Epics, Options and Consumer Tales


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I’ve been getting an increasing number of emails these days from folks asking, “What’s an epic, a function and a person story in agile?” “Are you able to give me some epic, function, and person story examples?” “Are you able to inform me how you can write epics, options and person tales?”.  So on this article, let’s cowl some primary—however very useful—territory by explaining some person story-related language.

Tales, themes, epics, and options are merely phrases agile groups use to assist simplify some discussions. A few of these phrases date again to the times of Excessive Programming (XP) groups, however the phrases are utilized in newer methods now. I’ll begin with industry-standard definitions, and I’ll touch upon the modifications as nicely.

Epic vs. Consumer Story

A person story is just one thing a person desires. For our functions right here, we will consider a person story as a little bit of textual content saying one thing like, “Paginate the month-to-month gross sales report” or, “Change tax calculations on invoices.” There’s extra to person tales than simply textual content written on an index card or typed right into a instrument, however let’s hold it easy right here.

Consumer tales are the most typical type of product backlog merchandise for agile groups. Throughout dash or iteration planning, person tales are moved from the product backlog to the dash backlog.

Many groups have realized the advantages of writing person tales within the type of: “As a  [type of user] I [want this thing] in order that [I can accomplish this goal].” Take a look at the benefits of that person story format. Even inside the format, although, we’re free to customise person tales.

As outlined by the XP groups that invented person tales, an epic is a big person story. There’s no magic threshold at which we name a specific story an epic. For our functions in agile and Scrum, epic simply means large person story.

I like to consider this in relation to films. If I let you know a specific film was an “action-adventure film” that tells you one thing in regards to the film. There’s in all probability some automobile chases, in all probability some taking pictures, and so forth. The time period I used tells you this despite the fact that there isn’t a common definition that we’ve agreed to comply with; nobody claims an action-adventure film should include at the least three automobile chases, at the least 45 bullets have to be shot, and so forth.

Whereas epic is only a label we apply to a big story, calling a narrative an epic can typically inform us how refined they’re within the backlog.

Suppose you ask me if I had time yesterday to create person tales in regards to the month-to-month reporting a part of the system. “Sure,” I reply, “however they’re largely epics.” That tells you that whereas I did write them, most are nonetheless fairly large chunks of labor, too large in truth to be introduced immediately right into a dash or iteration. Keep in mind that the Scrum framework would not say something about epics, tales, and themes. These phrases come from XP.

Theme vs. Consumer Story

The workforce that invented person tales used the phrase theme to imply a group of person tales. We might put a rubber band round that group of tales about month-to-month reporting and we’d name {that a} theme.

Generally it’s useful to consider a gaggle of tales, so now we have a time period for that. Sticking with the film analogy above, in my DVD rack I’ve filed the James Bond films collectively. They’re a theme or grouping.

Characteristic vs. Consumer Story

Yet one more time period value defining is function. This time period was not utilized by the unique person tales workforce, which has led to function being utilized to various things in numerous organizations and groups.

Commonest is {that a} function is a person story that’s large enough to be launched or maybe large enough that customers will discover and be happier. Many groups work with person tales which might be very small. A few of these groups discover it helpful to have a time period they’ll apply to tales which might be large enough to launch on their very own.

I’m not a giant fan of the additional complexity another time period brings, and I discover it a demotivating waste of time when groups get caught up in arguing whether or not a sure story is a function or only a story, for instance.

If you wish to use function, I like to recommend utilizing it as a tag that may be utilized to any merchandise in your product backlog. A buddy posts pictures on Instagram of wonderful meals he makes. He tags them with #yum. Do the identical with #function should you discover it helps folks work along with your product backlog.

Confused? Your Software program Might Use These Phrases In a different way

If at this level you need to inform me I’m incorrect, do not forget that I’m describing these phrases as outlined by the workforce that invented person tales.

A number of the product backlog instrument distributors use the phrases otherwise. Jira, for instance, makes use of epic to imply a gaggle of person tales relatively than a single, large person story. I have no idea if this was a mistake on their half or not. However, a widely known vendor lock-in technique is to govern the vocabulary so customers assume all different instruments use the phrases incorrectly.

Here is the excellent news: Whereas the concepts behind the phrases may be helpful, the phrases themselves should not essential. Theme, epic, function, and person story should not phrases with necessary particular meanings like pointer to a programmer or collateralized debt obligation to whomever offers with that.

Don’t combat your instrument—no matter time period your software program makes use of to imply small story (person story) group of tales (theme) or large story (epic)e is the time period you must use.

Visualizing the Variations

The next illustration of a product backlog makes clear the distinction between story, epic, and theme. Every field represents a product backlog merchandise with the packing containers drawn to point out the scale of the completely different objects. Some objects are small and thus fast to develop. Different objects will take longer and are proven as greater packing containers.

The large objects are epics. One merchandise is perhaps large enough that some on the workforce would name it epic, however not so large that everybody agrees. This displays the truth that there isn’t a exact threshold at which an merchandise turns into an epic.

The illustration additionally reveals a theme, which is depicted as a field grouping a set of tales collectively. Themes should not essentially bigger than epics. A theme may be bigger than an epic if, maybe, you’ve gotten a theme comprising eight medium-sized tales. However a theme may be smaller than an epic, as could be the case you probably have a theme of a dozen easy spelling errors to right.

And since function often means an merchandise that may be launched by itself, these are proven in inexperienced.

An Instance of How these Phrases Are Helpful

Let’s suppose we’re constructing some form of monetary system that may embody a set of stories. Since we’re simply beginning growth, we’re not too involved but with precisely which stories these will probably be. However we don’t need to danger forgetting we have to develop the stories, so we write a product backlog merchandise because the person story:

As a licensed person, I can run stories in order that I can see the monetary state of the group.

Not solely is that this a person story, it’s an epic as a result of it’s too large to slot in one dash or iteration. There are nearly actually going to be extra stories wanted than may be completed in a single dash or iteration. So we name this an epic.

Our reporting story/epic simply stays as it’s on the product backlog for awhile, maybe a couple of months. At some point the product proprietor decides that the workforce will work on these stories within the subsequent iteration. Which means the epic is break up right into a set of smaller tales, maybe one thing like:

  • As a licensed person, I can run a revenue and loss report…
  • As a licensed person, I can run a money movement report…
  • As a licensed person, I can run a transaction element report…

and extra. Let’s say we determine ten stories. Just a few days after splitting out these ten tales from their guardian epic, the product proprietor declares a shift in priorities. As a substitute of engaged on stories, the workforce will probably be engaged on one thing fully completely different.

The product backlog might now look cluttered as a result of there are ten small reporting tales the place there was once a single epic. To cut back this litter, think about grouping the ten reporting tales right into a single theme labeled “Reporting.” In case your software program instrument helps this, it could make it simpler to look via a backlog since you’d see one Reporting theme relatively than ten distinct reporting tales.

How Do You Use These Phrases?

How do you employ epic, theme, story, and have? Does your instrument assist the definitions you employ or have you ever needed to shift your language to match the instrument? Please share your ideas within the Feedback part beneath.


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