What Is ‘Epic’ In Agile?

Epic In Agile

‘Organization’ lies at the center of Product management. Product managers run into the constant problem of ‘What to prioritize, How to create proper hierarchy, and so on. 

Epic has the answers to these questions.

Epics in agile product management are used to create hierarchies and organize tasks in development.

What Is Epic?

Epic is an enormous, vague task that you need to break down for detailed studies. It is used as a part of Scrum and Kanban methodology and in other approaches that use agile workflows.

Now let’s discuss some of its features.

Features

  • Epic tasks can vary from a huge one that requires a few sprints to complete to the smaller tasks that take much less time. 
  • Individuals use these tasks at the beginning of the project to archive a basic structure, and later they can be broken down into details.
  • It is typically not created as an individual task, but it rolls up from many user stories attached or linked to its top bar. 
  • It consists of many user stories, and each usually contains its links. 
  • It is a container for user stories, and they can be estimated together, or each task can represent one story with the exact estimation. That’s how tasks become much easier to decipher
  • Epic can contain any number of user stories relating to the task itself, and it does not need to be one big story. 

Now that we have discussed features let’s see how you can efficiently create an epic. 

Points to Remember While Creating Epic

  • While creating an epic, there should always be User Stories attached to it; otherwise, the Epic will lose its meaning.
  • When developers see a task with one big user story attached that is very uncertain, they should discuss it with the team right away and divide it into smaller user stories.
  • You should also use Epic tasks to estimate complex User Stories, so developers and testers know the effort involved when evaluating stories. 
  • If your Epic becomes too big, it’ll fail to achieve its goal at all. Ensure you define a scope for each Epic and include the time frame you should complete it. For example- You don’t want to spend six months trying to complete a task that really should take three.

We understand as User stories popped up several times in the above pointers, you must be wondering what they are!

Epic in which the large bunch of work is segmented into smaller tasks is called ‘User stories.’ 

User Stories also need acceptance criteria. This criteria usually consists of acceptance events, user-visible conditions, and the conditions that will cause Epic to finish.

A user story describes the tasks of the customer or developer, including functionality not covered by existing functions.

Epics in Agile

A Good User Story will Communicate these Things

  • The objective of the product
  • Who will benefit from using this product
  • Use cases for how the user will accomplish their goals
  • Frequency of use or story points, which is a way to estimate the amount of effort needed to complete the project
  • User stories are often mentioned on index cards. Usually, they are authored from the first-person perspective, as if telling an anecdote. The card should be pretty specific but still very concise.

Epic backlog:

The top priority of the team is to create new features. You must understand how it works with your team and business stakeholders backlog.

The optimal time to work on an epic is two weeks or less so that everyone can understand what they are doing and why it’s essential for the project. 

Agile teams sometimes need to create epics with a longer duration of time, but you must clearly understand it and allocate time accordingly. 

The good idea is to have multidisciplinary teamwork on the epics. You should also look at your existing project or backlog and prioritize to see which tasks are already established. This awareness helps in the better use of resources from an epic creation.

Now that you have read about User stories and Epic backlogs, let’s look at the examples of epic. 

Examples of Epic in Agile:

An example of an epic will be a huge task that is too complex to handle, large amounts of work that needs to be done, or an immense change in business needs.

Where Does The Epic Lies In The Agile And Its Purpose:

‘What good is a concept without purpose.’

It’s essential to understand Epic’s place in the complete agile framework. 

You can implement epic in any phase of the agile framework.

Below are the purposes:

  • An epic facilitates the development team of the enterprise. 
  • Epic is not a functional requirement for the customer. It is vital from the perspective of the team. It allows you to take a holistic view. The user stories within it may contain agile frameworks or other practices that enable you to break down Epic into smaller components. Which indeed allows it to be more manageable.
  • Epic’s main objective is not necessarily customer requirements functionality. But working for the team allows team members to understand it and its context in the project.

How To Create An Agile Epic?

Creating Epic requires and demands systematic planning, and epic must be a priority and have a storyboard. 

It is not just a significant task in an agile sense, but it can also be a series of tasks that bring your customers closer to the product vision

It should prioritize other work items in agile. It means that if someone wants to go on its creation, then this person should get all the resources and priority. 

It is an enormous task that you should break down into small stories; ideally, it will have a storyboard that shows all the steps it takes to complete it. It can create as many stories as needed to take them from start to finish.

