Welcome to the Timeline of the Agile Business Consortium (previously the DSDM Consortium). It traces the high points (and some of the low!) of a collaborative organisation that has evolved over nearly 30 years to meet ever-changing needs in business delivery.
From its initial focus on RAD (Rapid Application Development) to the early stages of agile (signing the Agile Manifesto in 2001) to the creation of the world-leading AgilePM product in 2010 and then to Business Agility in 2016, the Consortium has led the way with innovative agile thinking, ideas and products.
You can view the timeline below that provides a summary of key milestones in our history.
The software development world was something of a ‘wild west’, with every technology supplier having their own proprietary method. Something open and independent was needed …….and then there was that ‘Eureka’ moment when the idea for a responsive, vendor-independent software development Method occurred to Ed Holt in the shower!
A meeting in London, coordinated by technology analyst Martin Butler, identified the need for a vendor-independent, responsive and productive way to build software. A member-based Consortium representing both users (corporates) and suppliers of technology was identified as the best way forward and the DSDM Consortium was born (DSDM = Dynamic Systems Development Method). Jennifer Stapleton, Dave Snowden (Data Sciences) and Ed Holt were amongst those ‘leading the charge’ to create the Consortium, and associate Peter Constable was instrumental in supporting the early months of the organisation and method development.
For more on the early years see the interview with Ed Holt in 2014 - Ed Holt on the driving forces behind DSDM on Vimeo
The ‘Technical Work Group’ was led by Jennifer Stapleton (then of Logica), supported by significant input from Keith Rapley (British Airways), Tony Mobbs (Data Sciences), Dai Clegg (Oracle), Paul Taylor (BT), George Hay (CMG) plus technology suppliers IBM (Rational), Sysdeco, Cognos and Select. It was a unique collaboration of competitors that delivered a draft in just 6 months.
Each Working Group member led a stream, for example Tools and Techniques, Controls and Team Structures (which identified key roles and responsibilities). Both the Consortium and the Method were underpinned by a people-based approach but with rigorous controls – it is a philosophy that has endured.
In parallel there was a fast-tracking of Training Organisations, led by Julia Godwin and Jean-Anne Kirk of ICL, where companies such as Sysdeco trained DSDM practitioners; this later developed into the Training Accreditation Panel (which ensured control of what people were learning) and later the important Accredited Training Organisation (ATO) programme which is still in place today.
The Method – and all its subsequent iterations – owed everything to a small band of dedicated folk who voluntarily gave of their time, ideas, effort and commitment to create something the market needed – and (despite some rocky times ahead) proved to have a long and successful future.
To see a full interview with Jennifer: Jennifer Stapleton on the collaboration behind the method on Vimeo
Recognition followed as major organisations mandated DSDM across the board in order to improve their software delivery. Companies in both the private and public sectors, from pharmaceuticals to telecoms started to adopt DSDM. It became the standard process for British Rail’s software delivery, where they were able to offer fixed price contracts, confident that the Method would deliver.
The first project in British Airways’ was delivered on time, to budget, to scope and with a delighted customer, something unheard of hitherto! DSDM was then rolled out widely and its software development productivity improved, shooting them to upper quartile; as part of that adoption Andrew Craddock (a future Technical Director and Chair) discovered DSDM!
A small team in Benelux (led by Ron van Toledo and including Arie van Bennekum and Peter Coesmans, a future Consortium director) created the DSDM Consortium Benelux. They input to version 2 of the Method and ran successful projects in organisations as large and diverse as the Dutch Tax Office, the Dutch Social Security Bank and ABN Amro (which was then the largest DSDM implementation worldwide). Local Trainers and Examiners were trained up and hundreds of Practitioners were certified. Arie was later the Consortium’s representative for the signing of the Agile Manifesto.
