Project Management

Disciplined Agile

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This blog contains details about various aspects of PMI's Disciplined Agile (DA) tool kit, including new and upcoming topics.

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Scott Ambler
Glen Little
Mark Lines
Valentin Mocanu
Daniel Gagnon
Michael Richardson
Joshua Barnes
Kashmir Birk
Klaus Boedker
Mike Griffiths

Recent Posts

Disciplined Agile: An Executive's Starting Point

Using Lean Agile Procurement (LAP) in complex procurement situations

Vendor Management in the Disciplined Agile Enterprise

Asset Management: What Types of Assets Might You Manage?

PMI and Disciplined Agile at Agile20Reflect

Viewing Posts by Scott Ambler

Disciplined Agile: An Executive's Starting Point


We used to say that software is eating the world, but the fact is today software is the world. Gone are the days where IT could be treated like a utility, one that more often than not was outsourced in the belief that you needed to focus on your core competencies and IT didn’t make it onto that list. These days being competent at IT is mere table stakes at best, you need to excel at IT if you hope to become an industry leader. Today business executives must focus on disruptors, new competitors entering their market space using technologies in new ways. Becoming an agile business – an adaptive, responsive, and learning organization – is the true goal. Business agility requires true agility across all of your organization, not just software development, not just DevOps, and not just IT. There isn’t a single industry now that either isn’t dominated by agile businesses or isn’t under threat of disruption by new agile competitors.   

The Disciplined Agile (DA) tool kit was created to apply agile in complex enterprise agile implementations. DA has been well received and implemented in organizations around the world. According to Gartner, Disciplined Agile is also the only available agile process explicitly allowing enterprises to customise agile for their unique enterprise challenges at both the organization and project levels.  In their research report, Adopt Disciplined Agile Delivery for a Comprehensive and Scalable Agile IT Approach, Gartner reported: 

Success with agile development is important, but comes in different forms across enterprises. Technical professionals responsible for application development can use Disciplined Agile Delivery to tune agile processes and practices, including SAFe, to their specific needs."

In this article, we address several common questions executives have about Disciplined Agile (DA):

  1. What is DA?
  2. Why should I consider DA?
  3. Where is DA being used?
  4. Are there any DA success stories?
  5. How can we get started?


What is Disciplined Agile (DA)?

The Disciplined Agile (DA) tool kit provides straightforward guidance to help organizations streamline their processes in a context-sensitive manner, providing a solid foundation for business agility. The figure below provides a high-level overview of the scope of DA (click on the diagram to zoom in).

The scope of Disciplined Agile

DA provides a foundation for business agility does this by showing how the various activities such as Finance, Portfolio Management, Solution Delivery (software development), IT Operations, Enterprise Architecture, Vendor Management and many others work together. DA also describes what these activities should address, provides a range of options for doing so, and describes the trade-offs associated with each option.

DA also provides a straightforward strategy for implementing value streams, overviewed in the following diagram (click on it to zoom in).

Value stream workflow

You can read more about DA in Introduction to Disciplined Agile.


Why should I consider Disciplined Agile (DA)?

There are several reasons why your organization should adopt the Disciplined Agile (DA) tool kit:

  1. DA enables you to become a learning organization. Rather than helping you to adopt the “best practices” of a specific agile framework, the DA tool kit instead gives your team the tools they need to learn and to improve their ways of working (WoW). 
  2. DA enables you to increase your rate of process improvement. The DA tool kit provides straightforward guidance for identifying potential improvements that are likely to work in the context that you face, enabling your teams to reduce the number of failed experiments and thereby increase their rate of improvement.
  3. DA supports the entire range of complexities faced by your teams, not just team size. Every person, every team, and every organization is unique. The implication is that you need a tool kit that provides you with choices so that you can tailor, and later evolve, an approach to address the situation that you face in practice. 
  4. DA is agnostic and hybrid. DA adopts pragmatic techniques from a wide range of sources – agile sources, lean sources, and even traditional sources – and does the work of putting them into context so that you don’t have to. 
  5. Support all types of teams, not just software teams. As you saw earlier, there are over twenty process blades/areas within the DA tool kit. Only one of them, Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD), is focused on software development teams.  
  6. Consistent governance across disparate teams. Luckily, it’s not only possible but highly desirable to have a light-weight, lean governance strategy in place. In fact, the DA tool kit builds lean governance strategies into most process blades and has an overarching, enterprise-level process blade called Governance. 
  7. DA is the foundation for business agility. We’ve been talking about teams a lot, but it’s not just about teams. It’s really about how your organization can become more competitive, how it can regularly delight your customers, and how it can continue to evolve and improve over time. It’s really about business agility, and the DA tool kit shows how it all fits together.

