Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD)


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Tolu Folayan

July 13, 2022

Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD)

Disciplined Agile Delivery

Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD) is a flexible framework for software development that lets teams choose and evolve the best practices for their situation. This customizable approach is particularly popular with organizations facing complex IT demands, such as banks, insurance companies, and large government agencies. Unlike rigid frameworks that dictate a single way of working, DAD empowers teams to mix and match Agile practices like Scrum's iterative sprints and Kanban's continuous flow, tailoring them to their unique needs. This flexibility, combined with DAD's focus on people-centred practices and continuous learning, fosters adaptability and innovation. It's no wonder it's a favourite! DAD doesn't prescribe a one-size-fits-all solution; it cultivates agility itself, allowing teams to navigate ever-changing environments and deliver successful software on their own terms.

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Table of Content

  • What is disciplined agile delivery?
  • What are the three phases of disciplined agile delivery?
  • What is a disciplined agile way of working?
  • What are the core disciplined agile principles?
  • What are the roles within a disciplined agile delivery team?
  • Examples of Disciplined Agile Delivery  
  • What is the difference between agile and disciplined agile?
  • What is the primary role of disciplined agile delivery team?
  • What are the benefits of disciplined agile delivery framework?  

What is Disciplined Agile Delivery?

Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD) is an agile software development framework that extends and customizes principles from Scrum, Kanban, and other agile methodologies. It provides a comprehensive and flexible approach to product development, offering guidance on lifecycles, roles, and practices. 

DAD empowers teams to choose the best practices for their unique needs, blending elements of Lean Startup exploration, traditional program life cycles, and even the Waterfall approach. At its core, DAD prioritizes continuous learning and evolution. Here, teams are encouraged to experiment, analyze, and refine their "way of working" (WoW) over time, ensuring constant improvement and a WoW that truly fits their context. This flexibility makes DAD suitable for startups just starting their Agile journey, large enterprises with intricate organizational structures, and everything in between.

Furthermore, by emphasizing choice and adaptation, DAD fosters successful software delivery in diverse environments. It tackles the limitations of both Agile and Waterfall by aiming for a process that's both predictable and less risky while still embracing the efficiency of each approach.

Developed by the Project Management Institute (PMI), DAD empowers teams to become masters of their craft, delivering results with agility, confidence, and constant improvement.

What are the Three Phases of Disciplined Agile Delivery?

The three phases of Disciplined Agile Delivery are Inception, Construction, and Transition.

1. Inception: Also known as "Sprint 0." It's usually the beginning of the development process, where the team sets up different activities. It involves work that shows how the project will appear in the future, plus the project frame and its purposes. Best kept brief.  The 2013 Agile Project Initiation survey also reveals that maintaining discipline is essential to keep the Inception phase concise, even though it may take longer than a typical iteration.

2. Construction: A lot of approval and product development is done, albeit on an incremental basis. Teams can begin to implement hybrid agile practices – Scrum, Agile data, Agile modelling, XP – to determine the nature & quality of the product. 

3. Transition: This phase involves testing the solution extensively. Stakeholders are informed about the product and its progress.

The transition strategy may include continuous deployment, micro-deployments, or toggle releases. 

What is a Disciplined Agile Way of Working?

Disciplined Agile Way of Working encompasses a flexible and pragmatic approach to software development, extending beyond a single methodology by integrating various agile and lean practices. It provides teams with guidance on tailoring their strategies based on the unique context and requirements of their projects. This comprehensive framework, known as Disciplined Agile (DA), emphasizes a goal-driven mindset, offering principles and practices for effective project initiation (Inception), solution delivery (Construction), and deployment to stakeholders (Transition).

DA recognizes the diversity of enterprise environments, allowing teams to choose and evolve their practices continuously. It also promotes disciplined and adaptable ways of working, aiming to maximize value delivery while accommodating the complexities inherent in modern software development projects. For instance, in a Disciplined Agile Way of Working, a software development team may begin a project with an Inception phase, engaging in lightweight visioning activities to define project goals. During the construction phase, the team might adopt a hybrid approach, incorporating elements from Scrum, XP, and Agile Modeling to produce a potentially consumable solution iteratively. As the project progresses, the team will continuously adapt its practices based on evolving needs. In the transition phase, the emphasis will be on streamlining deployment processes to deliver the solution effectively to stakeholders. 

What are the Core Disciplined Agile Principles?

There are seven core Disciplined Agile Principles. They include:

1. Delight customers:

This principle goes beyond simply meeting expectations. It's about exceeding them, creating solutions that not only fulfil customer needs but also surprise and delight them. This requires understanding your customers deeply, anticipating their unspoken desires, and delivering products or services that leave them satisfied.

2. Be awesome:

Strive for excellence in everything you do. This applies to individuals, teams, and the entire organization. Embrace continuous learning, invest in personal and professional development, and set high standards for quality and performance. By aiming to be awesome, you push the boundaries of possibility and achieve remarkable results.

3. Context counts:

Every project is unique, operating within its own specific context. There's no one-size-fits-all approach to agile delivery. This principle emphasizes the importance of adapting your methods and tools to the specific challenges and opportunities you face. 