In 2002 it was re-branded as the Agile Consortium Benelux and other techniques such as those found in XP (eg pair programming) were introduced. This was a period when the DSDM Consortium and Agile Consortium Benelux diverged but remained close in the sharing of ideas and supported each other’s’ activities such as input to version 4 and conference speaking. Innovation continued and Agile Business ideas such as self-organising teams were introduced early in Benelux. Peter Coesmans went on to work internationally at IPMA and contributed the ‘vortex’ to Agile PfM and subsequently became a director of the Agile Business Consortium.
DSDM was designed as a vendor-independent approach that recognised more projects fail because of people problems rather than technology. DSDM’s focus was on helping people to work effectively together to achieve the business goals. DSDM was, and always has been, independent of tools and techniques enabling it to be used in any business and technical environment without tying the business to a particular vendor. It has been described as ‘packaged common sense’!
Innovation was key and DSDM introduced new techniques to software delivery including MoSCoW (Must, Should, Could and Won’t haves – IP donated by Dai Clegg), prototyping, time-boxing and new roles such as the Business Ambassador. It also introduced integrated testing to the process.
The approval, publication and launch of DSDM version 1 happened in lightening quick time – just one month. The launch was a big affair, hosted by partner IBM and attended by leading lights in the business, technology and media worlds.
DSDM Overview on Vimeo - How Does DSDM Work? | Agile Business Consortium on Vimeo
Projects were already identified to pilot and test version 1 – essential if the Method was to be refined to be workable and of practicable use. Early adopters included British Rail (led by future director Barbara Roberts), British Airways, British Telecom, Allied Domecq (who even provided tots of whisky at one event!), Boston Globe (a transatlantic project with split teams led by Steve Messenger, a future Chair) and Co-op Bank (led by another future Chair, Barry Fazackerley). Feedback from these early projects informed version 2 which was published quickly in September of 1995………… although Jennifer’s summer was lost to the Method!
Version 2 introduced a fundamental tenet of the Consortium – everything is based on real feedback and practicable experience. Getting to version 2 so quickly (by using the Method) was testament to the power of the Method itself.
UCLAN (the University of Central Lancashire) becomes the first University to teach DSDM in an undergraduate degree. It later became the first university to offer a Masters degree in Agile. An undergraduate courses was soon offered by London Guildhall University (by Vic Page, a future Consortium director) and later at Kingston University where both Agile Foundations and an MSc were taught. As a result of this teaching, thousands of students have now entered the workplace with a foundation in both DSDM and agile.
ISO 9001 Certification was a recognised mark of the quality of the Method and gave it important kudos in the corporate market. The important TickIT award was also gained in this period, again reinforcing the credibility of the Method. These certifications demonstrated that DSDM in practice met formal external quality standards.
There was a growing need to create pathways for the professional development of DSDM practitioners. Practical experience was always more important than theory so oral exams which tested that experience was the preferred model. Director of Professional Development, Barbara Roberts, led the work that created the DSDM Practitioner, Trainer and Coach qualifications. An Advanced Practitioner evolved over the years to become the Agile Professional award. As part of the process Examiners were trained and appointed to test the students. Unfortunately the idea to create a Programme Management course was rejected at this time – and it took a further 15 years before that qualification emerged!
Meanwhile in Sweden Per Magnus Skoogh was leading the charge to create local organisations in both Sweden and Denmark, to begin the footprint of DSDM there.
The 1999 DSDM Management committee! Tony Mobbs (Data Sciences/IBM is now Chair) and Barry Fazackerley (a future Chair) is on the committee.
These years saw the publication of a growing range of White Papers, to support the use of DSDM in different domains. Papers were published on a wide range of topics to demonstrate the use of DSDM including Data Warehousing, Outsourcing, Prince 2, the Euro and Component-based Development.
DSDM recognised the benefits of workshop facilitation early on, and led the development of the Certified Professional Facilitator designation which is still in place over 20 years later, run by the International Association of Facilitators. The Consortium was involved in the launch in Edinburgh and delivery to the IAF subsequently in Toronto.
