What Is Required for a Scrum Team to Say a Product Backlog Item Is Done and Answer Happy?

John Carter
November 5, 2023

In the world of Scrum, the concept of 'done' holds immense importance. It serves as a crucial milestone for the Scrum Team to indicate the completion of a Product Backlog Item (PBI). However, the definition of 'done' can be subjective and may vary from one organization to another. It is essential for the Scrum Team to have a clear understanding of 'done' to ensure consistent delivery of high-quality products.

Understanding the Concept of 'Done' in Scrum

Before delving into the specifics, let's first define what 'done' means in the context of Scrum. Simply put, 'done' implies that a PBI has met all the required criteria and is ready to be released or delivered to the stakeholders. It signifies that the work has been completed in its entirety and is considered shippable.

However, the definition of 'done' can vary depending on the project, the organization, and the specific requirements. It is crucial for the Scrum Team to establish a clear and consistent understanding of what 'done' means for their product.

The Definition of 'Done'

The definition of 'done' serves as a set of criteria that a PBI must meet to be considered completed. It encompasses various aspects, including functional, non-functional, and quality requirements. The Scrum Team collaboratively defines this definition to ensure a shared understanding among all team members.

For example, the definition of 'done' may include factors such as code reviews, unit testing, integration testing, documentation, and user acceptance testing. The team decides the specific criteria based on their project's needs and can refine it gradually as they gain more insights and experience.

Code reviews play a crucial role in the definition of 'done.' They ensure that the code meets the team's standards and follows best practices. By conducting code reviews, the team can identify and address any potential issues or bugs before considering the PBI as 'done.'

In addition to code reviews, unit testing is another essential component of the definition of 'done.' Unit tests verify the functionality of individual units of code, ensuring that they work as intended. By including unit testing in the definition of 'done,' the team can have confidence in the quality and reliability of their work.

Integration testing is also a critical factor in the definition of 'done.' It ensures that the different components of the software system work together seamlessly. By conducting integration testing, the team can identify any compatibility or communication issues between different modules or systems, ensuring a smooth and cohesive final product.

Documentation is often included in the definition of 'done' to ensure that the product is well-documented and easily maintainable. Clear and comprehensive documentation helps future developers understand the codebase and make any necessary modifications or enhancements. It also aids in troubleshooting and resolving issues that may arise during the product's lifecycle.

User acceptance testing (UAT) is another important aspect of the definition of 'done.' UAT involves testing the product with end-users to ensure that it meets their needs and expectations. By including UAT in the definition of 'done,' the team can gather valuable feedback and make any necessary adjustments before releasing the product to the stakeholders.

The Importance of 'Done' in Scrum

'Done' is not just a mere label; it holds significant value in Scrum. By having a clear definition of 'done,' the Scrum Team establishes a common understanding of what constitutes a completed PBI. This, in turn, promotes transparency and accountability within the team.

Moreover, the concept of 'done' allows the Product Owner to make informed decisions regarding the product release. When the team confidently states that a PBI is 'done,' it signifies that it has gone through the necessary checks and is of high quality. This instills trust and improves the overall effectiveness of the Scrum framework.

Furthermore, the concept of 'done' encourages continuous improvement within the Scrum Team. By regularly reviewing and refining the definition of 'done,' the team can identify areas for improvement and strive for higher quality and efficiency in their work. This iterative approach fosters a culture of learning and growth, ultimately benefiting both the team and the product.

In conclusion, understanding the concept of 'done' in Scrum is essential for successful project delivery. The definition of 'done' serves as a guiding principle for the Scrum Team, ensuring that PBIs are completed to a high standard and ready for release. By establishing a clear and consistent understanding of 'done,' the team promotes transparency, accountability, and continuous improvement, ultimately enhancing the effectiveness of the Scrum framework.

The Role of the Scrum Team in Defining 'Done'

To ensure that PBIs are truly 'done,' the Scrum Team takes collective responsibility for defining the criteria and adhering to them throughout the development process. Let's explore the roles of the Scrum Master and the Development Team in this regard.

Responsibilities of the Scrum Master

The Scrum Master plays a crucial role in facilitating the definition of 'done' within the Scrum Team. They ensure that all team members understand the significance of 'done' and actively participate in its definition. The Scrum Master also encourages collaboration and guides the team towards establishing realistic and achievable criteria.

Beyond the initial definition, the Scrum Master continuously supports the team in refining the definition of 'done' over time. They facilitate discussions, gather feedback, and hold retrospectives to identify areas of improvement and adjust the criteria accordingly.

Contributions of the Development Team

The Development Team, being responsible for delivering increments of functionality, actively participates in defining 'done' for each PBI. Their deep understanding of the technical aspects enables them to contribute their expertise to the definition process.

The Development Team collaboratively determines the specific tasks and criteria required to meet the definition of 'done.' They share their knowledge and best practices, ensuring that the criteria encompass all necessary elements to produce a high-quality product.

