Definition of done and Acceptance criteria – Distinction is important

May 5, 2014 at 9:40 am | Posted in Best fit Agile, Blogroll, Scrum and agile | Leave a comment

Definition of done and acceptance criteria are two important components of a requirement captured in the form of a user story. However in my interactions with agile teams, I have often noticed lack of clarity about how they differ from each other and why the distinction is important. Here is how I see it. Responses from the readers are welcome.

Lean has a concept of %C&A (Complete and Accurate) used widely in value stream mapping. While the end user interacts with the system, at different stages of the interaction he has a sense of how far his needs are being fulfilled, both in scope and correctness. Scope is about what is included, and what is not, in the requirement. Correctness is about how accurately the aspects in scope are accurately implemented. The user experience at each point of interaction with the system is the net result of both; and leads to either satisfaction / delight or dissatisfaction / irritation.

The crisp three part user story format, I as (a role) want (the expectation) so that (value I would get), is very useful but not sufficient. It must be supplemented by the details of C&A. Confusion between the two probably arises because of use of the term “Done” in definition of done. Another way of expressing these two terms in a simpler format could be; “This includes” for scope, and “Ways to verify” for accuracy.

Who would benefit by this clear separation of the intent? Almost all the roles involved.

When a business analyst captures the requirement in discussion with the end users or their proxy, adding “This includes” to the three-part format will clarify the scope. As the story is groomed with involvement from the development team, further aspects of “This includes” will be uncovered and the “Ways to verify” will be captured. UX specialists can complement this with their inputs to ensure that the implicit user expectations are not forgotten.

When the story reaches the first point of stability “Groomed”, the user feedback can be obtained and alignment reached. This will also provide an opportunity to agree on the user acceptance tests and avoid defect leakages from the requirements.

The distinction will help the developers, including the testers, to define the tasks correctly to ensure the scope is fully covered. QA can start working on the certification criteria keeping in mind the UAT (User acceptance tests) and share them with the Dev-testers to make sure those are checked before the story reaches the next point of stability “Developed”. This will avoid defect leakages from the “Development” stage.

This stability will help the QA + UAT to focus more on making sure that the story is not only complete in itself but fits well with the rest of the system before taking it to stable “Certified” stage. Chance of defect leakages to production are thus minimized.

At this point the product owner would be more confident that the scope is completely covered, and it has been accurately implemented. He can therefore focus on making sure of the overall integrity and the expected user experience. The UX specialists can provide him valuable help. This will enable him to take the story to the next stable state of “Accepted”.

So in short, the difference between definition of done and acceptance criteria can be clearly separated without confusion if we use simple and clear terms to depict them. This clarity will help those in a variety of functional roles and help prevent defect leakages at each point in the system as story completes its life cycle from “Open” to “Closed” through different stages of incremental stability.


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