The DSDM Consortium is a Co-signatory with 16 other organisations of the Agile Manifesto for Software Development – and the only one not based in the US. This historic event was held at Snowbird in Utah and the Consortium was represented by Arie van Bennekum from Benelux. Getting a late call up, Arie was travelling for 20 hours before 3 days of work with the others, including Ken Schwaber, Jeff Sutherland (who together created Scrum) and Alistair Cockburn. Arie had to leave promptly because of the risk of avalanches in the valley and got home to find there had been a fire at his house! As he maintains, it was an interesting time but a life-changing event.
The Manifesto has been adopted worldwide and translated into many languages; the authors deliberately decided not to publish a version 2, letting the original stand, though they did gather for a 10 year anniversary in 2011. The creation of the Manifesto led eventually to the formation of the Agile Alliance, another membership body still promoting agile, especially in the IT domain. Being involved in creating and signing the Agile Manifesto gave considerable weight to the Consortium’s place in the wider agile community.
The 12 Principles of the Agile Manifesto were (and still are):
- SATISFY THE CUSTOMER - Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable solutions
- WORK TOGETHER - Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project
- WORKING SOLUTIONS - Working solutions is primary measure of progress
- SIMPLICITY - Simplicity - the art of maximising the amount of work not done - is essential
- WELCOME CHANGE - Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage
- MOTIVATED INDIVIDUALS - Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done
- SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT - Agile process promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely
- SELF- ORGANISING TEAMS - The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organising teams
- DELIVER SOLUTIONS FREQUENTLY - Deliver working solutions frequently from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale
- FACE-TO-FACE CONVERSATION - The most effective and efficient method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation
- CONTINUOUS ATTENTION - Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility
- REFLECT AND ADJUST - At regular intervals the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behaviour accordingly
For more information see Manifesto for Agile Software Development (agilemanifesto.org)
Version 4 represented a significant extension of the Method with two additional lifecycle phases – Initiation (pre-project) and Benefits Realisation (post project). These phases had been introduced by British Airways after successful pilots and they were integrated into the Method – this was another example of collaborative development and the sharing of ideas.
Pekka Abrahamsson authored an academic paper comparing agile software development methods and DSDM came out on top! The author concluded the extent of DSDM, which covered the full project lifecycle, set it above other more limited approaches such as Scrum. To read the paper, visit here.
The Consortium had always held an annual conference for the DSDM membership, but in 2004 it held one of the first conferences worldwide on ‘agile business’ (rather than software development); the feedback was later a driver to opening up the Method to anyone (not just members) and Agile Business became the conference focus for the next 12 years.
The middle years of the 2000s were the ‘tough times’- corporate membership started to decline as some of the original protagonists moved on and cost cutting was rife in IT. Revenue from the annual Conference kept the Consortium afloat but cash flow was very tight and there were fears for the future of the Consortium……Directors were even bringing their own sandwiches for lunch to meetings! But a committed band of members, user organisations and the board felt there was value in DSDM and that it should be kept going – they were correct and it did have a flourishing future, as the rest of the history shows.
The Method had, to date, only been available to members of the Consortium. In a significant move to help drive wider adoption, the Consortium decided to ‘open up’ the Method so that anyone could use it – free to view , free to use. This was a significant move that got the message out there and helped position the Consortium and the Method as something accessible to all, not just members.
DSDM Atern (version 5 of the Method) was published after being piloted at a global aircraft engine manufacturer working under safety-critical regulations. The term ‘Atern’ was formed from the name of the Artic Tern - this bird has a reputation for being highly collaborative and could travel huge distances. It was seen as a good metaphor for the rebranding of the DSDM Method.
The CEO of APMG International, Richard Pharro, had identified a gap in the market for an agile approach to Project Management (complementing their successful Prince 2 offering). After discussions with Consortium Chair Steve Messenger and CEO Mary Henson, APMG and the Consortium developed a close relationship, investing to develop AgilePM as a standalone product.