Moreover, each member of the Development Team is accountable for delivering work that meets the 'done' criteria. They strive to complete their tasks diligently, enabling the Scrum Team to confidently state that a PBI is 'done.'

The Product Backlog Item in Scrum

Before fully comprehending the requirements for saying a PBI is 'done' and 'answer happy,' it is crucial to understand what a PBI is and its role in the Scrum framework.

What is a Product Backlog Item?

A Product Backlog Item represents a single unit of work or functionality that contributes to the development of a product. It serves as a container for user stories, bugs, technical tasks, and any other valuable item that helps achieve the project's goals.

The Product Backlog Item is one of the building blocks of the Product Backlog, which acts as a dynamic list of priorities managed by the Product Owner. Each PBI has its own unique set of requirements and is refined and prioritized based on its value to the stakeholders.

The Relationship Between Product Backlog Items and 'Done'

The 'done' criteria are vital for every PBI, as they ensure that each item completed and delivered is of high quality. When a PBI meets the 'done' criteria, it is considered a valuable increment that can be reviewed, demonstrated, and potentially released to stakeholders.

By continuously delivering 'done' PBIs, the Scrum Team provides visibility and value to the stakeholders throughout the project's duration. This helps build trust, enables meaningful feedback, and supports the iterative and incremental approach of the Scrum framework.

The 'Answer Happy' Concept in Scrum

In addition to meeting the 'done' criteria, the Scrum Team aims to achieve the state of 'answer happy' for each completed PBI. But what exactly does 'answer happy' mean in the context of Scrum?

Defining 'Answer Happy'

'Answer happy' refers to the ability of the Scrum Team to confidently answer any questions or concerns raised by the stakeholders regarding the completed PBI. It means having a thorough understanding of the work accomplished, being able to justify decisions made, and addressing any inquiries with clarity and confidence.

When a Scrum Team attains the state of 'answer happy,' it indicates a high level of collaboration, transparency, and shared knowledge among the team members. It fosters effective communication and helps build trust between the team and the stakeholders.

The Significance of 'Answer Happy' in Scrum

Being 'answer happy' is not just about providing immediate responses to stakeholders' inquiries; it goes beyond that. It demonstrates that the Scrum Team has a deep understanding of the work done, the decisions made, and the impact on the product.

This state allows the team to engage in meaningful discussions with stakeholders, gather valuable feedback, and make informed decisions for future iterations. By being 'answer happy,' the Scrum Team actively embraces transparency and drives continuous improvement.

Ensuring a Product Backlog Item is 'Done' and 'Answer Happy'

Now that we understand the importance of both the 'done' criteria and the 'answer happy' concept, let's explore how the Scrum Team can ensure they are met consistently.

Steps to Achieve 'Done' and 'Answer Happy'

  1. Collaborative Definition: The Scrum Team should collaborate in defining the 'done' criteria and the process for achieving it. This ensures shared ownership and promotes a common understanding.
  2. Continuous Refinement: The definition of 'done' should not remain static; it should be continuously refined based on the team's experience, feedback, and evolving project requirements.
  3. Quality Assurance: The Development Team should incorporate various quality assurance practices, such as code reviews, testing, and documentation, to ensure the PBIs meet the 'done' criteria.
  4. Effective Communication: The Scrum Team should foster open and transparent communication among its members and with the stakeholders. Regularly sharing progress, challenges, and decisions helps maintain a high level of understanding and promotes an 'answer happy' state.
  5. Continuous Improvement: The Scrum Team should regularly reflect on their practices and strive for continuous improvement. By capturing lessons learned and implementing changes, they can enhance the quality and efficiency of their work.

Common Challenges and Solutions

The journey towards achieving 'done' and being 'answer happy' is not without its challenges. Here are some common challenges that Scrum Teams may encounter:

  • Varying Interpretations: Different team members may have different interpretations of the 'done' criteria, leading to discrepancies in the final deliverables. To address this, the team should engage in open discussions and actively seek consensus.
  • Tight Time Constraints: Striving for high-quality deliverables while adhering to strict time constraints can be challenging. The team should prioritize effectively, allocate sufficient resources, and embrace a realistic definition of 'done' that balances quality and timeliness.
  • Unforeseen Dependencies: Dependencies on external factors, such as other teams or third-party services, can hinder the achievement of 'done' and 'answer happy.' Identifying and managing these dependencies from the early stages can help mitigate such challenges.
  • Changing Requirements: As requirements change, the 'done' criteria may also need adjustments. The Scrum Team should maintain flexibility and ensure that the definition of 'done' accommodates evolving project needs.

In conclusion, for a Scrum Team to say a Product Backlog Item is 'done' and 'answer happy,' they need a clear and consistently defined set of criteria. By collaboratively establishing the meaning of 'done,' adhering to the criteria, and embracing transparency and effective communication, the team can deliver high-quality products that meet stakeholder expectations. Achieving this state requires continuous improvement, adaptability, and a collective effort from the entire Scrum Team.