If you have been a part of the project management paradigm for a long time now then you would probably know about the divide and conquer strategy that is deeply embedded in the blueprints of the agile project management methodology.
This strategy is amazing when it comes to tackling large projects and is even perfect to complete small projects. So, when we talk about Agile Epics, we are actually talking about the body of work that can be broken down into smaller more specific work tasks called user stories.
Let’s discuss them a bit in detail.
What are Agile Epics?
As we discussed earlier, an agile epic is a strategic body of work that is broken down into specific tasks called user stories based on the needs and requirements of the customers associated with the project or product, or the end-users using the product.
They are the absolute favorites of the agile project development teams and the DevOps teams that have to work on extensive projects with numerous elements attached to them.
One of the best things about epics is that they are a great way to organize all of your work activities and classify them into the correct hierarchy so that everything gets done according to the strategy that you put in place for maximum productivity, performance, and overall benefit.
The idea with agile epics is that you basically break down the whole mega project into small shippable pieces so that these megaprojects can be worked on and you can continue to ship value to all of your customers without any obstacles or delays.
Agile Epics in a Complete Agile Program
One important thing related to agile epics that you need to keep in mind is that it should always provide complete information regarding the project to the project development team. This will help make sure that they have everything they need to make you and your company successful.
However, you need to first understand the internal relation between agile epics and the other elements that are quite important in the structure of the overall agile project development process, in the context of daily dev work of course.
Here are some things that you need to keep in mind regarding agile epics and the overall agile project development elements.
- A theme of an agile project development process is an organizational goal that drives the overall creation of initiatives and epics
- A product roadmap is an excellent plan of action of how a solution or a product is going to evolve in the coming years or any period of time
- You need to keep in mind that breaking all of the project or product initiatives into workable agile epics can help keep the development team’s daily work (that is expressed in smaller stories) to be connected to the overall goals that have been defined by the business
- One other thing about the product roadmap is that it is visualized and expressed as an effective set of initiatives that have been plotted alongside a project timeline
Let’s now take a look at how you can create an agile epic for your own company and its projects.
Creating an Agile Epic
One thing you need to note while creating an agile epic is that you should always consider organization and planning tools that your team may have already prepared and executed for you before you even start the process.
A great start for an agile project development team is that you should always create an epic around OKR’s or the quarterly goals that a company has set for itself and the project development team.
You need to consider the following elements while creating an epic. They are:
- Storytelling: Starting with storytelling. You need to make sure that the epics you are creating have the stories associated with the project, rolled up in them so that whenever someone from the outside tries to figure out how you got to the current state of the product or the feature, they can basically follow the epic to the story.
- Reporting: You need to make sure that the agile epics that you are currently creating for your projects are easily accessible by the executives and the managers of the company so that they can easily keep an eye on everything and there are no issues later on.
- Time: One amazing thing about development teams is that most of them rely on estimation frameworks and not a fixed period of time. Still, it’s very worthwhile to make sure that the epics that you are creating will take at least a couple of weeks to complete.
- Culture: Last but not least, you need to make sure that the organizational culture is dictating the granularity and the size of the epic.
Breaking Down an Agile Epic
An agile epic is a rich combination of different stories that can help in understanding a project. Breaking it down into more chewable stories can actually help you understand the complexity of a project and also maintain the momentum of its development.
But if you are not a true master of agile epics, then this task can be quite daunting and overwhelming.
This is because there are no one-size-fits when it comes to finding a solution to create different stories from an epic, so the developer or the professional has to use their experience to tackle this task.
Here are some good options that you can consider while creating stories from an epic.
- Ordered Steps: One of the best things that you can do while creating a story from an epic is you can break down all of the process elements and create a story from each of those process elements
- User Role or Persona: Another thing that you can do is to create a specific story for each single user persona that you have. These can be, e.g. Quicker login for fresh users or Quicker login for returning customers, etc.
- Culture: You have to let the team norms dictate whether a story is going to be a quick task or a week-long project because most of the time things don’t progress in a logical manner and you have to take help from the long-standing culture and traditions
- Time: Another thing that you can do is to bar an agreed-upon convention and create design stories that can be completed in a single print or even less than that, which will help you gain more flexibility for future stories and epics
One thing that you need to keep in mind is that there is no universal definition that creates a line between an epic or a big story. You need to follow the rules that we have discussed above.
In general, you need to make sure that any scope of work that is estimated by the team to be completed in weeks rather than in days or hours should always be considered as an epic and should always be broken down into smaller more chewable pieces.
Benefits of Using the Theme-Epic-Story Development Framework
Let’s now take a look at the wonderful benefits that you can enjoy when you break a team’s developmental work into small epics and stories that can be more easily executable than the complete slab of the project.
Here is a list of the benefits that we are going to discuss in this article.
- This approach allows the project managers and the project development team members to make more strategically sound decisions
- This approach greatly improves timeline estimates and performance monitoring
Let’s discuss these benefits of using the theme-epic-story development framework in detail and find out how they can be beneficial for you and your project development team members.
1. This approach allows the project managers and the project development team members to make more strategically sound decisions
One thing that you need to remember is that the fundamental unit of measurement in the overall agile project developmental process is the story point.
This is the unit of measure to estimate every single ounce of effort that is required to complete all of the items that have been listed in the team’s backlog.
Whenever an agile project team assigns different story points to each individual story, the team can then add all of the different points that join together to make a given epic.
This also helps them to get a sense of how long the epic is going to take and how many resources are necessary to complete it in time.
If you and your team have all of this knowledge, then you are going to make better-informed decisions in the future when you have limited development time and resources to finish the job.
2. This approach greatly improves timeline estimates and performance monitoring
For this, you have to assume a cross-functional product team that is capable of learning over a specific period of time that it can easily complete 20 story points worth of developmental work in a specific sprint or in a specified time frame.
As that development team reviews all of the stories and the epics from the upcoming work assignment that they have to perform, it will be in a more stable position to know whether the planned sprint needs too little work or too much work.
This will ultimately help the team members to estimate their collective capabilities more easily and accurately in the future.
Optimizing your Epics
Once you have mastered the art of creating agile epics and the stories related to them, you must go a step further and optimize the whole creation process using automation. Here are some automation rules that you need to follow in order to perfect the whole thing.
- Auto-close all of the different stories that are opened regarding the project development process when the agile epic has been marked as done.
- Automatically add three different stories when an agile epic has been created by the project team.
- The status of an agile epic should be immediately changed when the status of one of the issues linked to it has been changed.
This was our guide to agile epics, how you can create them for your projects and how can you optimize them for maximum benefit. If you think that we missed something important to mention in this article, then feel free to mention it to us and we will review it ASAP.
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