Dynamic systems development method

Model of the DSDM Atern project management method.
Software development
Core activities
Paradigms and models
Methodologies and frameworks
Supporting disciplines
Standards and Bodies of Knowledge

Dynamic systems development method (DSDM) is an agile project delivery framework, initially used as a software development method.[1][2] First released in 1994, DSDM originally sought to provide some discipline to the rapid application development (RAD) method.[3] In later versions the DSDM Agile Project Framework was revised and became a generic approach to project management and solution delivery rather than being focused specifically on software development and code creation[clarification needed][citation needed] and could be used for non-IT projects.[4] The DSDM Agile Project Framework covers a wide range of activities across the whole project lifecycle and includes strong foundations and governance, which set it apart from some other Agile methods.[5] The DSDM Agile Project Framework is an iterative and incremental approach that embraces principles of Agile development, including continuous user/customer involvement.

DSDM fixes cost, quality and time at the outset and uses the MoSCoW prioritisation of scope into musts, shoulds, coulds and will not haves to adjust the project deliverable to meet the stated time constraint. DSDM is one of a number of Agile methods for developing software and non-IT solutions, and it forms a part of the Agile Alliance.

In 2014, DSDM released the latest version of the method in the 'DSDM Agile Project Framework'. At the same time the new DSDM manual recognised the need to operate alongside other frameworks for service delivery (esp. ITIL) PRINCE2, Managing Successful Programmes, and PMI.[6] The previous version (DSDM 4.2) had only contained guidance on how to use DSDM with Extreme Programming.

History of DSDM[]

In the early 1990s, rapid application development (RAD) was spreading across the IT industry. The user interfaces for software applications were moving from the old green screens to the graphical user interfaces that are used today. New application development tools were coming on the market, such as PowerBuilder. These enabled developers to share their proposed solutions much more easily with their customers – prototyping became a reality and the frustrations of the classical, sequential (waterfall) development methods could be put to one side.

However, the RAD movement was very unstructured: there was no commonly agreed definition of a suitable process and many organisations came up with their own definition and approach. Many major corporations were very interested in the possibilities but they were also concerned that they did not lose the level of quality in the end deliverables that free-flow development could give rise to.

The DSDM Consortium was founded in 1994 by an association of vendors and experts in the field of software engineering and was created with the objective of "jointly developing and promoting an independent RAD framework" by combining their best practice experiences. The origins were an event organised by the Butler Group in London. People at that meeting all worked for blue-chip organisations such as British Airways, American Express, Oracle and Logica (other companies such as Data Sciences and Allied Domecq have since been absorbed by other organisations).

In July 2006, DSDM Public Version 4.2[7] was made available for individuals to view and use; however, anyone reselling DSDM must still be a member of the not-for-profit consortium.

In 2014, the DSDM handbook was made available online and public.[8] Additionally, templates for DSDM can be downloaded.[9]

In October 2016 the DSDM Consortium rebranded as the Agile Business Consortium.[10] The Agile Business Consortium is a not-for-profit, vendor-independent organisation which owns and administers the DSDM framework.[11]

DSDM Atern[]

Atern is a vendor-independent approach that recognises that more projects fail because of people problems than technology. Atern’s focus is on helping people to work effectively together to achieve the business goals. Atern is also independent of tools and techniques enabling it to be used in any business and technical environment without tying the business to a particular vendor.[8]


There are eight principles underpinning DSDM Atern.[12] These principles direct the team in the attitude they must take and the mindset they must adopt to deliver consistently.

  1. Focus on the business need
  2. Deliver on time
  3. Collaborate
  4. Never compromise quality
  5. Build incrementally from firm foundations
  6. Develop iteratively
  7. Communicate continuously and clearly
  8. Demonstrate control

Core techniques[]


There are some roles introduced within DSDM environment. It is important that the project members need to be appointed to different roles before they commence the project. Each role has its own responsibility. The roles are:

Critical success factors[]

Within DSDM a number of factors are identified as being of great importance to ensure successful projects.

Comparison to other development frameworks[]

DSDM can be considered as part of a broad range of iterative and incremental development frameworks, especially those supporting agile and object-oriented methods. These include (but are not limited to) Scrum, Extreme Programming (XP), Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD), and Rational Unified Process (RUP).

Like DSDM, these share the following characteristics:

See also[]


  1. ^ Keith Richards, Agile project management: running PRINCE2 projects with DSDM Atern. OGC – Office of Government Commerce. The Stationery Office, 31 jul. 2007.
  2. ^ Plonka, Laura, et al. "UX Design in Agile: A DSDM Case Study." Agile Processes in Software Engineering and Extreme Programming. Springer International Publishing, 2014. 1-15.
  3. ^ Abrahamsson, Pekka, et al. "New directions on agile methods: a comparative analysis." Software Engineering, 2003. Proceedings. 25th International Conference on. Ieee, 2003.
  4. ^ Stapleton, Jennifer (January 2003). Business Focused Development. Pearson Education. p. 113. ISBN 9780321112248.
  5. ^ a b Moran, Alan (March 2015). Managing Agile. Springer. pp. 21–24. ISBN 9783319162614.
  6. ^ The DSDM Agile Project Framework manual, 2014 pages 4, 16
  7. ^ (www.dsdm.org Archived 2016-10-02 at the Wayback Machine)
  8. ^ a b "The DSDM Agile Project Framework (2014 Onwards)". Agile Business Consortium. February 4, 2016.
  9. ^ www.agilebusiness.org https://www.agilebusiness.org/resources/templates-and-tools/atern-template-complete-set. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  10. ^ "Agile's DSDM Consortium evolves into Agile Business Consortium". Press Dispensary.
  11. ^ "Terms and Conditions of Community Membership" (PDF). DSDM Consortium. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
  12. ^ Agile Business Consortium. The DSDM Agile Project Framework (2014 Onwards) Handbook - Principles.

Further reading[]

External links[]