The agreement allowed APMG to distribute AgilePM in over 160 different territories and was subsequently developed to include other products (eg AgileBA, AgilePgM); this helped the Consortium broaden both its offers and its footprint. It proved to be a far-sighted move, providing APMG with a market-leading product for its examinations, and helping the Consortium with market penetration, revenue and credibility in the Agile PM space….. now over 157,000 Agile PM exams have been taken.
Richard commented “The relationship with the Consortium has always been positive, working in a genuinely open, collaborative and agile way. Agile PM was developed in the spirit of mutual partnership and is a hugely successful product for us both; it continues to be in demand across the world.”
For more information on APMG, see APMG International.
In what would later be seen as a key strategic move, the Consortium uncoupled the Project Management elements of DSDM and published the Agile Project Framework as a method-independent means of running agile projects, although it was underpinned by the DSDM framework. AgilePM was developed (led by Barbara Roberts) to target the Project Management market with a product written from a PM,rather than method, perspective.
Discover more about the Agile Project Management (AgilePM®) certification.
The DSDM Ambassador Programme was created to expand the geographic scope of the Consortium and the Method; with the sponsorship of director Islam Choudhury, the programme created a network of Ambassador across the globe. Ambassadors committed their time voluntarily, working under a Memorandum of Understanding and holding monthly online meetings, making personal connections at the annual Conference. As well as the major European countries - France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Ireland and Poland - the Consortium’s footprint spread to the USA, Australia and as far as China. Demand was strong and success stories included local translations of DSDM publications into French, German and Polish.
In order to build a strong research base for the benefits of agile, the Consortium worked with a number of leading academics and researchers to create ARN. The Agile Research Network (ARN) is a collaboration of researchers from two UK universities at the forefront of investigating agile methodologies.
- The Open University has a strong record of research in the use of agile methods in practice
- The University of Central Lancashire has a stronger teaching focus amongst Undergraduate level (from 1996), a practitioner-focussed Masters programme, and a growing agile research group
The Consortium, as a co-sponsor, funded an initial Research Associate post and subsequently a number of others. The focus of ARN has always been applied research focussing on practical help as well as rigorous academic output. Its research and other papers can be found at https://agileresearchnetwork.org/.
AgilePgM was an initiative driven by Steve Messenger and Jennifer Stapleton who had proposed the idea many years before! It provides a disciplined but flexible agile approach to the management of organizational change – enabling Programme Managers to play a crucial role in ensuring a programme captures its vision.
The qualification covers how to: Help establish flexible agile programmes that respond to business change; Utilise agile methodologies to encourage successful programme delivery; Actively promote trust and close cooperation between stakeholders; Assist an organization in achieving transformational change faster, at lower cost and risk. Discover more about the Agile Programme Management (AgilePgM®) Foundation certification.
AgileBA was driven by Dot Tudor, who was also a director for many years. It was designed to give the Business Analyst the skills needed to successfully gather, analyse, validate and champion the requirements throughout an agile project. It also gives context to the Agile Business Analyst role beyond the individual project, in relation to organisational mission and strategy, providing additional depth and guidance for business analysis in an agile context. For more information see Agile Business Analyst (AgileBA) Foundation certification.
By 2016 it was becoming apparent that agile approaches were needed across the board, not just in IT and software development, so the Board of the Consortium, under the chairmanship of Steve Messenger, made a significant strategic move to broaden its scope. After a 3 month feasibility study at the start of 2016, and an implementation period across the summer, the announcement of the new positioning, name and branding was made at the annual Agile Business Conference.
At the invitation of PM Partners (the local APMG representative) Barbara made the first of three visits to Australia to promote Agile PgM and AgilePM. Her reception was very positive, and a busy week of 18 hour days included presentations to 300+ people at Westpac and then to other major corporations. Subsequent visits in 2017 (to launch Agile PfM) and 2018 reinforced the local relationships and led to thousands of professionals taking the Consortium’s AgilePM and other exams. Additionally longer term impact was created by New South Wales adopting AgilePM in its tertiary curriculum.
