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Ensuring Quality Through the Definition of Done

17 February 2016

Zahid Owais

Quality is one of the most commonly used terms, and at the same time the most misunderstood. It serves as a Get-Out-of-Jail card and as marketing jargon. Putting the misnomers aside, there is a great need to understand it. So let's try to explain quality and how we can ensure the quality of our products.

Quality is an abstract concept, and any description will be a mere approximation. For example, quality can be defined as achieving the general satisfaction level of a person, or compliance to a certain set of standards. Therefore, it is important for a development team to come up with their own definition of quality or quality goals for their product. Quality goals are complementary to the functional requirements and will play an important role in the product's success.

It is also important to understand that quality can have subjective or objective aspects. Each subjective aspect needs to be approximated to an objective aspect. For example, client satisfaction is a subjective aspect that can be approximated to client feedback and surveys. Similarly, client preference can be mapped to a business intelligence report or business analytics.

Once all the aspects are defined, the next step is to document and share that information with the whole team. This is where Scrum can play a vital role. Scrum not only defines a way of doing things but also specifies the nature and requirement of the work to be done. One of the key work-related concepts is Definition of Done (DoD), which refers to the team's general understanding of the completed work. With the help of the ScrumMaster, we can incorporate quality aspects into the DoD.

There are three main advantages to incorporating quality:
  1. The whole team will have a common understanding of the quality requirements and will take ownership of these requirements.
  2. The quality will be ingrained within the product, as no task will be completed without fulfilling the quality requirements.
  3. Quality assurance is integrated early in the development process. Early integration can save effort and money on costly quality control processes.
This approach can be applied to both new and ongoing development.

Tips for ensuring quality through DoD:
  • Place the DoD on the Scrum team's board or wall, where it is always visible to the team. Be creative and come up with a unique or eye-catching way of describing "Done." The more verbose or monotonous the definition, the less likely people will notice (remember, we are living in a world of ever-shrinking attention spans).
  • If you are a ScrumMaster, try to emphasize the importance of DoD once in a while. Conversely, lead by example all the time.
  • Have a well-defined review or change-management process.
These are simple, cost-effective, and Agile approaches to ensure a quality product.

Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.

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