You can read more about why you should consider DA at Why Disciplined Agile?


Where is Disciplined Agile (DA) being used?

DA is being used in numerous organizations, in a wide range of industries, around the world.  You can see a list of a subset of the organizations using Disciplined Agile.


Are there any Disciplined Agile (DA) success stories?

Yes. We have published several Disciplined Agile success stories with more on the way.


How can we get started with Disciplined Agile (DA)?

The answer to this question depends on what you're trying to achieve:


Getting personally started with Disciplined Agile

There are several ways that you can learn more about DA, and we recommend following the one(s) that seem best for you:

  1. Online reading. If you want to start with some online reading, then our Start Here article is a great option.
  2. Online eLearning. If you prefer eLearning options, our Basics of DA online course is a nice overview to get you going.
  3. Read a book. If you're looking for a quick read, the Introduction to Disciplined Agile Delivery 2nd Edition is it.  If you'd like a more in-depth understanding of the tool kit, then Choose Your WoW! is recommend (and it's free to PMI members). 
  4. Take some training. We have a variety of instructor led training (ILT) as well as online learning options to choose from, which are important parts of an agile certification journey.


Getting a team started with Disciplined Agile

There are also several options for getting a team going with Disciplined Agile, we recommend considering all three:

  1. Get a few individuals started with DA.  The easiest strategy would be to point them to the options for individuals above. Your goal is to have several people be sufficiently informed about DA so that you can determine if it's right for you.
  2. Get some training. PMI's agile certification journey includes training options for all team members at all levels of agile expertise. 
  3. Hire one or more Disciplined Agile Coach (DAC) or Disciplined Agile Value Stream Consultant (DAVSC). DACs can help you learn how to apply the DA tool kit with teams and across teams to improve their effectiveness.  DAVSCs help you to streamline your value streams so as to enable you to effectively delight your customers.  You can search for people who have earned their DAC accreditation here.


Getting your organization started with Disciplined Agile

Our fundamental advice is to start where you are, do the best that you can given the situation that you face, and always strive to get better.  To succeed, there are three key concepts to understand:

  1. Context counts. Your strategy to get started will vary based on your context - an organization that is new to agile will take a different path than one that has already (mis)adopted an agile framework.  An organization that has successfully adopted agile within their IT department and is now focusing on other parts of their organization will need a different strategy than one that is focusing on the entire organization at once.  As you can see in the following diagram, there are multiple paths that you can take to become a learning organization.
  2. The goal is to become a learning organization. Many organizations hope that adopting an agile framework such as Scrum or SAFe is what they need to do. That may be a good start, but it isn't your real end goal, instead you want to become a learning organization that is capable of evolving and improving beyond the confines of an agile framework/method. When you successfully adopt a framework, you typically find that the framework doesn't address all of the situations that you face. Nor do frameworks offer more than platitudes about how to evolve your WoW beyond what they prescribe, The aim of the DA tool kit is to teach you how to improve effectively, not prescribe one set of "best practices."
  3. There is no quick, easy fix. Improvement is a life-long journey, not a short-term project. To become a learning organization you must adopt a mindset and some tools that enable your people to experiment, learn, and improve.

Although every organization's journey is unique, we have found that at a high-level they all follow a similar 3-step transformation path:

Disciplined Agile Transformation


  1. Align. Fundamentally, you always start where you are. Because every organization is different, you must assess your situation, identify your challenges that you need to overcome, and then select an appropriate improvement path and strategy to journey on that path.
  2. Improve. Follow an improvement strategy that is fit-for-purpose, tailored to address the challenges that your organization faces.  This strategy will evolve over time as challenges are overcome and new challenges appear. The DA strategy is to improve in place, addressing your immediate needs while teaching you the skills and providing the tools to help you evolve into a true learning organization.
  3. Thrive. You will thrive when you've become a learning organization, one that is able to learn from and evolve with their changing environment. One that is focused on improving their way of working (WoW) so that they delight their customers.
Posted by Scott Ambler on: March 26, 2021 05:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Asset Management: What Types of Assets Might You Manage?