A wider foundation was needed to underpin the development of Business Agility so the Consortium, under the guidance of Product Architect Andrew Craddock, began work on the Agile Business Framework. It was important to extend the good knowledge and experience gained in agile projects into an agile approach for business more widely, and a team came together to create the Agile Business Framework.
The model included components for Agile Strategy, Agile Culture, Agile Leadership, Agile Governance and Agile Operations and was developed with input from a much broader range of new Partners. For more information, see What is Business Agility?
This paper published by ARN identified the areas where practitioners said they needed support; as such it sets the agenda for future research – this included Business Agility and so underpinned the Consortium’s move to wider business domains. See the paper here.
The wider Business Agility model needed a broader set of inputs and the Consortium was fortunate to work with domain experts who – in line with Consortium’s ethos - contributed time, ideas and content.
Pioneering development work on Agile Leadership and Agile Culture was led by Katie Taylor and supported by Ed Holt; it owed much to new partners from different organisations making significant contributions in a range of domains:- Mark Buchan, Alan Furlong, Barbara Bird, Rod Willis and Parag Gogate. They worked in a collegiate way bringing multiple perspectives to gain a common understanding which led to the creation of a new and rich set of material – which is still the basis of the Consortium’s Culture and Leadership work.
Steve stepped down after 8 years as Chair, during which period he saw the transformation of the Consortium from one based solely on the Method to multiple products (especially the highly successful AgilePM) and then to wider Business Agility. He recalled “It has been a journey, helping the Consortium become more market-focussed, keeping it solvent and eventually profitable, and all done in a collegiate and collaborative way”.
Agile Portfolio Management provides guidance for the higher levels of an organisation, showing how to keep delivery of initiatives focused on delivering the strategy, as well as ensuring the strategy remains current in a time of constant change.
Agile Portfolio Management provides a light framework of practices, all based on common sense and proven best practices, which can help senior management make sense of the constantly changing pipeline of initiatives calling for budget and resources. Find out more about the Agile Portfolio Management (AgilePfM) handbook.
Agile PfM was first launched to great acclaim in Australia on Barbara’s 2017 trip and then in 2018 in the UK.
AgileDS is aimed at public sector projects and offers the best of two worlds, drawing from the successes of Government Digital Service (GDS) and AgilePM; this training and certification scheme is ideal for project managers working in a digital services environment. Led by then Director Geof Ellingham, the product was a first in the Government digital space. Discover more about the Agile Digital Services (AgileDS®) Foundation and Practitioner certifications.
After extensive research and collaborative working by the Culture and Leadership group, the Consortium developed the 9 Principles of Agile Leadership – these underpin all the subsequent work on agile leadership:
- Actions speak louder than words
- Improved quality of thinking leads to improved outcomes
- Organisations improve through effective feedback
- People require meaning and purpose to make work fulfilling
- Emotion is a foundation to enhanced creativity and innovation
- Leadership lives everywhere in the organisation
- Leaders devolve appropriate power and authority
- Collaborative communities achieve more than individuals
- Great ideas can come from anywhere in the Organisation
For more information and the White Paper see: Culture and Leadership: The Nine Principles of Agile Leadership (agilebusiness.org)
Mary, who was an original member of the Consortium team, celebrated 23 years with the Consortium, the last 17 as CEO. At her retirement she commented “What stands out for me is the degree of collaboration, sharing and effort that so many people have put in over the years. There have been difficult times but the highlights far outweigh them. We have come a long way and done so with commitment – and a lot of good humour.”
A major milestone was reached when the 100,000th candidate passed their AgilePM exam, making it the largest base of qualified Agile Project Managers globally. This had been achieved in just 8 years and was done thanks to the active support and distribution capability of APMG International.
The Consortium recognised early on the importance of culture to business agility, so it worked with its Culture and Leadership partners to define seven elements of agile culture DNA, and developed a free Agile Culture Development Matrix, which describes five levels of agility for each of the seven elements.
