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How do you explain the difference between “Definition of Done” and “Acceptance Criteria” to your Product Owner and Developers?

In this blog, we will briefly discuss Scrum and understand what “Definition of Done” (DoD) and “Acceptance Criteria” mean to a Scrum team. We will also discuss the importance of these two definitions and how they impact the increments a scrum team provides. Once we get an idea of these concepts, we will see how you can, as a Scrum Master make your scrum team understand the difference between DoD and Acceptance Criteria.

Scrum Overview

The Scrum Guide defines Scrum as “A lightweight framework that helps people, teams, and organizations generate value through adaptive solutions for complex problems”. As you may already know, the scrum team consists of a Scrum Master, Product Owner, and developers. As a Scrum Master, your guide, facilitate, and coach your teams regularly or during the scrum events such as sprint planning, daily scrum, sprint reviews, and sprint retrospective or when it is necessary.

For scrum teams implementing Scrum in their organization, the most important aspects are testing, learning, and improving the way of working using this framework to produce quality increments. Besides producing the increments, the team also must understand when these increments are ready and fulfill the sprint goals.

DoD and Acceptance Criteria

The Scrum Master must ensure that the team focuses on producing increments that meet the DoD-Definition of Done. For developers, it is always important to be clear about the outcome of the increments and how they produce quality increments by adhering to the DoD. And the DoD is approved by the Product Owner before the sprint. According to The Scrum Guide, “The Definition of Done (DoD) is a formal description of the state of the increment when it meets the quality measures required for the product. “

The DoD evolves as the scrum team matures and it is best to discuss it during the sprint retrospective. Also, it is imperative to know that an increment is born only when it meets the DoD, only then can it be presented in the sprint review.

However, we must consider the fact that these increments are usually software functional features that are a part of a product. So after each sprint, these features have to be ready and available for the end users or the stakeholders to use. To ensure that the features are usable, we have what is called the “Acceptance Criteria”. Acceptance Criteria are specific to each Product Backlog Item and provide a clear insight into what the developers need to develop.

The best approach to understanding both DoD and Acceptance Criteria is through an abstract example. So let’s take the example of you eating out at a cafe and savoring your favorite sandwich, this is your goal or in scrum equivalent to a sprint goal.

Next, you enter the cafe and want a corner table with a good ambiance. You also expect to see that the waiter is friendly and nice, the cafe is clean and the kitchen area looks neat. These are some of the mandatory things that you don’t compromise on before ordering and eating the sandwich. This check that you just performed can be equated to DoD in the scrum. Now, let’s assume that you want to have a club sandwich that is prepared freshly, loaded with cheese, and cut into only two pieces. You also want it to taste delicious with the correct amount of fillings in between, only if the sandwich meets this criterion do you accept it. And this requirements is equivalent to Acceptance Criteria in the scrum.

So if the cafe doesn’t meet all your aforementioned conditions but their sandwich is how you expect it to be, even then you’d not eat the sandwich there in other words, if your increment doesn’t meet the DoD, the increment is not ready even if it meets the Acceptance Criteria.

Real-time examples of DoD list:

·        Uacceptance Criteria is met.

·        UA testing is done.

·        The product contains all the governance policies.

·        Documentation for the feature is completed.

Real-time examples of the Acceptance Criteria list:

·        The users should be able to retrieve passwords using the “Forgot Password” option.

·        The Dashboard screen should allow users to add the “Reports” from the options section.

·        The test result should display output X for the inputs “Y and Z”.

Product Owners can help the developers during the daily scrum or during the day to discuss each item that they are working on to meet the DoD. If the features function as expected then it means that the part of an increment is complete and meets the “Acceptance Criteria”.Later the team can work on getting the item meet DoD.

Scrum Masters help and guide the scrum team to adhere to DoD, Creation of DoD and evolve the DoD

Explaining the Difference between Definition of Done and Acceptance Criteria

Now that we’ve understood what DoD and Acceptance Criteria mean, you can initially help your scrum team to select the items from the product backlog into the Sprint backlog for the current sprint. This means that you engage with the team and give examples of scenarios and then connect it with your sprint goal.

As a Scrum Master, you are the coach and must gauge how much your scrum team understands the scrum theory, artifacts, events, and so on. Not only this but by discussing with the Product Owner and the developers frequently if it is a new team. Then introduce the team to prepare and define DoD based on the sprint goal during sprint planning. Allow the Product Owner to go through the list of items to see if they meet DoD and validate. Next, discuss with the team and make it a point to emphasize complying with the DoD before the sprint review to produce the increment.

As far as the Acceptance Criteria are concerned, facilitate the developers to create items from the sprint backlog and how and by when they intend to complete the items. For developers, the acceptance criteria to enable a particular feature work as expected and all the stakeholders can replicate the functionality. Collectively, ensure that only if the acceptance criteria is met, the item is ready. Help your scrum to understand how acceptance criteria have everything to do with the smaller items and affect the increment. Finally, allow the team to complete all the subsequent steps which include testing the items and fixing any errors, and so on. At this stage, all the developed items that meet the Acceptance Criteria are compliant with DoD before the sprint review and the sprint goal has been achieved.

You must now have a brief understanding of how you can explain the difference between DoD and Acceptance Criteria to your Scrum Team.

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