From time to time, end users will have ideas or concepts for a new feature. The concept will be expressed as one or more feature items, and get added to a product backlog by the product owner. The team, working together, will figure out how to turn this concept, expressed as one or more epics and subsequently refined them into smaller and clearer user stories as a real product feature to be included in the next sprint for implementation.
The product owner could work together with the team to define an artifact called “the definition of Ready” for ensuring that items at the top of the backlog are ready to be moved into a sprint so that the development team can confidently commit and complete them by the end of a sprint.
Why Definition of Ready?
The Definition of Ready is a set of agreements that lets everyone know when something is ready to begin, e.g., when a user story is ready to be taken into a sprint, or when all necessary conditions are right for a team to start a sprint. An appropriate definition of ready will substantially improve the Scrum team’s chance of successfully meeting its sprint goal. Here is a list of benefits that a properly structured DoR can bring to teams:
- Measure a backlog item’s “ready” state
- Ensure that product backlog items have been thought through “just enough”
- Help the team identify when the product owner or another team member becomes overwhelmed
- Keep the team accountable to each other
- Reduce pressure on the team to commit to estimates before stories are “Ready”
- Reduce “requirements churn” in development
Example – Definition of Ready for a Sprint
Different teams will have different Dentition of Ready, and some require less. i.e., some teams just describe the value to the user, prioritize, and write how to demo. Other estimates and communication are in the sprint planning meeting and etc. Here is the sample items to be considered for developing DORs for your team:
- The Sprint Backlog is prioritized
- The Spring Backlog contains all defects, User Stories and other work that the team is committing to
- No hidden work
- All team members have calculated their capacity for the Sprint
- Fulltime on project = X hours per day
- All User Stories meet Definition of Ready
Example – Definition of Ready for a User Story
This section shows a sample Definition of Ready for a user story, and a sample Definition of Ready for a Sprint. You can adopt some of these as baselines or starting points:
- The value of Story to the user is clearly indicated.
- The acceptance criteria for Story have been clearly described.
- User Story dependencies identified
- User Story sized by Delivery Team
- Scrum Team accepts User Experience artifacts
- Performance criteria identified, where appropriate
- Person who will accept the User Story is identified
- The team knows how to demo the story.
The term “Definition of Ready” isn’t described in the Scrum Guide and same as user stories and the Acceptance Criteria embedded in it. Perhaps, you may consider the Definition of Ready is an integral part of the backlog refinement activity, instead of using the Definition of Ready as a sequential and phase-gate checklist. Backlog refinement is an ongoing process, therefore it’s not restricted to an event but considered an activity.
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