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The AgilePM® certification helps to support people that need to work in an agile environment. The AgilePM guidance was developed by APMG in partnership with the DSDM Consortium. DSDM offers a practical methodology that provides a balance between the standards, rigour and visibility required for good project management, pace, change and empowerment of all project members.

The focus of agile project management is on developing solutions incrementally (bit by bit) which enables project teams to react to changing requirements, encouraging increased collaboration and better ownership with all project members.

Relationship between: DSDM, DSDM Atern and AgilePM

It can get a bit confusing with all the names that appear above:

  • DSDM: This is the original organisation that created the the agile framework. In 2016, the name changed to "Agile Business Consortium" (
  • DSDM Agile Project Framework: This is the latest and and current version of the DSDM Agile Framework
  • AgilePM: Is the name of the Certification from APMG based on the Agile Framework from Agile Business Consortium.


AgilePM (Agile Project Management) acts a guide to manage Agile projects (projects in an Agile way) and it is based on DSDM AgilePF. DSDM (Dynamic Systems Development Method) is the longest-established Agile method, launched in 1995. Atern claims to be the only agile approach that focuses on delivery of projects in an agile way. This may have been true a few years ago but many other agile approaches made available in the last years and especially since the Agile Big Bang (the Agile Manifesto). The agile method has evolved over the years and DSDM Atern is the latest version. DSDM has mostly focused on the corporate environment and claims to have consistently demonstrated its ability to successfully work with and complement existing corporate processes.

The AgilePM handbook contains a subset of the DSDM Atern Handbook. It is focused on the management and delivery of agile projects and is written from a Project Managers point of view so it easier to understand. Some project managers also read the original DSDM Atern Handbook as it provides an in-depth guide and we suggest to this this if you are going to work in a company that is going to use AgilePM. The AgilePM handbook is intended to be used as a general AgilePM and to prepare for the AgilePM exams which are AgilePM Foundational and AgilePM Practitioner. You can visit the website for more information on DSDM. This is free to read and used by individuals and companies. You can see links to other guidebooks, case studies and white papers.


DSDM Atern is an agile project delivery framework that delivers the right solution at the right time. DSDM Atern delivers the right business as:

  • The project team and other important stakeholders are focused on the business outcome
  • Delivery is on time which ensures return on investment (regular deliverables)
  • All people involved with the project work collaboratively
  • Work is prioritized according to business need (high value deliverables)
  • Atern does not compromise on quality: delivered products must be usable

Atern makes use of the knowledge, experience and creativity of end users. It uses an iterative lifecycle to evolve the most appropriate solution to satisfy project objectives and please the end users. Atern breaks the project down into short focused periods of time (timeboxes), each timebox has clearly specified outcomes. Control is exercised throughout by the Project Manager and the team members themselves. Roles are clearly defined and work is divided into Timeboxes with immoveable deadlines and agreed outcomes.

The AgilePM guidance is based on DSDM Agile Project Framework and is underpinned by DSDM's eight principles for effective agile project delivery which are:


Value of AgilePM for the Project Manager

It is now accepted that in many projects, it is not possible for to gather all customer requirements up front, document the requirements in detail, create detailed plans and then work in a dark room until the product is delivered. We call this approach the predictive approach as we try to predict the requirements and planning at the start of the project.

The agile Project Manager requires a different style of management and skills to manage an agile project compared to a traditional predictive project.


The traditional Project Manager (PM) is responsible facilitation the process of elicitation the requirements, creating the detailed plans, handing out work, managing the performance of the team against the plans and checking that the delivered work tested (accepted) and reporting progress. Time, Cost and percentage of completion of work are used to report progress.

Sometimes milestones can be used to identify certain important points in a project plan: e.g. Ready to hand over deliverable to another project, ready to demo a version which includes much needed functionality, investment approval, first benefits results expected, etc…

Project work is often organized into predictive stages (Analysis, Design, Build etc.), with each stage focused on a particular type of work and providing an output to be validated by the completion of the next stage. This is different in a traditional project, where the Project Manager may be very actively involved in directing work and telling the team what needs to be done. This is often referred to a 'Command and control' style or managing a project.

So how does a typical agile project work?

The Agile Project Manager will start by creating a high level plan, based on the known requirements and this will include a high description of the solution to be created during the project. From that point onwards the end product is created iteratively and incrementally, with each increment building on the output of increments preceding it. This is like adding a new layer to an onion each 4 weeks.

To continue the onion analogy, it is important that each new layer (incremental subset) added is properly designed and built and demonstrably meets the needs identified. At the end of each stage, the outcome of that stage, together with the experiences gained, is used to create the detailed plan for the next stage. This is different to some traditional projects where the detailed plans for each step are created by the team members themselves and not by the Project Manager. During each stage the team works in an iterative and incremental style and are in very close collaboration with a representative of the business/customer in order to understand the requirements and to create and validate an evolving solution.

For the Agile Project Manager the “Command and Control” is replaced by a facilitative management style in an Agile project. Good facilitation skills help the Agile Project Manager to empowered the team. In fact, the team members are empowered to make day-to-day decisions about how to achieve their goal. The Project Manager role is focused on ensuring the team have all they need to achieve their goal, only stepping in when an exception is escalated from the team.

The difference between traditional project management and agile project management is the traditional project management is predictable and can be planned in detail (this works for some projects. However Agile projects are adaptive and we are not sure of our destination at the start of a project and need to make adjustments on the way.

AgilePM based on DSDM Atern

There are a number of agile methods and according to DSDM, most of the agile methods provide little or no guidance on how to manage a project in an agile way and Atern from DSDM is different. Atern uses the basic lifecycle of a project and has incorporated an agile management and delivery.

Atern is a framework based on experience from DSDM Consortium members. Atern provides a flexible yet controlled process that can be used to deliver useable products making use of peoples knowledge using such techniques as iterative development and modelling and strict timescales (timeboxes). An Atern project can deliver a working product within three to six months (sometimes even within weeks) so users do not have to wait until the end of the project.

DSDM Atern is not just about IT projects as Atern can be used in business change projects and programmes/ projects with no technology element. e.g. More creative projects. The Atern framework empowers project staff to deliver working products soon and makes use of skills and capabilities.

Related Links

Key: AgilePM0954