Done

Having a written Definition of Done (DoD) helps your team to accurately estimate what’s going on and understand how much work is left. It also helps the Scrum Master (and the team as a whole) to defend against the “two second fix” request.

When someone comes to your team with a “two second fix” request, you can point to your Definition of Done and explain that while the coding portion might be a two second fix, there are a lot of other things that need to be done. The written Definition of Done also helps to explain to non-software, non-IT colleagues what your team does all day. It serves as a tool to advocate for your team and to deflect blame and annoyance when you have to say no.


In conclusion, having a written Definition of Done is crucial for the success of your team. It helps to eliminate ambiguity, improve communication within the team, and advocate for your team to the rest of the business.

So, what does “done” mean in your team?


— Having trouble getting to ‘done’? Want help establishing what ‘done’ means in your organization? Got a team that’s super busy and super dedicated but somehow still has trouble delivering? We can help. Drop us a line at



2 responses to “What Does “Done” Really Mean in Your Team?”

  1. […] being paid to deliver features or business value, or done software. Whatever it is that you’re working on, it’s delivering that really matters. (You can use Scrum […]

  2. […] being paid to deliver features or business value, or done software. Whatever it is that you’re working on, it’s delivering that really matters. (You can use Scrum […]

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