Disciplined Agile Delivery, or DAD, is a people-first approach to agile delivery that emphasizes roles over processes in scaling agile. It was created by Scott Ambler and Mark Lines, who published the book Disciplined Agile Delivery in 2012, based on their experiences developing the framework for IBM.
In DAD, the primary team roles—team lead, product owner, team member, architecture owner, and stakeholders—are always present, regardless of size (Disciplined Agile Delivery, 2015). Many of those roles are familiar to project teams. The architecture owner is a unique role that is responsible for solution design decisions (Disciplined Agile Delivery, 2012). Secondary roles include specialists, domain experts, technical experts, independent testers, and integrators. These special roles support scaled solutions as needed, and may otherwise go unfilled.
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While many scaling frameworks focus on how enterprises deliver working software at scale, DAD emphasizes a full delivery lifecycle based on consumable solutions (Ambler, 2013). Consumable solutions include not just the working software, but also documentation and anything else that supports providing value to the customer. DAD’s delivery lifecycle includes the following:
- Inception: Teams develop the project vision and plan the project.
- Construction: Teams incrementally build a consumable solution.
- Transition: Teams release the consumable solution.
In contrast to SAFe, DAD is more goals driven and less prescriptive. The authors argue that a goal-driven approach makes DAD more flexible and easier to scale (Disciplined Agile Delivery, 2015). They recommend that companies scale agile based on what factors deliver the greatest customer value. In other words, by determining what the goals are, companies can choose to scale in a way that supports the goals.
Certification is also available for practitioners, which follows the “shuhari” learning path that is often used in martial arts. Similarly to lean certifications, DAD certifications range from white belt to black belt, as practitioners go from learning the basic concepts to being able to break them in specific situations, and, finally, to being able to teach the same concepts (Disciplined Agile Consortium, 2014).
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Exhibit 3 depicts scaling factors for DAD (MacIsaac, 2012). Based on these scaling factors, it is clear that DAD provides scaling flexibility, making it appealing to smaller- to medium-sized enterprises. Because DAD is still fairly new, its adoption rate is still low; VersionOne’s survey listed DAD usage at 4 percent (VersionOne, 2015). This limited usage means that finding coaching or consulting to help implement DAD may be difficult. Despite the low adoption rate, there are examples of DAD in use; Mark Lines, one of the creators of DAD, has released a case study of how DAD was implemented at Panera Bread by getting senior executive buy-in, using an agile champion, and carefully selecting pilot projects (Lines, 2014) As DAD continues to spread, and more agilists obtain certifications, the framework may see wider use.