4. Be pragmatic:

Focus on practical solutions that work, not theoretical ideals. Don't get bogged down in rigid methodologies. Instead, embrace a common-sense approach, prioritizing effectiveness over adherence to any specific framework.

5. Choice is good :

 Don't dictate a single way of working. Instead, provide a range of options and trust teams to select the approaches that best suit their skills and context. This fosters ownership, engagement, and a sense of responsibility within the team.

6. Optimise flow:

Create a smooth and efficient delivery process that minimizes waste and maximizes value delivery. Identify and remove bottlenecks, prioritize work effectively, and continuously improve your team's delivery cadence. The goal is to create a system where work flows effortlessly from conception to realization.

7. Enterprise Awareness:

Don't operate in a silo. Recognize that your project exists within a larger organizational context. Align your goals and initiatives with the overall strategy, leverage existing resources and assets, and contribute to the broader success of the enterprise. This principle encourages collaboration, transparency, and a sense of shared purpose across the organization.

What are the Roles Within a Disciplined Agile Delivery Team?

Essentially, there are 2 major roles within the DaD Framework. 

Primary Roles and Supporting Roles

Primary roles

These roles are a constant in most agile teams & organisations, regardless of the size. They include: 

Stakeholders - Often represented by people funding the project. They are interested in the project and its successful outcome, although they're not a part of the scrum team directly. 

Product Owner - The product owner is part of the scrum team. They speak on behalf of the customer. They give priority to specific tasks and oversee the project. 

Team Lead - A team lead serves as an agile coach, facilitating communication and ensuring that the team has the resources to produce a solution. 

Team Members - They're the ones actively involved in developing the product. They carry out tasks on their itinerary in short sprints and report progress to the team lead. 

Architecture Owner - Usually the most technically versatile and experienced person in the team, they're in charge of designing and maintaining how the product will turn out so that it meets the customer's requirements. They reduce bottlenecks involved in the development process. 


Supporting roles

These roles are temporary and usually required to deal with issues encountered during scaling. They include: 

Specialists: Depending on the size of the team and the complexity of issues, they address and provide more excellent technical know-how in the product development process. 

Domain Experts: They're considered experts in a subject matter. In this case, they come in to answer specific issues the development team may be facing related to the project. 

Technical Experts: Their job is to help the team overcome a persistent and complex issue and transfer some of their skills to one or more team members. 

Independent Testers: Their role is to validate the work done throughout the lifecycles by working with the development team. 

Integrators: They ensure teams, mainly large ones requiring different positions, all function together. 

Examples of Disciplined Agile Delivery  

1 Software development:

In DAD, software development encompasses various aspects like requirements, architecture, design, development, testing, and deployment. Each phase can be customized based on project needs and context, drawing from different agile practices like Scrum, Kanban, and XP.

2 Operations and Support:

Disciplined Agile Delivery provides strategies for operating and supporting developed solutions, including monitoring, incident management, problem resolution, and continuous improvement.

DevOps principles are often integrated into this phase to ensure smooth collaboration between development and operations teams.

3 Marketing and content:

With DAD, Agile content marketing practices are encouraged, allowing for adaptability and continuous refinement based on market feedback.

What is the Difference between Agile and Disciplined Agile?

Agile is a flexible methodology that enables teams to adjust and pivot as needed, emphasizing adaptability. In contrast, Disciplined Agile (DA) is a more organized approach that integrates components from various methodologies to offer a detailed and comprehensive framework for project management. It recognizes the need for customization, allowing teams to choose and blend practices from different agile methodologies based on their project's unique requirements.

DAD vs Scrum Agile Frameworks

What is the difference between Scrum and Disciplined Agile Delivery? 

Majorly, Scrum focuses on one approach: Construction, while DaD, as heavily highlighted previously, aims to maximise the benefits of Agile across the product delivery lifecycle. 

Disciplined Agile Delivery addresses the delivery of software and other projects and helps break down organisational barriers. It allows scrum teams to be coordinated and aligned with the rest of the organisation and maintains transparency throughout the project lifecycle.

Whether creating a new product or refactoring an existing one, disciplined agile delivery is an excellent way to achieve both of these goals. 

DAD, a hybrid framework, allows you to adapt to various lifecycles. Disciplined agile adopts strategies from different methodologies and combines relevant pieces of the existing frameworks. It helps you address all aspects of the delivery lifecycle. Keep in mind that there is no single best method. However, there are many different stages of DAD, and each one has its specific benefits. To use DAD correctly, you need to be aware of the benefits and drawbacks of each.

What is the Primary Role of a Disciplined Agile Delivery Team?

1. Team Lead: Responsible for overall delivery success, guiding the team towards achieving iteration goals. Manages scope, time, budget, and quality. Facilitates communication, resolves roadblocks, and supports team growth.

2. Team Member: Contributes to project work in diverse areas like estimation, analysis, architecture, planning, and testing. Infosit emphasizes self-organizing teams with a variety of skills.

3. Product Owner (PO): Acts as the voice of stakeholders, both internal and external. The PO also prioritizes features and communicates needs to the team. Additionally, they possess strong communication skills and uncover real stakeholder needs.

