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A DSDM® project starts with a pre-project phase to evaluate the project and decide whether or not to invest on it. The output will be stored in an artifact called the Terms of Reference.

If the decision is made to proceed with the project, the feasibility phase is then run. During this phase, we’ll spend more time on the business, technical, and managerial aspects of the project and create a feasibility assessment artifact, which will be used to decide whether it’s a good idea to go even further.

The next phase is foundations, which puts more effort into the same areas targeted during feasibility to create a foundation for the project (i.e., a high-level plan). The output will be stored in the foundations summary artifact. If needed, this phase can be repeated in the project to refine the foundation.

After creating the foundation, we proceed with the evolutionary development phase. We have many cycles of this phase, and for each, we detail the foundations to create a plan for the cycle, and at the end, create a new increment of the product.

There’s also a deployment phase, which may run with the same frequency as evolutionary development, or a lower one. Each time it’s run, it puts the latest increment into production for the end users. In general, we prefer to have as many deployments as possible, because that makes adaptation easier; however, that can be limited by business requirements, risk of disturbing the users, etc. There’s an optimum deployment ratio that depends on the type of product.

A form of closure is implied in the deployment phase, and therefore, there’s no separate closure phase for the whole project. However, there’s a post-project phase for evaluating the benefits of the project after it’s finished.

DSDM projects are timeboxed, meaning that the whole project ends exactly as defined upfront, and during that time, we try to deliver as much as possible. DSDM® heavily depends on using the MoSCoW prioritization technique to support this method.

MoSCoW stands for the following:

  • (M)ust-have items: Items we must have in the product, because without them the product will be unusable (e.g., security for a banking application).
  • (S)hould-have items: Items we should have in the product as we’d run into problems without them. However, we can have workarounds for those problems (e.g., doing the task manually).
  • (C)ould-have items: Items that would be nice to have and would add value, but whose absence won’t cause problems (e.g., having a dark theme in the banking app).
  • (W)on’t have this time: Items we decide to exclude.

In the beginning, during the feasibility and foundations phases, we create a list of items along with their priorities and order them. The list is called the prioritized requirements list. The items are high-level at the beginning, and we break them down into smaller items as we proceed, especially when detailing the plan for development iterations.

To have enough flexibility in the project, we should have no more than 60% must-have items and no less than 20% could-have items. When estimating the fixed duration of the project,

  • we must have enough time to finish everything in an optimistic way, and yet
  • we should be able to deliver all the must-have items within our most pessimistic estimates.

When working on the project, our progress measurement will be focused on checking how many items we can finish by the end of the project. If, at any time, we forecast that we can’t deliver all the must-have items, we should probably cancel the project, or at least make fundamental changes.

Basically, we guarantee that we’ll deliver all the must-have items, we’ll do our best to deliver all the should-have items, and we’ll see what we can do about the could-have items.

Next: Enriching the Methodology