This is the second article discussing two of the leading options for scaling Agile. The first piece discusses Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), and this one reviews Nexus/Nexus+. These frameworks both build on scrum and provide new events and roles to handle the added complexities that are introduced when more resources are added to a project. Cross-team dependencies increase when scaling occurs, which causes communication to be more difficult and workflows harder to manage. Ken Schwaber identifies that successfully scaling agile occurs by reducing dependencies between teams. Frameworks like SAFe and Nexus work to reduce dependencies and improve productivity as groups scale.
Nexus is the scaled agile framework from Scrum.org. It was created by Ken Schwaber in August 2015. Nexus builds on scrum and is designed for 3 to 9 teams working from one product backlog. Each self-organizing team has from 3 to 9 people. The dependencies between teams grows as the number of scrum teams increases. Nexus works to limit these cross-team dependencies by adding processes and a new role to reduce these dependencies. One key for Nexus to be successful is that the teams need to have continuous code integration; teams cannot wait for the end of the sprint to integrate their work.
Nexus+ is for initiatives that require 10 or more teams. It is simply multiple Nexus’ working together to implement a large product. As with Nexus, it is key to work to reduce the dependencies between each Nexus. You will need to build your solution as a loosely couple product and will need to monitor and control the dependencies.
The new role is the Nexus Integration Team (NIT). This team is the servant leader for the scrum teams. They are responsible for ensuring that each sprint produces an Integrated Increment. They are also accountable for handling integration challenges. This team does not do the integration work but they do work to coordinate, coach, identify cross team dependencies, and ensure best practices are followed. The team is composed of a Product Owner, a Scrum Master and members of the Nexus Integration Team. These team members are often resources from the Scrum teams.
Nexus Sprint Backlog – This is a combination of all sprint team backlog items and is used to highlight dependencies and workflow. This backlog is reviewed and updated daily at the Nexus Daily Scrum.
Nexus Goal – This is the goal that all the teams are working toward. It is defined by the team during Nexus sprint planning. The functionality created to achieve this goal is demonstrated at the Nexus Sprint Review.
Integrated Increment – It is the sum of all the integrated work performed by the team. It is reviewed at the Nexus Sprint Review.
The product backlog refinement is a formal process in Nexus. It has two main objectives. One is breakdown product backlog items and determine which team will deliver them. The other identifies cross team dependencies. The backlog is refined before Nexus Sprint Planning so that dependencies are identified and removed or minimized. This refinement is an iterative process and continues through the sprint until the Product Backlog items are ready for the Sprint Planning meeting.
Nexus Sprint Planning
This activity defines the Nexus Goal and all of the sprint team activities for the Sprint. This event occurs before team’s individual Sprint Planning meetings. The Product Owner guides priority decisions, provides domain expertise and helps the team select backlog items. This meeting includes representatives from each team. They look for dependencies and revise the order of the work.
Once the Nexus is understood by all teams then the individual teams conduct their individual Sprint Planning activities. Any new dependencies found during individual planning needs to be shared with the group and worked to minimize their impact.
Nexus Daily Scrum
The Nexus Daily Scrum is conducted daily before the Team Scrums. It has appropriate representatives from each scrum team and focuses on integration/dependency issues. The issues raised at this meeting are then addressed at the Team Scrums.
Nexus Sprint Review
Following the Nexus framework, the individual teams do not perform an individual Sprint review but all teams present the completed integrated increment. This activity looks at everyone’s work not just one team.
The Nexus Retrospective is the inspect and adapt phase of the Nexus. It has three events.
- First is a coordination meeting which includes representatives from each team. They work on looking for challenges faced by more than one team. This information is then passed to the Team Retrospectives.
- Next, are the Team Retrospectives. The individual teams meet to conduct their retrospectives. In addition to working through issues that occurred on a team level and they address the outputs from the Nexus Retrospective.
- Last, the representatives from the individual teams meet to gather and share the learnings on the shared challenges from the team retrospectives. At the discussion, they also determine how to track these issues.
To conclude, here is a High Level Comparison of the SAFe and Nexus Scaling Framewrks;
- Very structured
- Provides structure for overall portfolio management including budgeting
- Establishes relationships with organization entities like PMOs, executive steering committees,
- More complex to implement than Nexus
- Builds on traditional agile management structures
- For example, at the Portfolio level program management has a role with creating epics. At the next level down (Program level) it gives the product management group and release management groups responsibility for delivering features.
- Sets up framework for strategic planning
- High cost to implement
- Less complex than SAFe
- Simply builds on Scrum by adding a new roles and practices
- Faster adoption
- Low cost to implement
- Focuses on delivery and does not provide a specific structure for budgeting like SAFe
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Mike Kushner, MKushner@anexinet.com