Pulse, the agile culture survey, shows you where your team sits for each of the seven elements. Find out more about the The Agile Culture Pulse Survey.
Many organisations have already started working in an Agile way. Typically, Agile is initially introduced at the team level, or at the project and team level. As Agile becomes embedded as “one of the ways we work”, the next step is often to introduce Agile Programme Management, which links projects (both agile and non-agile) and coordinates them to deliver benefits.
This white paper was written jointly by Barbara Roberts (Agile Business Consortium), Michael Young (Australian Institute of Project Management) and Peter Coesmans (International Project Management Association (IPMA) and Agile Business Consortium). Download a copy of the Agile Project Management White Paper.
The Agile Business Consortiums' mission to “advance business agility worldwide” recognises the importance of educating the future workforce and enabling employers to attract and enrich the lives of talented individuals.
Generation Agile is a continuing programme committed to supporting students and young people to become business prepared in a volatile and uncertain world, by using agile skills and harnessing their natural capabilities. The Consortium offers a skills-based learning pathway, educational workshops and a supportive, cross-generational community to engage with.
The Consortium’s future strategy is underpinned by its ambition to be the professional body for Agile Professionals, both project-based and business.
The Agile Business Consortium now describes itself as “an independent professional body dedicated to advancing business agility worldwide in accordance with a defined set of professional standards and a code of practice”.
The Consortium supports its Members through:
- Knowledge Base
- News & Events
- Community Networking
- Career Progression
In keeping with the broader trend to online and ‘bite-sized’ learning, the Consortium invested in an e-learning portal for the online delivery of its new courses. This will provide global reach and help the Consortium reach its worldwide vision.
The partnership with VisionLed Consulting was developed to bring to market the Business Agility Foundation course; this is based on an agile operating framework that enables organisations and teams to respond and adapt to customer and business needs. VisionLed is a training and consulting company based in Singapore, and are certified experts in using the principles and practices of business agility, including their own enabling framework. businessagility.works
In what is a major strategic relationship for the Consortium, the partnership with the Open University (OU) will deliver a range of online agile courses – from introduction to expert - over the coming years, and do so to a global audience.
In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, and taking advantage of new technologies, this virtual event offered hyper-relevant content for agile professionals. 2021 focussed on the future of work, the agile mindset, sustainability & business agility, with 4 days of live events and over 35 speakers.
With Scrum being a dominant technique in the agile world, the Consortium’s refreshed Scrum Master and new Scrum Product Owner certifications (in line with the Scrum Guide 2020 update) help ensure that today and tomorrow's Scrum Professionals are fully equipped for an ever changing business landscape. Discover more about the Scrum Master and Scrum Product Owner certifications.
Delivered through the Consortium’s new ‘e-delivery portal’, the businessagility.works® Foundations certification and online course support the learning requirements of individuals and organizations who want to utilise business agility practices to maximise customer-value quickly, consistently, and sustainably. Find out more about the businessagility.works Foundation certification.
Developed in collaboration with The Open University (OU) this is a new 12-week microcredential to equip managers and leaders with the tools and techniques to navigate complex challenges and environments.
Agile Leadership and Management is hosted on the OU’s leading social learning partner platform, FutureLearn. This microcredential provides a solid foundation and introduction to Agile Leadership and Management, combining research and evidence-based training with good practice principles and tools. The feedback from students is highly positive, talking of the relevance and practicability of the course. Discover more about the OU Agile Leadership and Management Course .
Launched at the 2021 Conference, the new Business Agility Toolkit packages three components:
- An upgraded Pulse Survey / Agile Culture Development Matrix
- the ‘getCollaborating’ tool (from collaboration partner Assentire) and
- an Agile Leadership Profiling tool (built on pioneering work from the Agile Consortium Benelux).
This successful delivery was another collaborative effort between partner Rod Willis and Consortium HQ staff members, Sophie and Maher. For more information see link