Definition of Ready

Definition of Ready is an agile framework that determines a set of agreements that prompts when something is ready to begin.

Customers are always looking for new ideas and concepts in products. This means that when a new concept emerges, it becomes one or more feature items. Then the product owner will add it to the backlog.

Afterward, the development team looks for ways to refine that concept into smaller, more precise user stories—and then into a real product feature. They’ll then include this in the team’s next sprint for implementation.

Agile practitioners are most likely familiar with the framework definition of done when developing new product features. The framework helps teams check whether a product satisfies all conditions before the deliverable is considered fit for release. It’s valuable for teams as it keeps them accountable for their work. Meanwhile, a less commonly used concept but equally useful is the definition of ready.  

What is a Definition of Ready? 

Like the actual definition of ready, this agile framework means preparing everything and checking the availability of all resources before initiating the actual work. 

A definition of ready tells the product owner and its team that the user stories are ready to move forward to the sprint from the Product Backlog item. “Definition of ready” mostly takes the form of a checklist of criteria, which facilitates a team’s decisions. It also helps them determine if they are confident enough to successfully deliver on a user story.

For scrum teams, one use of a definition of ready is during Product Backlog refinement. This is when a team improves on details, orders, and estimates until the backlog meets the desired conditions. The team members should first have a complete understanding of the Product Backlog item to increase efficiency and reduce failures during the Sprint. 

Common Items Considered for a Definition of Ready

When preparing a Definition of Ready, a common guideline with items to consider is the INVEST strategy: 

  • Independent: As much as possible, the user story should not have any dependencies on other stories or external resources. It should be self-contained and can move forward on its own. 
  • Negotiable: A user story should cater to what the customers’ needs and not focus on how the developers will implement it. The development team should be open to alternative solutions or implementations to achieve a product that provides value to the customer.  
  • Valuable: A user story should have a definite value to the customers. Before a user story is pushed to the sprint stage, all team members must identify and define the added value for end-users.
  • Estimable: A user story must be measurable so the scrum team can quickly determine if they are progressing or stagnating. It must have a size relative to other user stories. 
  • Small: A user story should be small enough to fit in a single sprint to prevent team burnout. 
  • Testable: Each user story should have clear criteria or conditions that will allow the developers to test whether it’s successful or not. 

Examples of Definition of Ready

The definition applies to most scrum artifacts and project management components. But it’s more prominent with user stories because this stage determines what feature items to work on and how it affects the overall product.  

Here are two instances of a definition of ready to help you develop an appropriate one:

Definition of Ready for a User Story

  • User story dependencies identified
  • The user story value for the end-customer is clearly indicated
  • User story sized by the Delivery Team
  • User story acceptance criteria have been clearly described
  • Performance criteria identified
  • Scrum team accepts user experience artifacts
  • The team can test the user story

Definition of Ready for a sprint 

  • Sprint backlog prioritized
  • The sprint backlog contains all the defects, user stories, and other necessary work that the team commits to address
  • No hidden work 
  • Team members have estimated their individual capacity for the sprint
  • User story meets definition of ready 

Definition of Ready: Prepare Ahead for Efficiency

The value of a definition of ready is to ensure the development team understands the user story and its added value before and during the sprint duration. Moreover, it helps keep the team accountable, which helps minimize reworks on a user story. 

By prequalifying user stories, the scrum team can have the best possible conditions, allowing greater efficiency and timely delivery of feature items.