Are We There Yet? Defining Product Release Criteria

What does “done” mean on a software project? How do you know if you’re ready to release? Here are some suggestions.

Karl Wiegers
7 min readMay 20, 2020

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A sign that asks “Are we there yet?” three times.
image adapted from www.admissions.uga.edu/blog

I’ve worked with some software organizations that always meet their delivery schedules. When it becomes clear that the project won’t finish on time, the team enters a “rapid descoping phase.” They defer some planned functionality, whiz through testing, and release on schedule a crippled system with quality problems that provides no value to anyone. Then they declare success because they delivered on time. Yes, they delivered something on time, but it bore scant resemblance to expectations.

Defining your product’s release criteria is an essential part of laying the foundation for a successful project. Release criteria must be realistic, objectively measurable, documented, and aligned with what quality and success mean to your customers. Decide early on how you’ll determine when you’re done and then track progress toward those goals.

How Do You Know When You’re Done?

No one builds perfect software products that contain every imaginable function and function flawlessly. Every project team must decide when its product is good enough to go out the door. “Good enough” means…

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Karl Wiegers

Author of 14 books, mostly on software. PhD in organic chemistry. Guitars, wine, and military history fill the voids. karlwiegers.com and processimpact.com