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Alan Howard A new RAD-based approach to commercial information systems development: the dynamic system development method

Industrial Management & Data Systems 97/5 [1997] 175–177

directed teams focus on “outcome thinking”. Problem thinking can be negative. Questions like “What’s going wrong?”, “Who made that mistake?” – dwell on problem issues and drain enthusiasm and creativity from pro- jects. Outcome thinking focuses on solutions not problems. The emphasis for everyone is “How can we change this situation for the better?” Self-directed teams take initiative, concentrate on teamwork and work for con- tinuous improvement. They have a “no fault” culture. Problems, difficulties and successes are shared. Self-directed teams are networks not hierarchies. Status differen- tials between team members, where empha- sized, are detrimental to projects. Develop- ment is best undertaken in situations where team members have equal rights to speak, ask questions and propose solutions. The preservation of equality is a complex matter and requires highly developed communica- tion skills. There are four key variables in empowerment: authority, resources, informa- tion and accountability. All four must be present for real empowerment. If any of the four factors are missing or held back by management then empowerment does not work.


DSDM identifies roles that developers and users undertake in projects. Some of the newer roles identified are scribes, visionaries and ambassador users.

Scribes focus on documentation and allow other team members to focus on solutions without being encumbered with the need to make notes.

The visionary is the project champion who is largely responsible for the initial concept and who can advise on overall strategy dur- ing the project.

An ambassador user represents the business area in the DSDM team. Ideally a full-time team membe , they provide the key input to business requirement and design sessions and can answer developer queries quickly and authoritatively as the project progresses.

Suitable DSDM applications

The consortium does not propose that DSDM is a universal panacea for all applications and projects. Its main target is interactive busi- ness systems where functionality is clearly visible at the user interface. DSDM is not recommended for real-time applications or for computationally complex systems. Proto- typing requires a clearly defined user group to be successful. There must also be a high degree of management commitment in terms of secondment and empowerment of users. Suitable projects must be time-critical in order that the benefits of the method can be realized.


The function of information systems depart- ments has changed from running computer systems to providing IT support for business processes. These processes are increasingly subject to rapid change to keep up with mar- kets and to provide competitive advantage. IT support systems must meet this requirement for rapid change. Developers must be focused on meeting their customers’ business requirements in quick and effective ways. In- house software development in particular is rapidly reaching a watershed. Unless IT departments can provide business solutions quickly and cost-effectively users will increasingly turn to off-the-shelf packages and find other ways of obtaining IT solutions.

The DSDM consortium has developed a holistic approach to system development which provides a philosophy and a lifecycle supported by the necessary controls to ensure success. There is some talk of DSDM becom- ing a de facto standard for RAD developments. Interest in DSDM is growing internationally. The method is based on principles and guide- lines, not strict recipes. A full description of the method can be found in the DSDM man- ual published by Tesseract Publishing (UK), ISBN 1 899340 02 5.

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