4. Architecture Owner: Makes key architecture decisions and guides solution design. They also ensure software addresses both functional and quality requirements.

5. Stakeholder: This includes anyone impacted by the solution, including CEOs, end users, and team members.

 Why will anyone want to adopt DaDs? 

DAD was designed essentially to address the most common challenges that come with software delivery, including: 

● The long-term planning and resource utilisation are caused by a lack of predictability. It can lead to missed deadlines and large project budgets in some cases.

● The misunderstandings and inefficiencies across teams and departments are caused by a lack of collaboration and communication. 

● Constantly missed opportunities and a lack of innovation caused mainly by the absence of adaptability to change. 

● A bucketful of buggy products and unhappy customers, consequently as a result of continued disregard for quality. 

What are the Benefits of a Disciplined Agile Delivery Framework? 

1. It aligns scrum teams with the rest of the organisation

Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD) combines lean-agile processes and practices with a more structured, formal approach based on a hybrid model. The model promotes a learning environment where teams make quick changes and continuously explore the needs and expectations of their stakeholders.

Implementing DaD practices in a typical organisation may be challenging because of organisational culture and management. However, it has proved to be very beneficial for organisations. This is because when an organisation implements DAD correctly, teams take responsibility for their tasks and stories and the entire organisation benefits. It also aligns scrum teams with the rest of the organisation and enables executives to make better decisions on the workload. 

However, the key to scaling DAD is trust and autonomy. This is because by giving people more independence and making them feel trusted, they are more likely to be engaged and produce better work. And this, in turn, will benefit the business. Happy employees translate to lower turnover rates, higher satisfaction, and higher ROI.


2. Prioritises people as the most critical factor in project success. 

Unlike traditional project management techniques, disciplined agile delivery puts the people behind a project at the top priority list. It focuses on facilitating critical thinking and collaboration to increase the team's chances of meeting deadlines and delivering value.

Developing critical thinking among team members requires effective communication and collaboration. Hence, group training using Agile-based games and exercises is a great way to foster strong team bonds and promote effective communication. 

Moreover, disciplined agile delivery is an enterprise-aware hybrid software process framework. It integrates agile strategies across the entire delivery lifecycle and addresses the complexities of team members. This framework also helps companies implement and scale their agile practices across all project phases, from project initiation to deployment into production. 

Furthermore, with this methodology, groups are organised around passionate volunteers who want to do their best. If employees are not motivated, the project will fail. 

Lastly, when teams are collaborative, they modularise their work, and when the people are motivated, the team can produce higher quality software faster. So a creative team can produce better results than a command and control group.


3. It is scalable 

Carrying out a mere face value comparison of Disciplined Agile Delivery and other alternatives would reveal DaDs as scalable. Rather than adopting agile practices to every level of the organisation, DAD focuses on maximising the benefits of Agile across the product delivery lifecycle - from enterprise architecture to release management to operations and support.

In addition, this framework is highly customisable to adapt to any organisational structure or technology stack. 


Typical DaD life cycles

The DAD framework has six (6) different lifecycles. They are: 

1. The Agile Life Cycle: Majorly a concept of Scrum, it operates using milestones as critical indicators of work and is based on iteration. Work item lists are also used instead of a product backlog, giving completely effective strategies from A-Z. 

2. The Lean Life Cycle: Based on Kanban, the lean life cycle supports the continuous development flow by minimising work and managing bottlenecks encountered in the development process.

Unlike the Agile life cycle, where sprint meetings, plannings and retrospectives are held more frequently, lean recommends having them when necessary. That's not to say it doesn't consider them necessary. And work is taken out of the workpool. 

3. The Continuous Delivery - Agile Life Cycle: Considered a more advanced version of the basic Agile life cycle. It encourages the practice of shorter iterations (one week or less). Development teams develop new features at the end of each iteration.

4. The Continuous Delivery - Lean Life Cycle: It's more or less the basic lean cycle, based on Kanban, but with even shorter iterations. New releases are made on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. 

5. The Exploratory/Lean Startup Life Cycle: Eric Ries, in his book, "The Lean Startup", promotes the principles upon which this lifecycle is based and is further improved for more complex adaptive systems.

It's ideal if you're willing to experiment and evolve your idea based on your learnings. The main goal is to reduce upfront costs so small experiments can discover what the market truly wants before building the solution. 

6. The Program Life Cycle: This life cycle involves organising a team of teams. Suitable for the rare occasions that large agile teams happen. Scaling frameworks like SAFe, LeSS, and Nexus adequately address this situation. 


Final Thoughts

Although software developers created DaD, its applications are limitless, and other types of work can apply its fundamental principles. The constant remains that the delivery of an evolving product by an agile team will require DaD for successful execution, variability and uniqueness of teams notwithstanding. 

From finance teams tasked with daily accounting tasks and auditing over a period to a team of writers jumping on a web content project for a period, teams could employ DaD's agile and lean principles like Scrum and Kanban and function as a self-organising team to plan, construct and deliver work, using feedback loops to adapt as the project approaches "done" status. 


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