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Case Study: Improving Outcomes Through Agile Project Management
Case Study: Improving Outcomes Through Agile Project Management

In This Casestudy

October 2010 | Agile Projects


Download and read the full case study here

Case Study: Improving Outcomes Through Agile Project Management


The Combat Identification Server (CIdS) Technology Demonstrator Project (TDP) has been delivered to time, quality and budget using the Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM®).

This trial application of this method by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) has:

  • demonstrated the suitability of the application to a DE&S project
  • provided lessons for the future application of DSDM
  • shown the effectiveness of the method in achievement of delivery to time, quality and budget.

The CIdS TDP has been funded by the MoD DE&S Tactical Datalinks Delivery Team (TDL DT) and delivered by an industry consortium led by General Dynamics United Kingdom Limited. CIdS is a complex system/software project. The objective is to help clear ‘the fog of war’ by providing a picture in the cockpit of an aircraft of the position of nearby friendly forces on the ground.

The use of DSDM was a bold move, but the project has rapidly delivered successful outcomes for all involved. In the current economic environment, delivering solutions within budget is top priority. Could this approach be the future for project management in the defence sector?

The deployment of CIdS will reduce the probability of mistaken identity in the heat of battle

CIdS TDP – Applying DSDM

Traditionally project management in the defence sector has focused on meeting technical requirements, sometimes at the expense of project duration and cost. In a DSDM project, the performance requirements are expressed as Must, Should, Could and Won’t (this time) or ‘MoSCoW’. In the DSDM model trading out requirements provides the flexibility to ensure on-time and on-cost delivery of an acceptable and fit for purpose solution rather than a perfect one.

In practice, the development of the CIdS capability was divided into increments. Dividing the CIdS project into increments provided checkpoints at which capability could be demonstrated.

Each of these increments was divided into timeboxes. If, in the delivery of any timebox, it was apparent that there was risk to the achievement of the Must requirements, effort was expected to be redeployed from the tradeable Should and Could requirements to assure delivery of Must requirements.

If it became apparent that the Must requirements were in jeopardy, then the timebox and potentially the whole project could have been stopped or re-planned; extension of a timebox is not permissible. This discipline is key in the ‘fail early’ principal of DSDM.

Business and Commercial

From a business perspective the use of DSDM required a significant change in approach to the project.

Traditionally a financial contingency is held, to be called upon if difficulties are encountered in delivering the required project outputs. DSDM renders financial contingency redundant. Instead, the CIdS project requirements were categorised using the MoSCoW approach. Through a trading process during project execution, this technique enabled a few Should and Could requirements to be removed from the project solution to prevent potential cost and schedule overrun, without any customer penalties being incurred.

DSDM is typically applied to software dominated internal change projects within the Information Technology sector. As such, the CIdS project was also seen as breaking new ground commercially through the application of DSDM on a project involving a consortium of companies.


As a result of the unique method of delivering the CIDS project, negotiations had to overcome the impacts of using DSDM. Thankfully we were all learning together! The TDL DT had an initial concern that the consortium would abandon Should and Could requirements at the first opportunity and an incentivisation mechanism was sought. However, this approach contradicted DSDM principles where cost – and hence price – is fixed, with requirement trading offering the project contingency.

During contract negotiation this incentivisation position was relaxed as the TDL DT recognised that the consortium would aim to maximise the delivered capability.

One aspect that required ongoing negotiation through the project was the payment plan. Once the project started, it became apparent that the detailed project schedule that was developed during the initial stages of the project no longer fitted the payment plan that had been agreed prior to contract award. By taking a pragmatic and flexible approach, and recognising that this is the nature of DSDM, TDL DT and industry were able to align programme and payments.

Planning the strategy

The project delivery strategy started with the TDL DT requiring the use of DSDM as the project delivery method.With theoretical, but little practical experience of DSDM, the consortium used an external DSDM expert to guide us through the bid phase.

Before the team launched into detail it needed to put the project into context by focusing on the fundamental project objectives. This was achieved through the collaborative development of a Single Statement of User Need which stated:

“Report blue force track information to authorised requesting entities on demand in the Close Air Support (CAS) mission.”

As the planning progressed, so did the collective understanding of the technique.

A key objective of the DSDM approach is to progressively reduce risk through incrementally delivering a solution. As such, establishing how the technical solution would be elaborated within the DSDM framework was also a key part of the planning the overall strategy for delivery of the CIdS project.

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