One of the common complaints with Scrum or similar Agile methodologies is their focus on the smaller team. Agility is often realized within this small team but not at the macro (organization) level. Nexus Scrum takes one good step towards Organizational Agility!
Challenges with Organizational Agility
Here are some challenges that prevent an organization from realizing end-to-end Agility.
- Localized Agility – By their very design, most Agile methods focus on team efficiency. Though it is essential, this solves only a part of the puzzle. Because of this, end customers and external stakeholders don’t appreciate agility
- Dependencies turn into Anti-patterns – Most projects in large organizations are huge. They require multiple teams to work in close coordination and often on the same product. This very dependence often manifest itself as an anti-pattern. Enormous time and effort are spent in fixing problems that arise from this dependency
- Lack of Awareness – Another common problem with multi-team projects is the lack of awareness between the teams. It often happens in an unstructured manner and left to the competency of management layer
With this context, let’s look at Nexus Scrum – an exoskeleton to Scrum in large organizations, involving multiple teams.
Introduction to Nexus Scrum
What is Nexus Scrum?
As per the Nexus Guide v1.1, the framework is suitable for 3-9 Scrum teams and the output is termed “Integrated Increment”.
What does it try to solve?
- Eases integration between multiple scrum teams working on same product backlog
- Identify integration issues early
- Promote cross-scrum-team collaboration
New Roles, Ceremonies, and Artefacts
Following roles are introduced in Nexus Scrum, on top of existing Scrum roles:
- Product Owner – This is not a new role, but an elevated role with a responsibility to maintain the “master” Product Backlog. This backlog serves as an input to multiple Sprint Backlogs
- Scrum Master – Again an elevated role and the responsibility is to coordinate and guide multiple teams
- Integration Team Members – Special developers and testers, who are responsible to facilitate integration of deliveries from multiple teams. As time permits, they may also be part of a single Scrum development team
Together, these three roles constitute the Nexus Integration Team.
In addition, there is One Representative per Scrum Team working closely with the Nexus Integration Team (as we will see later in the workflow).
Additional ceremonies are introduced to help with continuous integration:
- Nexus Sprint Planning – A master planning effort that creates a refined and prioritized backlog for the Sprint. This backlog serves as a source for individual Sprint Backlogs
- Nexus Daily Scrum – A daily standup meeting between the Nexus Integration Team and Scrum Team Representatives to review progress and impediments
- Nexus Sprint Review – A master review activity to validate the integrated increment from multiple teams
- Nexus Sprint Retrospective – Look back at the Nexus Sprint and identify areas of improvement
All these additional ceremonies are chaired by the Nexus Integration Team and attended by Scrum Team Representatives, as needed.
Finally, following artifacts are introduced:
- Nexus Goal – Goals targeted for the current Nexus Sprint
- Nexus Sprint Backlog – Master backlog of everything expected out of the current Nexus Sprint
- Integrated Increment – Integrated and tested deliveries from all participating Scrum Teams
Nexus Scrum Workflow
- Nexus Scrum Workflow starts with refinement of Product Backlog, primarily done by the Nexus Integration Team (NIT)
- Following this, Nexus Sprint Planning is held between NIT and Scrum team representatives. The outcomes are Nexus Goals and Nexus Sprint Backlog
- Scrum teams representatives take their respective subsets and use it as their Sprint Backlog
- Each scrum team works on the Sprint Backlog, using standard Scrum
- Continuous integration is performed on the delivery from each scrum team and facilitated by Integration Team Members (in NIT)
- Nexus Sprint Review reviews the Integrated Increment and provides feedback
- Nexus Sprint Retrospective involve NIT and Scrum Team Representatives with a goal of Continous Improvement
- Individual Scrum Teams still do their Retrospectives, if needed, for internal improvement
Benefits of Nexus Scrum
- Coordinated Delivery – In large projects, deliveries from various teams can get very complex. One advantage of Nexus Scrum is the provision to coordinate these deliveries
- Cross-Team Collaboration – Collaboration can improve between dependent teams who are otherwise isolated and independent
- Centralized Integration – This framework nicely decouples the micro integration efforts to the macro integration. Integration Team that is part of the NIT is competent enough to deliver software that works (almost) flawlessly
- Universal Prioritization – Having a single backlog for multiple teams make sure that everyone uses uniform prioritization for their development. This can prevent a lot of hassles later
No new framework comes without its own set of problems. Here are some potential drawbacks we see with Nexus Scrum.
- Increased Administration – One of the complaints from Lean Software Proponents is the level of administrative work associated with Scrum. With this new framework, this administration increases further
- Varied Project Culture – A beauty of Agile is the ability to tailor for individual team needs. Though Scrum doesn’t encourage a lot of tailoring (unlike Kanban), this framework will further minimize this possibility. Every team is inherently forced to follow the standard!
- Estimation Problems – In line with the previous point, having a universal backlog requires a standard estimation strategy. This causes the teams to be less “empowered” that goes against the basic Agile principles
- Coordination Troubles – Though one purpose is to minimize coordination troubles, with increased administration and integration points, the framework could introduce a few
- Splitting of Nexus Sprint Backlog – This is easier said than done. Unless the teams are highly generalized and stories are absolutely independent, splitting can soon turn into a nightmare
- Integration Struggles – The framework heavily relies on the efficiency of the Integration Team. It is very much possible that the frequent integration could easily go out of control
Our Final Thoughts
- It is a very good “first” step towards Organizational Agility
- One complaint on Scrum being short-sighted could go away if this framework is well implemented
- Though it looks good on paper, there are some serious concerns that could derail the framework
- Increased administration, integration team competency, varied team culture and coordination troubles are few reasons why this might not work
- In short, this framework must be closely watched for its evolution
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You can read more about Nexus Scrum here.