Following ways can help in creating effective and yielding Agile epic:

Reporting:

Epic will help you see User stories vividly. Epic brings transparency through reporting.

Culture:

Epic works to help teams collaborate and communicate proficiently because of its design.

Backlog Refinement at Epic scale:

Backlog refinement allows Agile teams to prioritize epic features into user stories better. This process can be done vividly by creating an Epic-sized backlog, refining at the scale.

Product vision:

The product vision helps each team member understand how their work contributes to the overall success of the company’s business model, creating a shared understanding across the organization and creating alignment around what epic stories need to be told now.

Time:

Creating an Agile Epic-sized backlog takes the same time as creating a single small story.

Why is Epic Important?

  • Epic has excellent value because it allocates resources based on your users’ wants. It gives you the ability to work on significant pieces of functionality at any given time. 
  • It lets you create a higher-level roadmap that allows you to see what is coming down the line. It helps you build better products because it’s all about reducing user pain. 
  • It allows you to do this efficiently. So It is a way to make changes effectively.
  • It provides a new level of transparency for teams to know what they can expect.

Epic is ‘epic’ because of the stories it tells, and it has everything you need to get started. It can be used on any scrum team, whether in an agile environment or not. 

How To Break Down An Agile Epic?

Breaking down Epic into more pragmatic stories can help immensely maintain positive momentum and understand the whole project. 

It is essential to break down the story to make sense, not only for development but also for all stakeholders involved.

For example, if your Epic is “I want to go home,” break it down into a system using stories like “when there are no cars near me, I can message all nearby drivers.” 

This breakdown allows you to break the Epic into a more understandable and achievable structure.

It may even break down further: “when I feel like going home” – break it down as “when I press the ‘Go Home’ button.” This categorization allows you to break down what happens behind the scenes and clarify what the user wants to achieve.

Talking about the breakdown of your Epic is also a great way to break the ice with senior stakeholders. 

They will know what you are trying to achieve, and it will give them time to think through what they want out of this feature/epic before you start building it.

Below are some effective ways to do so:

1. Customer persona or role:

Break down an epic by describing the user you are designing for. Ask yourself questions like: “What is their role?” (a customer, an account manager, a member of the support team), what are they trying to achieve?

2. Ordered steps: 

Break Epic down into ordered steps, typically numbered or bulleted lists. It may be helpful to categorize these lists into sets of actions that belong together.

3. Flowchart: 

Create a flowchart with each step as a note and the links between them, showing how they are connected. This structure will give you an end-to-end view of the current Epic from start to finish, from the customer’s point of view.

Agile Tasks Breakdown
Agile Project Breakdown

What Are The Best Practices Creating Agile Epics?

A written Agile epic always helps to eliminate any qualms or unnecessary conflicts.  

Below are a few best practices:

Identify your epic’s primary goal and purpose

Your users want you to get the best results from the project, so start by clearly identifying your Epic’s primary objective and purpose in a single sentence. For example, “Be able to withdraw money from an ATM” tells you that an epic is about withdrawing money from a machine and its primary goal.

Describe how your epic will benefit users

This part of the description should be straightforward to write, as it’s primarily simple logic. Describe all benefits your Epic brings to users and customers. So for the withdrawal example, you can talk about how easy and quick it is now to complete a withdrawal.

Ensure the entire team’s involvement while writing the Agile epic

Some Scrum teams believe it’s to let product owners write their epics, but this isn’t always if you want to make sure your Epic works best for the entire team. Make sure everyone is involved in creating the Agile Epic.

Structure the specs of your epic clearly

The best epics in Agile use a well-structured format. Start with a brief description of the Epic, then talk about how you will roll it out. Then describe each point in your Epic using bullet points for clarity.

Select a proper metric for Epic to track your success

The best way to determine success is by identifying what metric you want to use to track the progress of your Epic. Define this metric before creating your Epic, or else you’ll never know if you hit it throughout completing your Agile Epic.

Make sure that your Epic isn’t too big to achieve

At least make sure you define a scope for each epic and include the time frame in which it should be done. This way, when you create multiple epics, they can work together to complete one overarching goal.

Constantly identify your progress blockers

If you don’t do this, you won’t know why things aren’t getting completed, and your accountability will be vague at best. Remember that it’s easier to fix problems when they first arise instead of years down the road.

Conclusion

As we have seen, Epic plays a significant role in product management, and it promotes better organization.


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After going through this blog, we hope now you understand the meaning, importance, and best practices of Epic in agile.

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