Agile DSDM: Methodology & Project Framework

Instructor: Olga Bugajenko

Olga is a registered PRINCE2 Practitioner and has a master's degree in project management.

Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM) is the oldest Agile project delivery method. In this lesson, you'll learn the main principles of DSDM and the six phases of the DSDM framework.

What Is DSDM?

Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM) is an Agile method incorporating the whole project life-cycle. DSDM philosophy cornerstone is the project alignment with the strategic goals of the organization. The aim of a DSDM project is to meet business needs and deliver real business benefits. DSDM also makes sure that project benefits are clear, the solution is feasible, and solid foundations are in place before a project is started. DSDM is an Agile approach, which allows it to remain flexible and meet changing business requirements. At the same time, it provides the necessary project management and governance mechanisms.

Any project usually has to balance the features and quality requirements with the time and cost constraints of the organization. The traditional project management approach often fixes the features and quality of the project product. In contrast, DSDM methodology fixes the cost, time and quality requirements and instead prioritizes the product features. First, the most important features are developed to an acceptable quality. These are referred to as the Minimal Usable Subset. If time and budget allow, less important features are added to the product. Lastly, the least important features are developed. The prioritization of the features is done using the MoSCoW method, which splits them into four groups: Must haves, Should haves, Could haves and Won't haves. The development process is broken down into fixed duration iterations, called Timeboxes.

Though DSDM is most frequently applied for the software development projects, it is suitable for any industry and any project size. This is because the methodology can be tailored to the organization and implemented in fragments rather than as whole.

DSDM Principles

There are eight DSDM principles:

  1. Focus on the business need: To successfully apply this principle to all project decisions, the DSDM team should understand business priorities and commit to deliver at least the Minimum Usable Subset. A valid business case should be created before the project starts, and continuously supported.
  2. Deliver on time: To make sure that the project is delivered on time, the DSDM team is splitting the work into increments, prioritizing the project requirements and protecting the deadlines. Long-term project goals are delivered on time through the on-time delivery of each increment, or Timebox.
  3. Collaborate: The DSDM teams improve the performance through successful collaboration with the right stakeholders. To ensure effective work, each team member should be empowered to make decisions within his areas of expertise.
  4. Never compromise quality: The desired quality of the project products is agreed on in the beginning of the project by defining the acceptance criteria. Continuous testing, reviews and documentation are crucial for ensuring an acceptable quality level.
  5. Build incrementally from firm foundations: Before significant resources are dedicated to the project delivery, DSDM build a solid understanding of the project requirements and proposed solution. After each project increment, or Timebox, is delivered, the project priorities and viability are re-assessed.
  6. Develop iteratively: The development process is split into iterations, or Timeboxes. A crucial part of every iteration is results demonstration and business feedback. Such approach allows the DSDM team to adjust to the changes in business needs.
  7. Communicate continuously and clearly : DSDM methodology encourages informal communication. The communication needs of the project are fulfilled by the daily stand-up meetings and workshops. Solution prototypes are shared with the stakeholders as early as possible to benefit from the feedback.
  8. Demonstrate control: To make sure that the project remains in control of the project manager, planning and progress tracking are crucial.

The DSDM principles are supported by people, Agile processes, products and best practices.

DSDM Framework

There are six main phases in the DSDM framework:

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