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PMI Acquisition of Digital Agile Delivery (DAD)

You may have heard the announcement that PMI has acquired the Disciplined Agile Delivery Framework (DAD). Here’s the announcement if you haven’t seen it:

PMI Disciplined Agile Announcement

PMI and Disciplined Agile Delivery

What Does The PMI Disciplined Agile Delivery Announcement Mean?

What’s the Impact of This Announcement?

I think this announcement is very significant for a couple of reasons:

  1. From the DAD perspective, it puts a “stamp of approval” and official recognition on the Disciplined Agile Delivery framework
  2. From a PMI perspective, it helps PMI move closer to a more integrated project management approach that embraces Agile as well as traditional plan-driven project management

However, it leaves open a lot of questions about the future direction of this acquisition. A key motivation of both PMI and Disciplined Agile Delivery is probably to increase revenue from training and certifications. An increased emphasis on making the whole approach highly-standardized for training and certifications will likely be difficult to do. An over-emphasis on marketing may take it in the wrong direction.

How Has the Disciplined Agile Delivery Framework Been Expanded?

Over the last few years, the Disciplined Agile Delivery framework has been considerably expanded:

  • The original Disciplined Agile Delivery framework only had a single life-cycle model; the latest version has six.  
  • The original DAD framework was limited to a project-level framework. It has now been expanded to include enterprise-level functionality such as:
    • DevOps
    • IT
    • Agile Enterprise

My Own Thoughts and Opinions on This

Here’s a few of my own thoughts and opinions on this:

This Is Not a “Cookbook” Solution

Applying Agile at an enterprise level is a difficult thing to do. It requires a lot of skill to fit an appropriate approach to the business.  There are two major competitive frameworks that are positioning themselves for this role.  One is DAD, the other is the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe).   Both of those frameworks might lead you to believe that they each have a “cookbook” solution to this problem.   They do not; both of those frameworks only provide guidance and might need a considerable amount of tailoring to fit the business.

My Recommendation: Don’t get lost in the detailed mechanics” of implementing DAD or SAFe . Don’t think that either one is a canned solution to any enterprise-level problem. At least DAD recognizes the need for tailoring to select the right lifecycle model and an appropriate level of enterprise-level extensions.

This Is Only the “First Shoe” to Drop for PMI

PMI has a long way to go to develop a much more fully-integrated project management approach embracing both Agile and traditional plan-driven project management.

  • For a number of years PMI treated Agile and traditional plan-driven project management as separate and independent domains of knowledge.. There was little or no integration between the two
  • The acquisition of Disciplined Agile Delivery is an important step towards developing a more integrated project management approach. Having said that, there is still a large gap that remains to be filled. I observed that the Disciplined Agile Delivery framework does not directly recognize any role for an Agile Project Manager. That’s a major hole that needs to be addressed that has got to be critically important to PMI. There are significant questions such as “What is the message to existing project managers – where do they fit into this model?”

My Recommendation: Stay Tuned for more to come. Developing a more integrated project management approach embracing both Agile and traditional plan-driven project management is very difficult to do. It is not clear how it will evolve. I’m sure that there are some people who might think PMBOK v7 will be the answer to that problem. I don’t think PMBOK will ever be a solution to that problem…here’s an article I wrote on that:

Will PMBOK Ever Be Compatible With Agile?

Disciplined Agile Delivery Doesn’t Go Far Enough

I have enormous respect for Scott Ambler:

  • He has come a long way with the Disciplined Agile Delivery framework over the years. He has recognized the need to fit the framework to the context of the project and business environment
  • Scott has always been willing to share his information with others. I received his permission to reference some of his material in my Mastering Agile Project Management book published in 2015

Having said that, the current DAD framework still has some holes that need to be filled in. Here are a few examples:

Project Management Role

There is no mention at all of how (and if) project management fits in to this framework. To be a true hybrid model, it must provide guidance on how to blend traditional plan-driven project management and Agile. This must be done in the right proportions within the framework.

Missing Life-cycle Model

There seems to be a missing life-cycle model reflecting a more managed hybrid Agile approach. See my Managed Agile Development framework for more information. A pure Agile or Lean approach just won’t work in some environments. Agile contracts are just one example .

Role Definitions

The role definitions need more work. For example, some of the definitions as written apply only to large, complex enterprise-level solutions. Also, the roles that are defined for DAD can’t possibly apply to all life-cycle models. They may be OK for an Agile life-cycle model, but not appropriate for a Lean/Kanban model

Enterprise-level Functions

Much more work needs to be done at an enterprise level to be more competitive with SAFe. DAD is still highly oriented around technical development. It doesn’t go far enough to address some higher-level enterprise functions such as product/project portfolio management and business agility

In conclusion, DAD is an ambitious effort. It attempts to solve a very broad range of enterprise level problems. To truly fill that role, it doesn’t really go far enough.

My Recommendation: Although it doesn’t go as far as I believe it needs to, DAD Is a very useful model. You just have to be aware of its limitations, implement it intelligently, and not try to implement it literally and mechanically.

Related Articles

Vitality Chicago has also published a very insightful article on the acquisition of Disciplined Agile by PMI

The Impact of PMI’s Acquisition of Disciplined Agile

Additional Resources

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