Better Delivery Intergration using Nexus

Better integration and coordination across Agile Release Trains (ARTs) using Nexus Framework - an agile scaling framework.

The Situation

Over the last three years, ZXM agile coaches have supported the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) in standing up Agile Release Trains (ARTs) in multiple branches and programs across the Agency. 

This consistency of approach to transition to scaled agile, has seen these Programs benefit from streamlined delivery, reduced defects and teams working on the same two-week Sprint cadence. It also fostered open communication and
transparency of work being undertaken across each branch.  

With the Enterprise Solutions and Technology (EST) Group shifting to a Product based delivery model in 2019, it highlighted some issues with coordination of integration across ARTs in order  to delivery end to end value stream solutions . Therefore there was a need to find  a way enhance and formalise the co-ordination between delivery teams from different Agile Release Trains (in other branches) in order to collaborate and deliver sizeable initiatives within a single 12-week Product Increment (PI).

The Solution

A Nexus Framework for scaling teams with integration touch points was first piloted by ZXM coaches with one the Agile Release Train in 2018 when they were having issues coordinating internal delivery teams working on related features within the same Train. 

Nexus Scaling Framework

This Nexus framework formalised integration coordination between teams and was shown to successfully foster improved collaboration, communication, and resource sharing within the Nexus groups. 

To improve coordination of dependencies with external teams in different branches, the Nexus model was able to scale to meet this need for end to end integration of delivery for organisation wide product initiatives.

ZXM collaborated with key leadership for one of the major programs and guided the thinking behind the Nexus construct which provided the framework for Product based, cross-train collaboration.

The core aims of the Nexus pilot across delivery areas working in the new product model was to strengthen cross-branch working relationships, break down work silos and integrate working software earlier in the delivery cycle.

Better Integration and Coordination

The Nexus approach to cross-Branch delivery also provided several benefits such as:

  • Earlier identification of integration issues
  • Resource sharing between teams
  • Improved communication and collaboration via Scrum of Scums and combined planning events

The Results

The pilot of the Nexus model across branches was largely considered successful and key benefits such as improved communication and collaboration were immediately evident. 

One of the challenges within the cross branch Nexus pilot was that most of the teams involved were not Agile teams and therefore not in the habit of delivering within a two-week Sprint cycle. This impeded the realisation of some core benefits such as earlier integration of code and identification of issues. Despite this, a second cross branch Nexus has been implemented to co-ordinate the delivery of another key product group for the program of work. 

Next Steps

ZXM is currently working with the Nexus to implement incremental improvements to the cross branch Nexus concept so that EST can derive additional benefits from utilising the Nexus Framework including:

Key agile roles in place
Create strong team-level governance and agile capability
Ensuring all teams involved have an identified Scrum Master and Product Owner.
Alignment of Sprints
Help the whole ecosystem of teams to Sprint together.
Ensuring all teams involved plan and deliver their work on the same two-week cadence (Sprint cycle).
Alignment of Integration Activities
Supporting all teams to continuously integrate to avoid large batch integration downstream
Aiming for all teams to integrate into the same level environment for testing to avoid rework and duplication of effort
Code Integration
Avoiding the bottlenecks associated with downstream integration by a single team
Integrating all teams'  code on a regular basis (at least every two weeks) to test end to end.
Automated Testing
Building capability and planning for automated testing where possible.

These proposed changes will greatly assist the Nexus in achieving the stated goal of integrating working software earlier in the delivery cycle. 

Improved collaboration

Improved collaboration and coordination between delivery areas to deliver end to end value to customers

Earlier identification of issues

Integration issues identified much earlier in delivery reducing downstream identification of defects and rework

Faster delivery

Reduction in handovers between external delivery teams across other branches helped reduce lead time to deliver products end to end

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