The usual process for drafting a story for development is progressive and incremental. That’s one reason why the standard format for a story is so high-level and general – As a… I want… So that… makes only the most general demands on the story’s authors.
So it’s easy for a story to evolve – from a placeholder (‘here’s something we need to think about’) to a concept (‘here’s the sort of thing I have in mind) to an epic (outline of an undefinably big and complicated function or activity) to a story proper (manageably deliverable unit of value).
But before letting a draft story into the development process, are there any criteria for deciding whether it’s defined well enough, or meets other criteria? That’s the question that lies behind the notion of a Definition of Ready.
You can think of your Definition of Ready (DoR) as complementing your Definition of Done. Where satisfying your DoD tells you that you’ve finished work on developing your story, meeting the criteria set out in your DoR tells you that you’re ready to start on it. If you meet it’s criteria, you almost certainly won’t suddenly find yourself running into a gap or complication that will hamper delivery and generally waste your time.
Here are a few examples of things you might find in your DoR:
- The story is not an epic.
- The story is compatible with all relevant standards and policies.
- The story is in the standard story format.
- It includes agreed acceptance criteria, also in the standard format.
- The Product Owner (or perhaps the relevant stakeholders) are happy with how it is stated.
- An appropriate user has been identified to work with the team on its implementation.
- The business value the story would deliver is clearly and credibly estimated.
- The story meets the criteria defined in the INVEST model.
- The story has no dependencies that are likely to block its implementation.
- The team is confident that any residual uncertainties about the story, its meaning and how it can be implemented can be resolved during Iteration 0 (e.g., a spike) or the development process.
- If external SMEs or authorities are needed to complete the story, they have been identified and collaboration with them has been agreed.
And so on. Again like your Definition of Done, your Definition of Ready can clearly have many dimensions – in this case, technical content, governance arrangements, and so on.
Of course, having a Definition of Ready is not a guarantee that nothing unexpected will come up, but it’s an excellent insurance policy.