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An epic is a means to describe a larger user goal or business goal, that will be further developed in multiple user stories. Linking the user stories to the epic, gives insight in the context and progress of the epic. Epics are used to make a high level planning.
Prepare for success
- Any epic on the Product Backlog should be in line with the product vision, and contribute to the goal of the project.
- Postpone the co-preparation for an epic to the latest acceptable moment, but not later. Until that moment, put the epic on the backlog without too much detail.
An epic is similar to a user story, but too large to build in one go. An epic is big in scope and may have assumptions and dependencies. As long as its position on the product backlog is low, and you don’t need a detailed estimate for it, it’s perfectly fine to just leave it on the backlog without too much detail. Once it becomes more important, the Product Owner should organize a co-preparation session for breaking down the epic into User Stories with the key stakeholders and the development team. The result will be a number of prioritized user stories and a release planning. On the product backlog, the relationship between an epic and its user stories is visible, which makes it possible to track its progress. A release can consist of multiple epics.
Definition of Done
The epic is done when all related user stories are done.
Real Life Example
For the development of an app to book a shipment for parcels and packages, the idea came up to improve the usability for the end-user by storing previously used names and addresses, suggesting these while typing, and providing other ways to easily import and select contact information. This entire set of ideas and wishes was identified as an epic, called the “online address book”. Eventually 11 different user stories were defined and developed that together formed this epic.