The Definition of Ready in Agile Development

Our development teams have an insatiable need for work to do. It is very common for them to deplete the Product Backlog of items that are ready to be taken into a sprint. It is also common that the Product Owner (PO) and stakeholders have lots of partially defined work in the backlog. This caused frustration because the team can’t bring in work, yet there is plenty to do.

Definition of Ready_pale-01

To help with this, our teams work with the PO to agree on what defines a “ready” state of a backlog item. This will vary by project, but below are some elements to seed the discussion:

  • Story defined and written
  • Story traceable to source document (where appropriate)
  • Acceptance criteria defined
  • Dependencies identified
  • Size estimated by delivery team
  • User experience included (where appropriate)
  • Performance criteria identified (where appropriate)
  • Person who will accept the user story is identified
  • Team has a good idea about how to demo the user story

Some other really smart Agile thinkers have been talking about this for a while:

We’ve even spilled a bit of ink on the topic:

We suggest that the Definition of Ready be published to the PO and all stakeholders we can identify. It also highlights the importance of the ScrumMaster’s opportunity to support the team by working with the PO to ensure there is at least a sprint’s worth of data ready to go. Along with a team Working Agreement and Definition of Done, consider adding the Definition of Ready to your Scrum team’s toolset.


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