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How to create a Definition of Done checklist in Jira

Embedding Definition of Done directly into Jira issues is a great way to keep your software development teams on track. Here's how to do it.
min. read
Nov 27, 2023

What is Definition of Done in Jira?

Definition of Done (DoD) is an important concept in Scrum methodology. It allows the product manager to communicate their specific expectations to the development team. There is an implied agreement that the development team accepts and agrees to deliver on these expectations.

However, agreeing to do something and actually doing are two different things.  It’s easy for software development teams to lose track of the original expectations, especially if there isn’t a full time scrum master to keep them on track.  If your software development team uses Jira, then one way to keep them on track is to embed the Definition of Done directly into Jira issues using a checklist.

This article explains how to create Definition of Done checklists in your Jira software projects.

Creating a Definition of Done

Since the Definition of Done is likely to change depending on the phase of development you’re in, you’ll likely want to create various template checklists for each issue type. For example, you may want to create one template that is used for stories, and another for technical tasks.

Creating a checklist template

To create a checklist template, go to the Jira project and select Checklist from the left nav bar. Click Create template. Name your template “DoD” and the issue type. Now you can add the appropriate checklist items.

Checklist template

Once you’ve saved your template, click Set default to make it the default template for the appropriate issue type. This means that the checklist will be automatically added whenever an issue of that type is created.

Default checklist template

You can create separate templates for each issue type you use.

Note that since only one template can be set as the default for a given issue type, if you’re using a Definition of Ready list on your stories, you’ll need to manually add the Story DoD templates when the stories are added to a sprint. You can do this with an automation rule.

What's in a Definition of Done checklist?

You have to decide how granular you want to be in creating your DoDs. On one hand, it’s a visual, and enforceable reminder of what needs to be done. On the other hand, an overly long list may backfire, causing the team to ignore the list or -if enforcement options are enabled- do a minimal job meeting each checklist item.

If you’re wanting to challenge your team, or let them know that there will be more expectations in the future, you can add optional items to the checklist. These items will not be required when the Definition of Done is enforced.

Definition of Done checklist in Jira

Enforce Definition of Done on Jira issues

Having the checklist right there on the Jira issue makes it pretty clear what the expectations are. However, you can ensure that they are enforced by setting a workflow validator.  Issue Checklist Pro provides validators that can check if all checklist items, or all mandatory items, have been marked as complete.

If the validator is set and a team member tries to transition the issue without the indicated checklist items being complete, the transition will fail.

Workflow validator in Jira checklist

How checklists improve Definition of Done in software development

Embedding the Definition of Done on issues in your development projects:

  • ensures delivery of the product managers vision;
  • takes pressure off of the scrum master;
  • makes it easy for the dev team to know what’s expected of them.  

Using a checklist makes it easy to embed the definition of done on your Jira issues.

Jennifer Choban

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