DSDM is Agile’s Best Kept Secret?

Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM) is one of the many methods that fall under the Agile-umbrella. While this type of methodology is more highly used in the European area of the world, it’s slowly being integrated into more Agile projects over here in the states.

During the recent Agile Business Conference, Keith Richards gave a talk on DSDM and what it means in the Agile community of practice. It is interesting to note that there was a lot of comments regarding Scrum and XP as more product-centric and DSDM as more project-centered.

“There is a need to differentiate between the general term ‘agile’, the phrase ‘agile methods’ and the concept of ‘agile project management.’  In the UK there are only really 3 well known ‘agile methods’ (XP, SCRUM, DSDM). Only DSDM can be used ‘as is’ for projects. Scrum and XP are product delivery techniques they have no concept of ‘a project’ as defined by approaches like PRINCE2.” – Keith Richards

Interesting points here. In summary from Keith’s talk by Elizabeth Harrin:

  • DSDM is different from traditional project management – You agree the time and the cost and then vary the scope accordingly to make sure you hit those targets.
  • DSDM approach to time and budgets makes Agile a very cost-effective – But you run the risk of not getting everything you want from the project first time round.
  • DSDM uses a lot of facilitated workshops to improve communication flow – The people involved in the project and help move things forward quickly.

The benefits?

“Projects deliver on time.  The approach creates ownership.  It’s easier to implement and support solutions.  But it does take some work to get right.  While the method is holistic, you need to be able to apply it in an intelligent way.”

If you’re an Agilist and you haven’t used DSDM-specific methodologies, you may be surprised to know that you probably have. Taking a quick read-through of Wikipedia tells us that DSDM is certainly a robust Agile method.

I’m going to personally be spending some solid time researching this topic a bit more. Anybody have any good books on DSDM out there and care to share in the comments? Let us know!

[HT: PMTips.net]

23 Responses to “DSDM is Agile’s Best Kept Secret?”

  1. Jon
    January 7, 2011 at 9:21 am #

    Hi Peter,

    this little beauty contains all you need to know about agile project management :)



    • peter
      January 7, 2011 at 10:39 am #

      Awesome! Thanks so much for the link!

  2. Toby
    January 7, 2011 at 2:18 pm #

    Hi Peter

    I’m also very interested in DSDM. I’m actually in the process of using it as the basis for the delivery framework for my company where we implement software solutions for customers on a fixed price basis.

    I’m a passionate agilist and come from an XP/Scrum background but wanted something more focused on the full software development lifecycle. I was going down the route of wrapping Scrum/XP with a UP style lifecycle when I came across DSDM. The one problem I came across is the lack of blogs, articles, etc and generally experience out there on the net. Very unlike all the other agile methods.

    So I bought the following and they are a very good source of information:


    However there is also a free online book which is probably the best place to start:


    You just need to register which is free and simple.

    It looks like a really good agile framework that can be adapted to specific needs. Personally I’m looking to adapt it slightly to fit our own context, as any method should be.

    I would be very interested to hear your and anyone else’s opinions. It’s the UK’s best kept secret and needs/deserves more exposure. An active and open community around it for starters, war stories, etc.

    Happy reading!


    • peter
      January 7, 2011 at 3:52 pm #

      Toby, thanks so much for sharing. These are great materials! We’d actually love for you to give the community a bigger perspective on this. Perhaps write or speak on it?

      • Toby
        January 9, 2011 at 4:30 am #

        I would love to share our experiences of DSDM as we progress through rollout however I haven’t had a chance to think much about how best to go about it.

        We’re currently at the process definition stage, deciding exactly how we’re going to use it, the work products for each of the phases, what needs to be adapted, the roles and responsibilities suitable for our context, etc. And how we can incorporate the things I love from Scrum/XP.

        If you read through the documentation you will see that there’s a lot of concepts from Scrum already there: prioritised requirements list is pretty much the same as a product backlog but with MOSCOW prioritisation; development timeboxes are very similar to sprints; end of timebox demos and retrospectives, etc. Seeing as we already use Scrum to develop our software products, this makes a lot of sense for us, e.g. common ways of working across the organisation, shared tools, etc. All wrapped up in carefully thought through and proven agile project management framework.

        I’d be more than happy to share ideas with anyone doing anything similar.

        • Toby
          January 9, 2011 at 4:48 am #

          Oh by the way, in case anyone is confused about the term ‘Atern’ when looking at DSDM in relation to the DSDM version numbering it’s basically a new version. So where you see references to DSDM 4.2, that’s the old version. Effectively DSDM Atern is the 5.0 release. The term ‘Atern’ was adopted as a branding exercise as the numbering scheme was confusing to some. I’m not quite sure how this will progress with future revisions to the framework. Personally I like the idea however I don’t think it’s been communicated very well on their website.

          • Claire Robinson
            January 11, 2011 at 12:26 pm #

            Hi Peter,

            Thanks for the article. You can find lots of free resources on our website: http://www.keithrichardsconsulting.co.uk/site/DSDM_Atern/downloads/ You’ll find a selection of Keith’s latest PowerPoint presentations, a case sudy where DSDM Atern was successfully integrated with PRINCE2 and a whitepaper that Best Management Practice published last year on the subject of integrating DSDM with PRINCE2. You’ll also be able to download Keith’s slides from the Agile Business Conference 2010, where Keith delivered an overview of DSDM Atern (mentioned in your article).

            If you’re looking for more reading material there’s also a book written by Keith Richards (published by TSO) called “Agile Project Management: Running PRINCE2 projects with DSDM Atern”. http://www.tsoshop.co.uk

            Finally, don’t believe everything that’s written about DSDM on Wikipedia – a lot of it is nonsense!

            Hope this helps!

          • peter
            January 11, 2011 at 2:32 pm #

            Thanks a lot for the links! I’ll be sure to check it out.

  3. shad
    March 5, 2011 at 6:26 am #

    hi man i need help with DSDM methodology i need to written a report on small company?

    • peter
      March 5, 2011 at 8:57 am #

      Use those links in the article. Hope it works out!

  4. Paul Boos
    July 7, 2011 at 7:24 am #

    BTW, The handbook (http://www.dsdm.org/atern-handbook/) doesn’t seem to work for me. I get the directory listing and if I choose _index.html I get the front page and the nice page flip at the bottom, but the page doesn’t actually turn. I’m on Chrome…

  5. Paul Boos
    July 7, 2011 at 7:29 am #

    Disregard, I got to it by going through the DSDM.org front door…

  6. David Whelbourn
    September 22, 2011 at 8:09 pm #

    I have been using DSDM since 1997-ish primarily for Rapid Application Development (Agile in its infancy). In 2001 I combined it with PRINCE2 to provide more robust PM methodology. I tailor PRINCE2 to suit the project rather than the other way around.

    Since using DSDM and PRINCE2 I have enjoyed considerable project succes. I find the combination of timeboxing and prioritization using MoSCoW (look it up :-)) has been so good that the newest version of PRINCE2 has adopted prioritization using MoSCoW.

    My advice is get it, use it and learn. (Check out PRINCE2 as well, and develop a tuned, tailored and scaled version for Agile projects)

    • David Whelbourn
      September 22, 2011 at 8:09 pm #

      I forgot to add I’m British and emigrated to Canada in 2005

    • peter
      September 23, 2011 at 9:22 am #

      Thanks so much for the input! Glad to hear that y’all use MoSCoW as well. Some like to use Noriaki Kanos Obj/Subj weighting scales. That can work too.


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