Categories: Asset Management

Library shelving

When we think about assets we often think "financial assets" such as money, stocks, bonds, and other financial instruments. But of course there are many more types of assets than just financial ones, particularly when we consider it from the point of view of our organization. 

We are currently in the process of evolve Disciplined Agile (DA)'s Reuse Engineering process blade, which had a very clear software focus to it, into a more robust Asset Management blade.  Part of that effort is to rework the reuse categories, which we had originally adopted from the Enterprise Unified Process (EUP), depicted in Figure 1 into the asset categories of Figure 2.  

Figure 1. Categories of reuse.

Disciplined Agile Reuse Types

Figure 2. Categories of assets.

Asset types - Disciplined Agile

As you can see, we've made several interesting changes:

  1. We've gone far beyond software. There are many different types of assets that can be made available for reuse, not just software.  To be fair, as you can see in Figure 1 we did in fact go beyond software reuse but the focus was still on IT/software-oriented assets.
  2. Introduced the concept of tangible and intangible assets. Tangible assets are things that you can touch, things that are made from atoms.  Intangible assets are concept, made from bits or in some cases stored in neurons.  Asset management needs to address both of these asset classes.
  3. Reduced the number of categories. We went from seven to five categories so as to simplify the overall approach.
  4. Adopted flexible categorizations. We realized that the definition of the categories, in some cases, would vary given your context.  For example, we've indicated that a vehicle might be both a component and a large-scale component. If you're a car rental agency then a vehicle is a  component of your overall fleet.  If you build cars then a vehicle is a large-scale component built from smaller components.

We'd love to hear your feedback, particularly if you have ideas to improve Figure 2.  Looking forward to reading your comments below.

Posted by Scott Ambler on: February 02, 2021 02:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

PMI and Disciplined Agile at Agile20Reflect

Categories: Agile20Reflect


This month, February 2021, marks the 20th Anniversary of the meeting from which the Manifesto for Agile Software Development, or more colloquially the Agile Manifesto, emerged.  To celebrate this, the Agile20Reflect Festival is being held and PMI Chapters around the world are involved.  

Here's what PMI chapters and individual members are doing:




January 31 @ 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm GMT

I'm part of the opening ceremony

The Official Agile20Reflect Opening Party

February 2 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm EST

PMIWDC Fair Lakes

Agile Transformation – People & Culture over everything else

February 3 @ 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm EST

PMI Montreal

Accompagner au bon niveau (Communauté de pratique Disciplined Agile)

February 4 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm EST

PMI Montreal

Progression de carrière en GP – Les certifications Agile et la valeur de la certification DASM

February 4 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm EAT

PMI Kenya

Disciplined Agile- Choose your Wow

February 8 @ 6:00 am - 7:30 am WAT

I'm a panel member

Disciplined Agile; the Evolution of PMI

February 12 @ 5:00 pm - 8:00 pm GMT

PMI's Mark Lines is a panel member

An Agile Manifesto Futurespective

February 12 @ 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm CET

PMI's Mark Lines and myself are in Q&A about DA and business agility

Disciplined Agile Apertif

February 13 @ 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm SAST  

PMI Zambia

Disciplined Agile – Agile Approach to Project Management

February 13 @ 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm PKT 

PMP holder, Ручанова Надежда, is presenter

Design Thinking step by step

February 15 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm EST 

PMI Montreal

L’agilité et son influence des 20 dernières années depuis le Manifeste Agile, où en serons-nous dans 20 ans?​

February 16 @ 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm SMT 

PMI Singapore

“You Had Me At Agile” – An Open Space Event for the Agile20Festival

February 18 @ 5:30 pm - 7:30 pm EST

PMI North Carolina

Disciplined Agile- Agile 20 Celebration North Carolina PMI February Chapter Meeting

February 18 @ 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm CST

PMI Nuevo Leon

Agilidad Empresarial al Estilo WoW​

February 18 @ 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm EST 

PMI Lakeshore, Ontario and PMI Toronto

What is Disciplined Agile and how is PMI bringing this exciting new offering to its PMI Chapter members?

