Introduction to Disciplined Agile (DA)

The Disciplined Agile (DA) process-decision toolkit provides straightforward guidance to help people, teams, and organizations streamline their processes in a context-sensitive manner, providing a solid foundation for business agility. It does this by showing how the various activities such as Solution Delivery (software development), IT Operations, Enterprise Architecture, Portfolio Management, Security, Finance, Procurement and many others work together. DA also describes what these activities should address, provides a range of options for doing so, and describes the tradeoffs associated with each option.

Our fundamental advice is to start where you are, do the best that you can given the situation that you face, and always try to get better.

This article addresses the following topics:

The Scope of Disciplined Agile

The following diagram depicts the scope of the DA toolkit.

Figure 1. The four layers of the DA toolkit.

DA Scope - Small

The Disciplined Agile (DA) toolkit is organized into four layers:

  1. Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD)
  2. Disciplined DevOps
  3. Disciplined Agile IT (DAIT)
  4. Disciplined Agile Enterprise (DAE)

Layer 1: Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD)

Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD) is a people-first, learning-oriented hybrid agile approach to IT solution delivery. It has a risk-value delivery lifecycle, is goal-driven, is enterprise aware, and is scalable. DAD is the foundational layer of the DA toolkit. It promotes a goal-based, rather than a prescriptive strategy, that enables teams to choose their way of working (WoW). Figure 2 indicates the process goals of DAD. DAD also supports six delivery lifecycles, shown in Figure 3. By providing choices, rather than prescriptions, and by guiding people through those process decisions DAD enables teams to adopt a guided continuous improvement approach to solution delivery.

Figure 2. The process goals of Disciplined Agile Delivery (click to enlarge)Disciplined Agile Delivery process goals

Figure 3. The six DAD lifecycles (click to enlarge)


Layer 2: Disciplined DevOps

Disciplined DevOps is the streamlining of IT solution development and IT operations activities, along with supporting enterprise-IT activities such as Security and Data Management, to provide more effective outcomes to an organization. Disciplined DevOps extends Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD).

Figure 4. The workflow of Disciplined DevOps (click to enlarge)

The workflow of Disciplined DevOps

Layer 3: Disciplined Agile IT (DAIT)

Disciplined Agile IT (DAIT) addresses how to apply agile and lean strategies to all aspects of Information Technology (IT) processes. DAIT extends Disciplined DevOps, which in turn extends Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD).

Figure 5. The workflow of Disciplined Agile IT (click to enlarge).
Disciplined Agile IT workflow

Layer 4: Disciplined Agile Enterprise (DAE)

Disciplined Agile Enterprise (DAE) is able to sense and respond swiftly to changes in the marketplace. It does this through an organizational culture and structure that facilitates change within the context of the situation that it faces. Such organizations require a learning mindset in the mainstream business and underlying lean and agile processes to drive innovation.

Figure 6. The Disciplined Agile (DA) toolkit (click to enlarge)

DAD Poster Horizontal 2-0 

Why is DA a Toolkit and Not a Framework?

Prior to December 2018 we did in fact call Disciplined Agile (DA) a framework. We did this because that was the word that we believed made sense, yet in hindsight it never really did. Where frameworks and methods tend to prescribe what to do, DA focuses on the decisions that you need to consider, the options available to you, and the tradeoffs associated with those options. This is very different than what frameworks/methods tend to do, and we would spend a lot of time describing why DA was different. Then we realized that DA really was different, that it wasn’t a framework, but instead a toolkit of options and some lightweight guidance to help you choose those options.

Why the Name Change?

The scope of the toolkit evolved from how to be effective delivering IT solutions to how to be effective at IT in general and finally how to be effective across the organization. As a result, we felt that the name “Disciplined Agile Delivery” was no longer representative of the goal of the toolkit. “Disciplined Agile” is more accurate.

BUT, many people still say “Disciplined Agile Delivery” and that’s OK.


To date there have been several major release tiers of this framework:

  1. Disciplined Agile Delivery 0.x. DAD was originally developed at IBM Rational from early 2009 to June 2012. The IBM team worked closely with business partners, including Mark Lines, and was led by Scott Ambler. IBM Rational Method Composer (RMC) currently supports an early, 0.5 version of DAD.
  2. Disciplined Agile Delivery 1.x. The DAD 1.0 release occurred in June 2012 with publication of the first DAD book, Disciplined Agile Delivery. Evolution and publication of DAD continued at this site starting in August 2012. Ownership of DAD intellectual property effectively passed over to the Disciplined Agile Consortium in October 2012, a fact which was legally recognized by IBM in June 2014.
  3. Disciplined Agile 2.x. This is the first real version of the toolkit, which was initially released in August 2015. As we described earlier, the focus was on describing a flexible, context-sensitive approach to DevOps and the IT process.
  4. Disciplined Agile 3.x. This version of the toolkit was released in August 2017. The focus of this release is to extend DA to address the full needs of a Disciplined Agile Enterprise (DAE).
  5. Disciplined Agile 4.x. This version of the toolkit was released in December 2018 with the update to the Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD) portion of the toolkit via the book Choose Your WoW!

Having said that, we’re not done yet. We are incrementally releasing the DA material, and support DA practitioners.

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