Book Review – Disciplined Agile Delivery

Success of agile methods in small organizations with co-located teams is well-known. But scaling Agile to an enterprise level is a different ball game. It requires a more rigorous  approach than many of the popular agile methodologies .  The rigor is needed especially in the areas like architectural planning, modeling , risk management and  governance. The challenge here is how to bring about this rigor without compromising on Agile values and principles.

Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD) , is  a process  framework  that meets this challenge. It takes a  pragmatic approach that strikes a  right balance between a lightweight, highly people dependent agile method and an  overweight, highly documentation oriented traditional development.

DAD framework is fully described in this book by Scott Ambler and Mark Lines, who are its creators. Hear more about this book from Scott himself:

(If this video does not play view it in You Tube site.)

The authors define Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD) process framework as a people-first, learning-oriented, hybrid, agile approach to IT solution delivery that follows a goal-driven, risk-value life cycle that is  scalable and enterprise aware.

DAD embraces Agile values and principles but differs from other popular agile methods in following areas as described in the book:

  • The authors of DAD, believe that people are primary, but not the only determinant of success. Assembling a good team and letting them loose on the problem at hand has a risk of the team spending considerable effort in developing their own processes and practices that may be not be effective or efficient. To avoid this risk, DAD  provides coherent, non-prescriptive,  process framework  based on learnings of experienced agile practitioners.
  • While core agile methods such as Scrum and XP are generally project focused,  DAD explicitly strives to leverage and enhance the organizational ecosystem in which a team operates. In other words it does not isolate itself from the culture and operational realities and constraints of an enterprise.
  • The DAD process framework extends the construction focused agile lifecycle to address the full delivery lifecycle (i.e from project initiation to final deployment). It recognizes that work emphasis shifts throughout the lifecycle. Therefore it defines three phases with lightweight milestones to ensure that the team is focused on the right things at the right time. Areas of focus include initial visioning, architectural modeling, risk management, and deployment planning.
  • DAD provides guidance on adopting and tailoring strategies from several agile, lean and even  traditional methods to meet the project needs. It clearly makes the practitioner aware of the pros and cons of the choices they make.
  • DAD shifts the focus from producing software to providing complete IT solutions that provide business value to the stakeholders within the economic, cultural, and technical constraints.
  • DAD is more risk focused than other agile methods. It recommends early in the lifecycle, risk reduction practices like getting stakeholder consensus and architecture validation  Also throughout the lifecycle there are explicit checks for continued project viability, development of  sufficient functionality, and production ready solution.
  • DAD also proposes appropriate governance strategies for Agile teams . Many of the agile methodologies are silent about governance. DAD’s governance strategies are not of command-and-control type. They are focused on facilitating collaboration and creation of a learning environment.

I have recommended adoption of DAD to one of my clients and we are working towards implementing this framework it in their organization with the help of this invaluable book. The initial results are quite encouraging.

The book is very well written and systematically organized. The several strategies suggested by DAD are very well summarized in form of tables in every chapters. Besides there is a very illustrative case study that provides an example of how DAD is followed in a software development project.

Highly recommended for anyone who needs a practical and pragmatic advice on first steps towards scaling Agile.

Publication Details:
Authors : Scott Ambler and Mark Lines; Paperback: 544 pages.


Table of Contents
Part 1: Introduction to Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD)
Chapter 1 Disciplined Agile Delivery in a Nutshell
Chapter 2 Introduction to Agile and Lean
Chapter 3 Foundations of Disciplined Agile Delivery
Part 2: People First
Chapter 4 Roles, Rights, and Responsibilities
Chapter 5 Forming Disciplined Agile Delivery Teams
Part 3: Initiating a Disciplined Agile Delivery Project
Chapter 6 The Inception Phase
Chapter 7 Identifying a Project Vision
Chapter 8 Identifying the Initial Scope
Chapter 9 Identifying an Initial Technical Strategy
Chapter 10 Initial Release Planning
Chapter 11 Forming the Work Environment
Chapter 12 Case Study: Inception Phase
Part 4: Building a Consumable Solution Incrementally
Chapter 13 The Construction Phase
Chapter 14 Initiating a Construction Iteration
Chapter 15 A Typical Day of Construction
Chapter 16 Concluding a Construction Iteration
Chapter 17 Case Study: Construction Phase
Part 5: Releasing the Solution
Chapter 18 The Transition Phase
Chapter 19 Case Study: Transition Phase
Part 6: Disciplined Agile Delivery in the Enterprise
Chapter 20 Governing Disciplined Agile Teams
Chapter 21 Got Discipline?

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