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What Is An Epic In Agile

An epic, as the dictionary definition goes, is a long narrative that is usually passed down orally and tells the stories of heroes of yore. An Agile epic is a narrative, too, but talks of a different kind of story—the user stories that make up a product backlog in Agile!  In this blog, you will understand the theme-epic-story development methodology and learn all about Agile epics with an example.  Epic Definition in Agile Scrum MethodologyAn Agile epic is a large chunk of work that is too big to be completed in a single sprint. It is therefore delivered over several sprints and could be worked on by multiple teams who might even be in different locations. Epics help to manage requirements, organize work and create a structure. Themes, Epics and Stories in Agile Development Epics are the building blocks of Agile development. They help to maintain flexibility in the scope and keep evolving over time.  They are broken down into smaller user stories, which are again divided into individual tasks. Epics that revolve around a common goal are grouped together to form a business objective or a theme. As each epic is fleshed out in greater detail—based on the changing requirements and on customer feedback—the team might add user stories or remove them. The following image shows the relationship between themes, epics, user stories and tasks.During a sprint planning event, the team decides how many tasks can be completed during a particular sprint. They then pull the tasks from the product backlog and complete them one by one, and when all the tasks that make up a particular user story are completed, and the predefined acceptance criteria are met, it is marked as ‘done’. Agile epic exampleLet’s understand the creation of an epic with the help of an example. The management of an Ed-tech company has tasked the sales team with filling up a Certified ScrumMaster training session with participants. Unless there is a minimum number of participants, it is not viable to run the session and it will be cancelled, and so the sales team is trying to drive last minute sign ups. Theme:  Get twenty participants for a CSM training session. Epic: Use a targeted email campaign to drive participant signups User Stories: Create codes for discount coupons for the session Create content for emailer Develop creative for emailer Convert text to HTML and add the creative image Send out emails through an automated email marketing tool The epic here—using a targeted email campaign—is a complex story that needs to be broken down into smaller stories that can be easily understood and worked upon by the team.  Let’s break down an epic!An epic, as we have seen, is too large to be handled within a sprint. It is, therefore, broken down into smaller, practical user stories that can be readily understood by everyone on the team, and can be completed within a sprint. When epics are broken down, it helps to create momentum and move the project forward. Different teams have their own approach to breaking down an epic into user stories. Some of the options could be: Time — If a sprint is time-boxed at two weeks, create user stories that can be completed within this time frame, or less. Create a Persona — Think in terms of the person who will be using the product. Using our example of a CSM training course, let’s say we have one set of emails for a returning customer, and one for a new one. “Email template A for returning customer” and “Email template B for new customer” could be two user stories. Stepwise breakdown — Think of breaking down the process that is involved in the epic into a series of steps. A user story can be created for each step. Typically, any body of work that the team thinks cannot be completed in a sprint can be thought of as an epic. How does the Theme-Epic-Story-Task Development Framework benefit the project?No matter how big your project is, learning to manage themes, epics, user stories and tasks is an essential skill. There are many benefits to using this structured approach to Agile development, and they are listed below:  Epics help to understand the high-level requirements Epics help to articulate the overarching requirements from the stakeholders. They also help to define the scope of work that the client is asking for, and the final output that is needed. They establish the hierarchy Epics help to keep the team focused, tracking the overarching goals without getting side-tracked by smaller stories. They maintain perspective and help to keep the team working toward shared goals. They help to make sound decisions Story points are the basic unit of measurement of effort in an agile project. The story points assigned to stories are added up to estimate the effort required to complete an epic and can be used to determine the resource allocation and time required to complete an epic. This helps the team make informed decisions and plan. Epics helps in performance monitoring and capability estimates Over time, teams will learn their own capabilities—the number of story points they can complete in one sprint. As they plan upcoming sprints, they will be in a better position to judge how many epics and stories can be ‘done’ within a given timeframe. More accurate estimates can be created, enabling better monitoring of performances and optimal allocation of resources. Best practices for creating agile epics Epics and stories follow the same format and should be written with a label or title, a narrative or description, and a clear mention of acceptance criteria. Here are the steps that should be followed: Label or title This is a short phrase that is used to refer to the epic Narrative or description This is a short description in simple language that can be easily understood. It is easy to use the standard template: As a (user type) I want to (specify the work) so that (mention benefit). Acceptance criteria It’s important to mention what exactly should be built, in a clear and concise manner. Acceptance criteria are the predetermined requirements or functionalities that should be met in order to mark the epic as completed. Once the epic is created, the next step is to break it down into user stories. A final note Epics are large stories that help to structure the work in an organized manner, maintaining a clear hierarchy in the product backlog without being bogged down by too many details. When broken down into user stories, they drive progress and create momentum in Agile teams. At the same time, epics serve to keep the focus on what really matters — the product vision and goals.   
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What Is An Epic In Agile

Susan May
Blog
19th Aug, 2021
What Is An Epic In Agile

An epic, as the dictionary definition goes, is a long narrative that is usually passed down orally and tells the stories of heroes of yore. An Agile epic is a narrative, too, but talks of a different kind of story—the user stories that make up a product backlog in Agile 

In this blog, you will understand the theme-epic-story development methodology and learn all about Agile epics with an example.  

