What is disciplined agile delivery and how does it work?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 14 November 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Disciplined agile delivery, or DAD, is an approach to software development that provides structure and guidance to this process. It provides teams with an increasingly detailed framework for how to implement agile principles, and this methodology consists of three main phases, including planning, execution and delivery. Learning about DAD can help you gain a greater understanding of software development and project management. In this article, we explain what DAD is, look at how it works and review its primary benefits.

What is disciplined agile delivery?

Disciplined agile delivery is a methodology for software development that focuses on delivering incremental software updates, rather than complete projects. Often, project managers use this methodology alongside agile software development, which is an approach to project management that emphasises flexibility, collaboration and responsiveness to change. DAD emphasises the significance of establishing the software's architecture and design before beginning the coding, continuous integration and deployment stages. It encourages developers to work closely with clients throughout the development process, enabling them to gain helpful feedback on what the clients want from the product or service.

This methodology's primary goal is to create a more sustainable workflow where developers avoid focusing on large pieces of work before moving on to other tasks. Instead, they work on smaller tasks that help them achieve their overall goals faster and more efficiently.

Related: Agile project management principles (with values and steps)

How does DAD work?

Here's a list of steps that describe how DAD works:

1. Define the project's scope

The first step of the DAD methodology involves outlining the project's scope. This helps to ensure the team is working towards the correct goals. Typically, this step involves analysing the project's brief, identifying the work to complete, outlining who's responsible for each piece of work and defining the deadlines for each of the project's components.

There are different ways to do this. For example, while some teams choose to use lists or diagrams to complete this step, others may approach this by creating explanatory documents that each team member reviews. This is also a good way of demonstrating to team members the significance of their contribution to the project's success.

Related: Project scope: definition, importance and how to develop it

2. Establish a baseline plan

Businesses often use agile development when multiple teams are working on different projects at the same time. In this scenario, it's necessary for these project teams to communicate with each other so they can update everyone on the project's progress. A baseline plan ensures this communication takes place effectively and efficiently. It allows teams to better allocate resources to avoid wasting time and project funds. Moreover, it helps them to maintain focus on effectively delivering value.

Related: What is a project baseline? (Plus definition and tips)

3. Break down each task

The next step involves breaking down tasks into more manageable pieces of work, as this makes it easier to estimate the amount of time it's likely to take to finish the project. This allows teams to better plan their work and ensure they meet deadlines. Usually, this process involves creating a task hierarchy, starting with high-level abstractions and moving towards more concrete details. This helps teams to understand what their goal is and how to achieve it. It also allows project teams to identify any potential problems before they happen so they make adjustments as needed.

Related: What does an Agile delivery manager do? (With skills info)

4. Prioritise each piece of work

To deliver projects with this methodology, it's then necessary to prioritise each task based on its impact on the overall project. It may be that one piece is incredibly vital to the project's success and needs attending to first, while another piece has a lower priority because it affects the overall project less. Team leads often complete this step by having a discussion with the team and then prioritising each piece of work based on its significance to the whole project.

Related: What is prioritising?

5. Set an initial timeframe estimate for each task

The next step involves creating an initial estimate for each piece of work using any available past data. This helps the development team understand how much work they can accomplish within a given timeframe. Usually, this step involves analysing previous projects and gathering key data points, such as the number of team members working on the project, the overall project size and its complexity. The team leaders then use this information to create a reasonable estimation that considers current conditions. This helps project team members to focus on each task.

Related: What is quantitative data (definition and applications)?

6. Estimate the entire project's timeframe

This methodology's final step involves creating an overall estimate for the entire project based on all the estimated tasks. This allows project leaders to ensure their project plan is realistic. To create an overall estimate for the entire project, it's critical for the project leaders to make sure they understand what each piece of work involves.

For instance, it's necessary to know how long each task is likely to take to finish and whether there are any dependencies between the different pieces of work. Project leaders use these estimates alongside other factors, such as past data on similar projects or cost estimates from vendors or contractors, to help them make informed decisions regarding how to proceed with the project's plan.

DAD benefits

The main benefits of using DAD include:

Increase predictability and control

One of the main benefits of using DAD is that it helps project managers to control a project more effectively and predict its outcome. For example, project teams use this methodology to help ensure the project meets its deadlines by following all the methodology's phases.

This means they can predict how long each phase may take to complete and set clear expectations for when customers can expect to receive completed products, which boosts customer satisfaction rates. DAD also makes sure that all team members have a clear understanding of what they're developing and why so they make more informed decisions about how to progress a project.

Reduce the cost of change and complexity

Using DAD also helps project teams to reduce the cost of change and complexity, as the methodology provides a clear plan for how to progress a project, which helps reduce uncertainty and risk.

When a project team lacks a clear plan for how to proceed, it's more challenging for the team members involved to feel confident about how they can deliver satisfactory results. This may lead to confusion, frustration and wasted efforts when team members try to determine what to do next. With DAD, a project team receives clear goals and guidance on how to meet these objectives, as they're aware of the intended result.

Improve quality, productivity and morale

When it comes to delivering projects, it's critical to have a disciplined process that project teams can repeatedly use to achieve continuous improvements. This allows project teams to get the most out of their resources and deliver projects more quickly. Moreover, it enables these teams to produce higher quality work and reduce their stress levels.

DAD involves using the same processes and tools on every project so teams learn from each other's successes and failures and share their best practices. This is crucial as it can help to reduce rework and waste, which improves productivity and morale as it often results in developing team members' skills.

Related: What is team morale? (Benefits and ways to improve it)

More effective risk management

Using DAD also leads to more effective risk management because it allows organisations to identify, track and mitigate risks before they become an issue. Agile development is a high-velocity approach that promotes collaboration and adaptability. By breaking projects down into smaller and more manageable tasks, project teams can complete their work quickly and identify potential issues earlier in the process. This allows for more frequent feedback from stakeholders and end users, which makes it easier for project teams to respond quickly when changes are necessary. Also, it facilitates inter-team collaboration, which can often improve and streamline processes.

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