The Increment is one of three artefacts in Scrum.
When work taken on by the team achieves the Definition of Done, then it becomes an Increment.
An Increment is a concrete stepping stone toward the Product Goal. Each Increment is additive to all prior Increments and thoroughly verified, ensuring that all Increments work together. In order to provide value, the Increment must be usable.
Multiple Increments may be created within a Sprint. The sum of the Increments is presented at the Sprint Review thus supporting empiricism. However, an Increment may be delivered to stakeholders prior to the end of the Sprint. The Sprint Review should never be considered a gate to releasing value.
Work cannot be considered part of an Increment unless it meets the Definition of Done.
When work meets the Definition of Done and becomes an Increment, its Story Points are added to the team’s velocity.
Work that isn’t done returns to the Product Backlog at the end of the Sprint to be re-prioritised by the Product Owner. There is no “partial credit” for Story Points as these are not a measure of effort expended. Velocity is a measure of what can be delivered to Done in a single Sprint, not “effort points”.
The Definition of Done is a formal description of the state of the Increment when it meets the quality measures required for the product.
The moment a Product Backlog item meets the Definition of Done, an Increment is born.
The Definition of Done creates transparency by providing everyone a shared understanding of what work was completed as part of the Increment. If a Product Backlog item does not meet the Definition of Done, it cannot be released or even presented at the Sprint Review. Instead, it returns to the Product Backlog for future consideration.
If the Definition of Done for an increment is part of the standards of the organization, all Scrum Teams must follow it as a minimum. If it is not an organizational standard, the Scrum Team must create a Definition of Done appropriate for the product.
The Developers are required to conform to the Definition of Done. If there are multiple Scrum Teams working together on a product, they must mutually define and comply with the same Definition of Done.
By definition, an Increment is potentially releasable. Choosing when to release the Increment is the responsibility of the Product Owner, but should also be in consultation with:
The team doesn't have to release at the end of every Sprint. They should release when it makes most sense to do so. If there is a release in the Sprint, Sprint Planning will need to account for release planning and release management activities.
Consider the following questions in a Retrospective:
Definition of Done
1. Schwaber, K. and Sutherland, J. (2020) The Scrum Guide. The Definitive Guide to Scrum: The Rules of the Game.
2. Hodgson, M. R. & Horrigan, M. B. (2021) Agile Essentials.
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