Epic Definition in Agile Scrum Methodology

An Agile epic is a large chunk of work that is too big to be completed in a single sprint. It is therefore delivered over several sprints and could be worked on by multiple teams who might even be in different locations. Epics help to manage requirements, organize work and create a structure. 

Themes, Epics and Stories in Agile Development 

Epics are the building blocks of Agile development. They help to maintain flexibility in the scope and keep evolving over time.  

They are broken down into smaller user stories, which are again divided into individual tasks. Epics that revolve around a common goal are grouped together to form a business objective or a theme. 

As each epic is fleshed out in greater detail—based on the changing requirements and on customer feedback—the team might add user stories or remove them. 

The following image shows the relationship between themes, epics, user stories and tasks.

During a sprint planning event, the team decides how many tasks can be completed during a particular sprint. They then pull the tasks from the product backlog and complete them one by one, and when all the tasks that make up a particular user story are completed, and the predefined acceptance criteria are met, it is marked as ‘done’. 

Agile epic example

Let’s understand the creation of an epic with the help of an example. 

The management of an Ed-tech company has tasked the sales team with filling up a Certified ScrumMaster training session with participants. Unless there is a minimum number of participants, it is not viable to run the session and it will be cancelled, and so the sales team is trying to drive last minute sign ups. 

Theme:  

Epic: 

  • Use a targeted email campaign to drive participant signups 

User Stories: 

  • Create codes for discount coupons for the session 
  • Create content for emailer 
  • Develop creative for emailer 
  • Convert text to HTML and add the creative image 
  • Send out emails through an automated email marketing tool 

The epic here—using a targeted email campaign—is a complex story that needs to be broken down into smaller stories that can be easily understood and worked upon by the team.  

Let’s break down an epic!

An epic, as we have seen, is too large to be handled within a sprint. It is, therefore, broken down into smaller, practical user stories that can be readily understood by everyone on the team, and can be completed within a sprint. When epics are broken down, it helps to create momentum and move the project forward. 

Different teams have their own approach to breaking down an epic into user stories. Some of the options could be: 

  • Time — If a sprint is time-boxed at two weeks, create user stories that can be completed within this time frame, or less. 
  • Create a Persona — Think in terms of the person who will be using the product. Using our example of a CSM training course, let’s say we have one set of emails for a returning customer, and one for a new one. “Email template A for returning customer” and “Email template B for new customer” could be two user stories. 
  • Stepwise breakdown — Think of breaking down the process that is involved in the epic into a series of steps. A user story can be created for each step. 

Typically, any body of work that the team thinks cannot be completed in a sprint can be thought of as an epic. 

How does the Theme-Epic-Story-Task Development Framework benefit the project?

No matter how big your project is, learning to manage themes, epics, user stories and tasks is an essential skill. There are many benefits to using this structured approach to Agile development, and they are listed below:  

  • Epics help to understand the high-level requirements 

Epics help to articulate the overarching requirements from the stakeholders. They also help to define the scope of work that the client is asking for, and the final output that is needed. 

  • They establish the hierarchy 

Epics help to keep the team focused, tracking the overarching goals without getting side-tracked by smaller stories. They maintain perspective and help to keep the team working toward shared goals. 

  • They help to make sound decisions 

Story points are the basic unit of measurement of effort in an agile project. The story points assigned to stories are added up to estimate the effort required to complete an epic and can be used to determine the resource allocation and time required to complete an epic. This helps the team make informed decisions and plan. 

  • Epics helps in performance monitoring and capability estimates 

Over time, teams will learn their own capabilities—the number of story points they can complete in one sprint. As they plan upcoming sprints, they will be in a better position to judge how many epics and stories can be ‘done’ within a given timeframe. More accurate estimates can be created, enabling better monitoring of performances and optimal allocation of resources. 

Best practices for creating agile epics 

Epics and stories follow the same format and should be written with a label or title, a narrative or description, and a clear mention of acceptance criteria. Here are the steps that should be followed: 

  • Label or title 

This is a short phrase that is used to refer to the epic 

  • Narrative or description 

This is a short description in simple language that can be easily understood. It is easy to use the standard template: 

As a (user type) I want to (specify the work) so that (mention benefit). 

  • Acceptance criteria 

It’s important to mention what exactly should be built, in a clear and concise manner. Acceptance criteria are the predetermined requirements or functionalities that should be met in order to mark the epic as completed. 

  • Once the epic is created, the next step is to break it down into user stories. 

A final note 

Epics are large stories that help to structure the work in an organized manner, maintaining a clear hierarchy in the product backlog without being bogged down by too many details. When broken down into user stories, they drive progress and create momentum in Agile teams. At the same time, epics serve to keep the focus on what really matters — the product vision and goals.   

Susan

Susan May

Writer, Developer, Explorer

Susan is a gamer, internet scholar and an entrepreneur, specialising in Big Data, Hadoop, Web Development and many other technologies. She is the author of several articles published on Zeolearn and KnowledgeHut blogs. She has gained a lot of experience by working as a freelancer and is now working as a trainer. As a developer, she has spoken at various international tech conferences around the globe about Big Data.


Website : https://www.zeolearn.com

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