Saturday, February 15, 2014

Why do we need definition of start (begin)? How is it different from Definition of Done?


We all know about definition of done. It defines a set of conditions which should be satisfied by the feature team during the sprint execution for each Product Backlog Item worked by them. Unless all the conditions are met, the PBI’s won’t be marked as done. This can be called as the exit criteria for each PBI or user story.

Usually apart from the team & PO, the organization and other stakeholders also play a big part in creating them. A well-defined Definition of Done ensures that all the PBI delivered meets the standards and if required can be deployed. As team maturity improves this definition also evolves.

For every exit criteria there should be an entry criteria. I have seen many lazy Product Owners (& scrum Teams) who don’t do a proper job of backlog grooming.  Because of this there will be lot of ambiguity about the upcoming PBI’s. There will be constant churn producing a lot of waste.  Sprint planning will end up in failure because team won’t know how to create tasks for the PBI. A poorly planned PBI will force the team do all the investigation before they can do the actual work, thus wasting their precious time. Sometimes the PO waits till the demo to provide a comment that his intention was something else!!! In this situation team will be forced to redo the PBI in the next sprint.







  • By having a well-defined definition of Begin a lot of confusion can be avoided.
  • Team will know that the PBIs meeting the Definition of Begin will contain all the necessary information. 
  • ScrumMasters job will be easy. They will have a benchmark and can ensure that the team and PO works together to define the PBI.  
  • Team can point this definition to their PO if they don’t do their job.  
  • It will help a new Product Owner to get familiar with the exiting culture and backlog grooming familiar with the team. 
  • This definition helps the organization a lot when they start scaling up 

Each team and company will have to define their own Definition of Begin. Like definition of done this should also evolve.  But ensure that this doesn’t become an inflexible document which could be used for auditing. The primary objective should be to eliminate waste & promote discussion between feature team and Product Owner.

For my backlog I will like to have 

  • A well defined User Story
  • Well defined Conditions of Acceptance (usually in GHERKIN format)
  • if required , UI screen
  • If required, any high level Architecture Diagram (from feature team)
  • Any system constraints  
  • Story Points from the team 

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