Management | May 25, 2023

Disciplined Agile Delivery: The Agile Software Delivery Framework Explained

Whether it’s an agile, waterfall, or hybrid approach, it’s hard to know which software delivery framework is best to help you meet your organizational goals. 

disciplined agile delivery

If you’re a development team that wants to work Agile but needs a more scalable, structured, goal-driven approach to software development, the Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD) framework may be for you. It takes a people-first approach to delivering working software while providing tools, guidance, and processes that turbocharger the performance of new and maturing development teams. 

Sound interesting, right? By the end of this article, you’ll know whether DAD might be right for you. To help, we’ll dive into the detail of exactly what it is, how the framework, lifecycle, and team roles fit together, and compare it to other popular frameworks such as Scrum and XP. 

Let’s get started!

What is Disciplined Agile Delivery?

Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD, or sometimes referred to as DA for Disciplined Agile) is a people-first, hybrid Agile approach to software delivery and IT project management. 

Based on an agile methodology and with continuous delivery principles in mind, DAD provides development teams with a set of comprehensive, end-to-end delivery lifecycles that streamline processes and guarantee excellent results.

While relatively new to most, it draws on frameworks you’ll already know and may have already used. Specifically, it takes inspiration from XP, Scrum, Agile, and Lean, combining many of those toolkits to create a range of structured, hassle-free, scaled agile frameworks. 

The History of The Framework

DAD was born in one of the most advanced, well-known, and influential tech companies, IBM. Although used in practice since 2009, the framework was introduced to the world by Scott Ambler and Mark Lines in their book ‘Disciplined Agile Delivery: A Practitioner’s Guide to Agile Software Delivery in the Enterprise‘ in 2012.

The first exploratory iteration of DAD as a way of working was focused on providing more structured processes and decision-making governance. By adding structure and governance to DevOps and agile ways of working, teams immediately began to see tangible results with DAD. Over time, the concepts evolved into ‘Disciplined DevOps‘ before going on to become a commonplace framework across the wider software development industry.

Nowadays, the broader methodology of DAD has extended beyond just software development. It is now a common approach to agile delivery in business areas such as finance, procurement, IT infrastructure, and IT strategy development.

The Lifecycle and Phases Explained

One of the best things about the Disciplined Agile Delivery Framework is that it has something for everyone, depending on how you apply it. 

At the highest level, DAD focuses on the entire system lifecycle, providing structure and guidance from project initiation through to the ultimate retirement of a system. 

disciplined agile delivery

Source – Project Management Institue

Below this high-level lifecycle is a wide range of sub-frameworks to choose from. Most of them focus on variations of the key three delivery phases (Inception, Construction, and Transition) as these concentrate on getting working software into the hands of users. Examples of these sub-frameworks include: 

  • Agile Lifecycle. Great for Agile projects, the Agile lifecycle is based on Scrum but extended to cover pre-work such as strategy development and stakeholder alignment.
  • Lean Lifecycle. A Kanban-based lifecycle that’s great for new, lightweight teams that want to combine Kanban, Lean, and Agile principles.
  • CI/CD Agile Lifecycle. Same as number one, but focusing on long-lived, stable product teams.
  • CI/CD Lean Lifecycle. Same as number one, but focusing on long-lived, stable product teams.
  • Lean Startup Lifecycle. Great for teams looking for easily consumable guidance on strategy and efficient delivery in a startup environment.
  • Program Lifecycle. Great for strategic managers focusing on scaling and bringing together a team of teams.
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The Disciplined Agile Delivery Roles – How Does The Team Fit Together? 

Like all agile frameworks, DAD has a set of defined roles that help teams deliver smoothly and effectively.

While DAD doesn’t set out to prescribe exact details to teams, building an agile team that can still self-organize, work collaboratively, and delivers on its stakeholdersrequirements is essential. For that reason, the DAD framework requires the following key roles: 

  1. Stakeholders. Like many other frameworks, in DAD, a stakeholder is defined as someone who can impact or is impacted by the solution being built. Your project will have a variety of stakeholders, from end-users to senior management. The key thing for DAD is identifying your stakeholders early and involving them regularly in your projects. 
  2. Team Member. Team members are those who directly contribute to building the solution, e.g., programming, designing, testing, or planning. Like all Agile teams, team members contribute skills that the team needs, but DAD recognizes (unlike other frameworks) that those skills may not always be in direct development. Like with stakeholders, you’ll have many team members across your project.
  3. Team Lead. Much like a Scrum Master or Agile Coach in other methodologies, the Team lead facilitates and guides the team instead of taking on technical responsibility. The Team Lead should act as a servant leader, continuously looking for ways to optimize team performance, capture agile data that drives improvement, and help remove blockers and issues.
  4. Product Owner. The Product Owner is the one individual on the team that represents the customer, either through or in direct collaboration with the stakeholders. Each DAD team will have a dedicated Product Owner who helps answer questions, manages communication with stakeholders, and champions the team’s work.
  5. Architecture Owner. Where many frameworks fail is that they forget to consider the bigger picture. To overcome this, DAD explicitly includes the Agile Modeling role of the Architecture Owner. The Architecture Owner looks holistically at the system design, the longer-term plans, and the risks to the system and the project. Unlike the other DAD roles, the Architecture Owner can be a dual role and is often held by the Team Lead as they are the most senior and have the most technical knowledge.

Outside of this, there may be several supporting roles, such as Subject Matter Experts, Specialists, Domain Experts, and Independent Testers or Integrators.

Read also: Guide to Scrumban methodology

Disciplined Agile Delivery vs. Scrum vs. XP – Why Might DAD Be Better For You?

As we’ve seen throughout this article, DAD was built on the foundations of other frameworks, such as Scrum and Extreme Programming. 

If you’re currently operating Scrum, XP, or any other agile software development framework, here are some reasons you may choose to transition to Disciplined Agile Delivery. 

  • More Complete Lifecycle: DAD provides you with a complete end-to-end framework and lifecycle covering everything from the solution concept to the eventual retirement. There is where DAD goes beyond Scrum and provides fuller support for your entire software development operation, including strategy design, deployment, and production. 
  • Structure & Adaptability: DAD provides a solid base of structure and support while also building in adaptability to flex for your own business needs. Other Agile methodologies can be very prescriptive, giving delivery teams no freedom to express themselves within their end-to-end process. Thanks to the many options within DAD, such as Disciplined DevOps, Lean Lifecycle, and Program Lifecycle, you can find something that works for you. 
  • Constant Updates. As DAD becomes increasingly popular, new updates, thought leadership, and varieties are being developed, helping you and other users stay ahead of your ever-changing environment. Unlike Scrum, which is set in stone, this allows DAD to remain resilient and modern moving forward.

Read also: Agile Software Development: Extreme Programming (XP) Explained

To Wrap Things Up…

If you’re looking for a way to deliver agile software development while maintaining structure, good governance, and control, the Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD) framework might be for you. Modeled on some of the best and most popular methodologies, such as Scrum and XP, DAD provides everything you and your team need to deliver great results for your business stakeholders. 

At Inetum, we provide all the services necessary to achieve IT excellence in everything you do. Whether it’s disruption, efficiency, or scaling your operation, our team of experts can help you go to the next level by helping you choose, implement, and scale your chosen delivery methodology. 

If you’re looking for some help in your IT organization, why not start by checking out the Inteum Value Proposition

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