February 20 @ 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm CMT 



Ayudando al crecimiento del equipo con Disciplined Agile​

February 22 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm EST PMI Toronto

Using Disciplined Agile to fill potholes along the highway to Greater Agility

February 22 @ 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm EST PMI Montreal

Accélérer le time-to-value avec DA​

February 24 @ 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm PST PMI Silicon Valley

Lead an Innovative Organization

February 24 @ 7:00 pm - 7:30 pm EST PMI Baltimore

Flash Forward To The Future Using Disciplined Agile

February 25 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm -03 PMI-ACP holder, Cezar Meriguetti, is presenting

Gestão de Portfólio de Projetos multi abordagens

February 25 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm CET PMI Netherlands

Creating Psychological Safety with Disciplined Agile: a Google Case Study

February 25 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm GMT 

PMI certification holders, Dr. Gail Ferreira and Dr. Stefanie Puckett

New Ways of Working the Human Component

February 26 @ 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm CST 

PMI Authorize Training Partner, Ditrats

Disciplined agile y arquitectura empresarial ágil una combinación única​


I've likely missed a couple of events so please add a comment and I'll update as soon as I can.  I hope you're able to attend some of these great sessions.

Also, I checked with the organizers and they've agreed to keep the ability to add an event to Agile20Reflect open until February 28th, so it's not too late!






Posted by Scott Ambler on: January 30, 2021 07:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Update: Scaling Factors of Tactical Agility

Categories: Context, scaling

Scaling Factors Update

We've have recently updated our thinking around the tactical scaling factors that we apply in DA to help understand the context faced by a team or organization. Figure 1 depicts the original scaling factors and Figure 2 the new scaling factors.  Below we discuss what changed and how this can affect anyone taking a Disciplined Agile (DA) certification exam.


Figure 1. The (original) scaling factors of the SDCF.

Scaling factors of the Software Development Context Framework (SDCF).


Figure 2. The scaling factors of the SCF.

Scaling Factors of the Situation Context Framework (SCF)

What's Changed?

The changes we made were motivated by our experiences applying the scaling factors outside of IT teams.  Originally these scaling factors were described by the Software Development Context Framework (SDCF) which we evolved into the Situation Context Framework (SCF) in late 2020.  Here is what has changed:

  1. Renamed Technical Complexity to Solution Complexity so as to generalize the concept.
  2. Added Skill Availability as a scaling factor. 
  3. Reworked the naming of several options for the scaling factors to make the spectrum of choices clearer and more general.


Implications for DA Certification Exams

As you can see in Scaling Factors we have made it clear that the exam will test you for knowledge about the original version for now (in Figure 1) and that when we update the courseware and exam to reflect this update we will let you know. In general our intent is that whenever material on the web gets ahead of what is being tested for that we'll make it clear that this has happened.  More on this in a future blog posting.


Further Reading

  1. The blog posting Choosing Your WoW: The Situation Context Framework (SCF) overviews the SCF in detail, including descriptions of each scaling factor.
  2. The article Scaling Factors provides a good summary of the scaling factors portion of the SCF.
  3. The article Tactical Agility at Scale: Scaling Agile at the Team Level provides a summary for how DA applies the SCF.








Posted by Scott Ambler on: January 19, 2021 03:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

PMI Chapter Opportunity: The Agile20Reflect Festival

#Agile20Reflect banner

February 2021 will be the 20th Anniversary of the meeting from which the Manifesto for Agile Software Development, or more colloquially the Agile Manifesto, emerged.  To celebrate this, the Agile20Reflect Festival will be held around the world during the month of February.  The festival is a collection of agile learning events around the world, where each event is run by a local group such as a PMI chapter. This is a great opportunity for PMI members to learn more about agile, and for PMI Chapters to host an event for their members as part of the festival.

