What is Disciplined Agile Delivery?
Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD) is a framework that provides context-specific guidance, that suits your enterprise needs, to produce high-quality product quicker. It is a hybrid model, which is formed by a collection of the world’s proven Lean-Agile methods such as Scrum, Kanban, XP, Agile Modeling, Unified Process and many more.
How did it come about?
Agile methodologies have proved their mantle in helping companies and enterprises to achieve huge success in the least amount of time. “Fail fast” is the epitome of what agile is based on as people should make mistakes quicker in order to learn.
When it comes to developing software, scrum is an excellent choice. It is a good foundation for the majority of agile processes. But it focuses more on the construction and the development rather than the delivery. These methodologies do not, however, guide on how delivery teams should work with enterprise groups such as enterprise architecture, portfolio management, release management, operations, support, and data management. Thus the methodologies of the scrum teams conflict with the working methodologies of these other elements of the company.
This is where Disciplined Agile Delivery gives the solution. It addresses project delivery from its inception to deliver to its end users by breaking down the barriers between the development and other parts of the organization to bring everything into one single combined effort. It coordinates and aligns the scrum teams with the rest of the organization and their work so that everything remains transparent.
The Structure of the Framework
There are 3 stages of Disciplined Agile Delivery:
In order to fully understand how these three simple stages weave the disciplined agile delivery framework, you would also need to understand the four underlying life cycles that are responsible for making everything work in DAD. These life cycles act as guides to ensure that work is done in an agile way. The teams need to select which cycle suits them. This selection is usually done with the help of an agile coach who also effectively walks them through when to use the chosen cycle.
The four life cycles of development in the Disciplined Agile Delivery Model.
- Agile Delivery Lifecycle: Based on Scrum, it helps in actualizing your goals into a work item list which are divided into short milestones. There is no product backlog. This cycle extends throughout the entire project.
- Lean Lifecycle: A continuous stream of workflow is created that ensures that the processes are minimized and bottlenecks are reduced. Unlike Scrum where you have ceremonies like meeting daily to discuss the progress, the Lean Lifecycle suggests meeting only when necessary. This cycle extends throughout the entire project.
- Continuous Lean and Agile Delivery Lifecycles: Teams deliver frequently and quickly. With timeboxed iterations and practices such as continuous integration, timely delivery is ensured. Focused mainly during the construction stage and the transition stage.
- Exploratory (Lean Startup) Lifecycle: Brainstorming of new and testable solutions that upon feedback from the stakeholders become a part of the original release. This is done before the inception stage and the transition stage.
In the inception stage, the business problem is understood and a technical solution is identified. The Portfolio Management gathers the requirements and defines the features. These features are prioritized in the work item list. Thus the plan to achieve all its goals is made and the vision for the project is established. Finally, the plan is presented to the stakeholders to attain funding.
This phase should not take more than four weeks. A minimalistic approach should be applied when planning rather than confusing and disturbing your focus by giving too much attention to details.
With the plan formulated, the construction phase begins. There are cross-functional teams that are self-organizing and self-managing. They use a hybrid of agile methods such as Scrum, XP, Agile Modeling or any other agile technique that suits them for construction. All team members and their efforts are coordinated. Conventional roles of Team Lead, Product Owner, Enterprise Architect, and stakeholder exist. The project is divided into lightweight milestones to maintain focus with activities like architectural modeling, risk management, deployment, and planning. There are retrospectives, iteration reviews, and demo to stakeholders.
Transition is the final step for Disciplined Agile Delivery. It is when the solution that is made is ready for deployment. Technically, the solutions need to be extensively tested with and the stakeholders also need to be ready to accept the solution. They need to be properly guided and educated about the solution. Once you know that your solution is ready to be deployed, a strategy needs to be planned. Techniques like continuous deployment, micro deployments, toggle release, toggle release, etc.
During the entire span of the Disciplined Agile Delivery, key elements as listed below support the project:
- Program Management
- Release Management
- Product Management
- Enterprise Architecture
- IT Governance
- Continuous Improvement
Disciplined Agile Delivery is suitable for projects of all sizes and nature but best used for small or medium-sized projects. Large projects can be made with DAD but to do so there are many challenges that you have to face such as:
- Working with large teams and their geographical distribution
- Technical constraints and domain limitations
- Organizational distribution
Every enterprise is different. They have their own unique way of working. They are also constantly evolving and there as their requirements are changing, they are learning ways to adapt and evolve. With Disciplined Agile Delivery you have the freedom to adjust and tweak the framework to suit your needs. It does not have a one size fits all approach rather allows you to make choices that are relevant to your context, processes, and goals.
A learning environment that is supported by the foundation of a lean and agile mindset is set for the teams to work. These teams are swift to change, highly motivated, and goal-driven towards achieving their targets whilst knowing all the risks. They continuously explore and identify what the stakeholders need.
The teams own their processes and relentlessly improve their processes at a team and an enterprise level. There is tool learning on how to effectively use the right tools and technologies to deliver quicker as compared to a waterfall or ad hoc approach.
Overall, a discipline is instilled into the entire framework. With that being said, you need to know how to reduce the feedback cycle, deliver solutions incrementally, be goal-driven, aware of the enterprise and adopt agile governance strategies.
To become a certified instructor, coach, or partner for DAD, training, and certifications are offered by the Disciplined Agile Consortium (DAC). It is a certified body that offers training in the disciplined agile framework.
If you’re interested in having a comparative review of program level across popular scaling agile frameworks, click here.