When is a Task ‘Complete’?

In Agile you have to define when a task may be considered ‘Complete’.

‘Complete’ is when:

  • the unit tests are all passing
  • the automated acceptance tests are all passing
  • the task’s user acceptance test is passed
  • all supporting chores are completed, i.e. updating user guides, design documentation, etc..

If all the tasks are complete the workitem may be marked ‘Done’. The Product Owner should be marking ‘Accepted’ any workitem marked ‘Done’. He should be reviewing workitems daily if possible. If it cannot be accepted then he can throw it back into the iteration’s backlog.


  1. Simply put, “DONE” is the full list of stuff the team needs to complete to put the story (set of tasks or full work effort) behind them. If there is work still remaining then it isn’t done because this work will either become technical/business debt, or will delay the next work while it is being completed. This is why done can’t be measured by deployed.

    This is also why teams I work with are allowed to use the word “complete” somewhat freely, but they use the word “DONE” with respect and reservation.

    For every team, this list is unique… and every team should manage/evolve it as they mature. It is a critical part of agile success.

    Oh yeah… and it should be filtered through the lens of business value (not tech complete), but this isn’t an issue if your team is cross-functional.

    1. Very true, Kevin, it’s best not to be prescriptive.

      Perhaps these items match up better with Balanced Agile where engineering chores support the process through, for instance, automating the running of unit tests and acceptance tests.

      I was referring implicitly to the Tasks that are part of Story when I wrote that the workitems could be accepted. This is clearly misleading, my apologies, as I meant the Tasks rather than the whole Story. We can mark each Task ‘Done’ and still fail to complete the Story, as you pointed out. We can confidently split a story to the next Sprint, however, as we have automated tests to prove the work that was done for the completed Tasks.

  2. Ah! I’ve never heard anyone use the done term on tasks before, only stories… now I understand your original post better!

    We say things like “code complete”, “analysis complete”, but DONE is reserved for the story.

    Also, our product owner wouldn’t approve tasks, only stories.

  3. I think you’re right, Kevin, I should have used ‘Complete’ and kept ‘Done’ for the workitem or story. I’ve updated the original post. Thanks!

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