Disciplined Agile: DA Definition and all you need to know about it

In this blog, find out all the information you need about Disciplined Agile. See what it is and how it applies to your software development process.


TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. What is Disciplined Agile?
  2. How Disciplined Agile came into being
  3. The Disciplined Agile Manifesto
  4. The DA Mindset - Principles, Promises and Guidelines
  5. Roles on the DAD teams

What is Disciplined Agile?

Disciplined Agile is a toolkit that is designed to make it easy for teams to streamline the internal processes in the team. It helps achieve agility in business and boost commercial success as a result. It is a process-decision toolkit that places individuals at the forefront. The kit offers only light guidance so that teams are able to optimize the various processes based on the needs of each individual project.

It is not to be confused with a framework. Keep in mind that Disciplined agile is a toolkit which focuses on the various decisions that you need to take into consideration, the options that are available to you as well as the trade-offs associated with these options that are available.

The toolkit shows ways in which you can combine strategies used in Scrum, Kanban, SAFe®, XP and other methodologies of development. With the belief that true business agility can be achieved from freedom and not frameworks, Disciplined agile tries to find the best way of combining these various agile approaches. This is done effectively such that these methodologies can be combined in a manner that is both tailorable and scalable. In a few ways, this toolkit is similar to the Crystal method of agile development.

How Disciplined Agile came into being

Disciplined agile was introduced in 2012 in the book Disciplined Agile Delivery. The approach was co-created by Scott Ambler and Mark Lines with the goal of offering an approach which recognizes that every organization functions differently. As mentioned earlier, the approach enables individuals, teams and organizations to modify solutions to fit their needs.

Since the introduction of DA, Scott Ambler and Mark Lines have published five books on the toolkit. They’ve also set up the DA consortium and given strategic consulting and trained people on the DA approach. In 2019, the Project Management Institute Educational Foundation (PMIEF) acquired DA from the co-creators. Before this, DA had more than 12,000 practitioners in 30 countries who were trained in DA and more than 50,000 books on DA had been sold.

The first version of the book was focused more on broad level process decisions in an organization. Post this, newer iterations witnessed the methodology being applied to specific areas of the process. For example, ‘Discipled Agile IT’ or ‘Disciplined DevOps’.

In the present day, the term ‘Disciplined Agile‘ refers broadly to the design of effective processes that apply to all these areas. It addresses all the areas of the solution delivery process, including finance, procurement, architecture, etc.

disciplined agile

The Disciplined Agile Manifesto

The DA manifesto is very similar to the agile manifesto. In brief, the manifesto can be summarized as follows:

  1. Individuals and interactions among them are placed over processes and tools
  2. Solutions that are usable are more important than extensive documentation
  3. Collaboration with the stakeholders is given more importance than negotiation of contracts
  4. Response to feedback and modifications based on the same are placed over a set plan
  5. The manifesto places transparency in the process over false predictability

As you can see, these are roughly the same points that you’d see in the agile manifesto. Other agile frameworks also have a similar set of principles.

The DA Mindset - Principles, Promises and Guidelines

The Disciplined Agile toolkit aims to boost commercial success, create more effective ways of working and optimize workflows. To do this, the toolkit follows a set of principles, promises and guidelines. Here’s a brief summary of the principles. You can find further information on each on the PMIEF website. The promises and the guidelines are also given in detail on the website.

Principles

  1. Delight customers - customers need to be delighted. If your team doesn’t do it, another team will and you’ll end up losing customers.

  2. Be awesome - strive to be the best and always get better at the work assigned.

  3. Context counts - Every challenge is unique and the way of working needs to be selected with care due to this.

  4. Be pragmatic - the aim is to be as effective as possible, and for this, any necessary strategy is to be adopted.

  5. Choice is good - having choices, knowing the tradeoffs associated is necessary to arrive at the best solution for a given situation.

  6. Optimize flow - not just the local way of working, but all the value streams that the development process is a part of and others across the organization need to be optimized.

  7. Organize around products/ services - the team needs to be organized around producing the offerings, products and services that the customers need.

  8. Enterprise awareness - Disciplined Agile requires practitioners to look beyond the needs of the team and take the long-term needs of the organization into account.

Roles on the DAD teams

The roles of people on the DAD teams are divided into primary roles and secondary roles.

  1. Primary roles
    These are the roles that you’d find on the Discipled Agile teams most of the time. They do not depend on the scale of the project.
    The roles that fall under the primary roles are:
    • Team roles such as Team Member, Team Lead, Product Owner and Architecture Owner.
    • Stakeholder.

  2. Supporting roles
    The supporting roles are often temporarily filled to address any issues with scaling.
    Supporting roles are Specialist, Independent Tester, Domain Expert, Technical Expert and Integrator.