What is the Dynamic Systems Development Method?

Posted on

September 14, 2014

In one sentence, Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM) is an agile project delivery framework covering all aspects of change delivery from project initiation to benefits realisation.

At the core of DSDM are similar principles and practices to all other agile methods:

  • Breaking business requirements into small components – user stories
  • Prioritising these components according to the business need
  • Delivering, testing and accepting these components in small time windows
  • Delivery through a collaborative team that includes the end users
  • Regular and transparent feedback on both the solution and the process

DSDM adds a number of useful concepts and advantages to the agile body of knowledge specifically:

  • A framework, practices and guidance for getting an agile project started and governed. Proper initiation and governance processes for change are critical for all large organisations and none of the other agile methods recognise this
  • Detailed definitions of the roles in an agile project team which helps people new to agile to transition effectively
  • In particular, DSDM has 3 roles to represent the business which more accurately reflects how most organisations deliver change. This is more nuanced and practical than the Product Owner concept in Scrum
  • More sophisticated prioritisation through the use of MoSCoW guarantees on-time delivery of the Minimum Usable Subset of functionality
  • It embraces business change aspects of a project rather than just focusing on software development and can be used for projects that have no software

Where DSDM typically needs support from other agile methods is in:

  • The detail of software engineering where techniques such as continuous integration, automated testing and code coverage from XP fit smoothly
  • The detail of testing each User Story and Feature (Epic)

For more information on DSDM go to the DSDM Consortium’s website where the full method is available.


I wasn’t expecting to write this blog entry but recent experiences have pointed out to me that many people don’t know what DSDM is and even if they have heard of the term don’t really understand it. This is true even for many at the centre of the agile community who really ought to know better, given that DSDM has been around since 1994, was a founder member of the agile Alliance and an original signatory to the agile manifesto.

The other linked question is “Why is DSDM not better known?”. In my opinion, there are three answers to this question:

  1. The DSDM methodology was, until 2008, only available to paid-up members of the DSDM Consortium so there was an (unnecessary) barrier to adoption
  2. The DSDM Consortium is not as good as marketing as the Scrum Alliance
  3. The Scrum Alliance has the advantage of being based in the US which is the leading market for software development

At Fimatix we use DSDM as the basic framework because it is the only comprehensive end-to-end agile methodology. We understand its strengths and limitations and use other agile techniques to fill gaps.