What is DSDM Atern?

DSDM Atern is a vendor-independent implementation of the agile project delivery framework Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM). It is a generic approach to agile project management rather than solely focused on software delivery.

DSDM differs from many agile approaches in that it retains a role for a project manager and considers itself compatible with other project management approaches such as PRINCE2 and PMI. The DSDM approach is scalable from small teams to-large scale, across many teams. There are many roles defined, which may be shared or combined.



DSDM phases

The DSDM project process has 6 phases:

  1. Pre-project. Helps start the project correctly and prevents poor projects beginning.
  2. Feasibility. Check the project is technically feasible, and the business case is viable.
  3. Foundations. Teams spend a few weeks establishing the business rationale, the technical solution and approach.
  4. Evolutionary development. Teams build increments of prioritised features in iterations of the system.
  5. Bring the system into operational use.
  6. Post-project. Quantify the benefits delivered by the project.


To get the full benefit of the DSDM framework, teams must adopt a mindset that focuses on the following principles:

  1. Focus on the business need. Make all decisions with the overriding project goal in mind.
  2. Deliver on time. The most critical success factor is on-time delivery.
  3. Collaborate. Collaborative teams always outperform those that don’t.
  4. Never compromise quality. The quality of the system must be good enough.
  5. Build incrementally from firm foundations. Perform sufficient analysis and design upfront.
  6. Develop iteratively. At the end of each iteration, work is reviewed and feedback is received.
  7. Communicate continuously and clearly. The most significant cause of project failure is poor communication.
  8. Demonstrate control. Proactive management of plans to ensure the project remains in control at all times.

Core techniques

At the core of DSDM are a collection of techniques:

  • Timeboxing. Creates motivation and pressure to achieve an objective in a fixed period.
  • MoSCoW prioritisation. Understanding the relative priority of requirements helps the team make progress and hit deadlines.
  • Workshops. Facilitated workshops are a proven practice for driving rapid high-quality decision making and buy-in.
  • Modelling. Models and prototypes help confirm expectations and understanding, which improves communication between the project and stakeholder groups.

Learn more in our BCS Foundation Certificate in Agile.

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