This blog is organized into the following topics:

  1. The events
  2. Potential ideas for an event
  3. How to organize an event
  4. Let's work together


The Events

Good things to know:

  1. You choose the theme of your event. The events and activities are to be focused on the past, present or possible future of agile. I've provided a list of potential ideas below that will hopefully get you thinking about what you can do.
  2. Events are recorded. All events are recorded and those recordings become part of a lasting research data set like Agile Ted Talks. In the future people can use the recordings to self learn and create their own learning paths. Access to the recordings is free for everyone.
  3. The festival organizers really hope PMI chapters will get involved.  They hope that all chapters take part and unlock their creativity to put really interesting creative experiences into the programme.
  4. Keep it local. Hosting events and activities on local languages and culturally appropriate to wherever they are happening.


Potential Ideas for an Event

Here is a list of event ideas that should get you thinking about what your chapter can do:

  1. Disciplined Agile overview.  Your DA Champion has access to standard decks and can present them to your group.  You may also want to reach out to a DA instructor and ask them to present.  See the Let's Work Together section for how to reach out to instructors.
  2. Teach an agile technique. This is particularly well suited for a DA instructor - ask them to run an agile training exercise where they teach a specific agile technique.  Better yet, ask them to teach a specific Disciplined Agile technique that you normally wouldn't learn in commodity agile certification workshops.
  3. Case study presentation. Many chapters have members who work in organizations that have gone through agile transformations, or are in the process of doing so.  Ask them to share their experiences.
  4. Agile project management topics. I can easily see PMI chapters hosting presentations about Agile PMOs, agile project management, agile portfolio management, agile governance, and so on. These are important topics that aren't covered as well as they should be at agile conferences and events.  So here's an opportunity to get the word out.
  5. Agile panel. Panel sessions where people share their experiences adoption agile ways of working, and then answer questions posed by the audience, can be a valuable way to share knowledge.
  6. Open space. Adventurous chapters might want to run an open space event where people suggest topics that they want to talk about and then gather in small groups to do so.  This will require an experienced facilitator to run the session. Perhaps now is the time for your chapter to learn about a new technique, open space, to run learning events.  BTW, open space has been part of the DA tool kit for years.

The above list is just a start. If you have other ideas that you'd like to share, please do so (see below).


How to Organize an Event

This is what I suggest you do:

  1. Reach out to your chapter's DA Champion. This is exactly the type of thing that a DA Champion should take the lead for (we're in the process of reaching out the champions, so hopefully they've heard about this opportunity already). If you don't know who your champion is then ask your chapter leadership.  If your chapter doesn't have a champion yet then work with your chapter leadership to get an event going anyway, and better yet to get a DA champion.  
  2. Reach out to a festival ambassador. There are ambassadors across the world to work locally with groups such as PMI chapters to host events. To find your local ambassador go to the Regional Agile20Reflect Hub list on the festival's home page (it's about half way down the page), select the hub that is applicable to you, and on that page will be the ambassadors for that area of the world.  They're eager to hear from you.
  3. Identify what you'd like to do for your chapter.  We've listed some great ideas above, but you're not limited to what we've suggested.
  4. Weave this into your existing February 2021 schedule.  We appreciate that this is a last minute request and that you very likely already have a lot scheduled for February.  Please try to find room for this as it really is a great opportunity to get involved with the agile community.
  5. Register the event with the festival.  Go to the festival's Add An Event page.
  6. Get the word out to your members. Work with your chapter leadership, they're good at this.
  7. Consider partnering with your local agile user group(s) or nearby chapters.  This may be a great opportunity to make inroads with other groups, and of course to pool your resources.


Let's Work Together

Time is short, so we need to collaborate to make this successful. Let's take advantage of the Disciplined Agile  discussion forum on LinkedIn to collaborate.  Here's how we can use it:

  1. Post ideas for potential events. Please share what you're thinking even if your idea isn't fully baked yet, as I'm sure the community will provide feedback.
  2. Post calls for DA presentations.  There are many people qualified to present about DA, particularly DA instructors, who would love the opportunity to speak at your chapter.
  3. Post offers to present.  If you've got a DA presentation or case study that you'd like to present to a chapter, please volunteer.
  4. Ask questions.  We can help.
Posted by Scott Ambler on: December 16, 2020 10:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (12)

"I've always believed in the adage that the secret of eternal youth is arrested development."

- Alice Roosevelt Longworth