agile vs waterfall

1. Epic Definition in Agile Scrum Methodology

An Epic can be defined as a big chunk of work that has one common objective. It could be a feature, customer request or business requirement. In backlog, it is a placeholder for a required feature with few lines of description. It tells compactly about final output of user needs. In the beginning, it may not contain all the details that team needs to work on. These details are defined in User Stories. An epic usually takes more than one sprint to complete.

2. What is epic in agile methodology

The Basic unit of work defined in Scrum is User story. But very often, when Product Owner writes a user story for a feature or against customer request, that looks simple in the beginning. But, while covering all related work and scenarios, same user story expands so much that it can not fit either in a week or a sprint time-frame. It is the time to consider this big user story as epic and start slicing it in smaller user stories. This way, Agile teams get better effort estimate and get smaller but concrete output in single sprint.

3. How Epic is used in Agile SW Development

Epics, themes, and User stories are Agile artifacts to classify amount of work. In some organizations, there is common practice that each of the bigger customer requests, feature or requirement is considered as Epic. How you define “bigger” work, varies from organization to organization. Some organizations use theme, value stream or scope approach. For complex projects, where multiple focus areas need to be covered by many scrum teams. Product Management team creates Epics for different focus areas of the project and all the requirements in form of user stories are mapped to that focus area of Epic. That makes tracking of the specific work area of a project easier.

Rule of thumb is, if there are more than 5 user stories, of same focus area in a project, then it’s good to create an epic and attach all five of those user stories to that Epic.

4. How to Track epic

Epic is a good way to track complex features progress. Remember that epic is just a placeholder. That can hold multiple user stories which are focused on the specific scope. Think of epic as a book and user stories are its’ chapters.

Since epic is a just a placeholder, User stories from an epic can be spanned across multiple projects. Normally it takes few sprints to finish one Epic. Product Owner can easily determine the completion percentage of an epic by calculating the percentage of associated done user stories.

5. Epic Example in Agile Scrum Methodology

Let’s take an example of Epic, assuming we need to improve a feature of Yodiz Product Backlog.

We received three related requests from our beloved customer regarding backlog improvement. One of them is:


I want to reorder my user stories in backlog. Currently, it’s not possible. Some star value will be good to have, so I can group my user stories in backlog. It will also be good to see the sprint value in backlog

Best Regards
Yodiz Customer

6. Agile Epic Sample

So after a conversation with all three different customers, Produced owner ended up writing following user stories. Since the scope of work is backlog, he created an epic and linked all user stories under that epic

  • Epic 01: Provide ordering and priority options to user to manage backlog easily
  • User Story 01: As a release manager, I want to have my releases mapped to different sprints. I also want to see the priority of each item on same board.
  • User Story 02: As a system admin, I should be able to provide rights who can prioritize product backlog
  • User Story 03: As a user I should be able to re-order my backlog using numbered items, star priority or simple drag n drop

7. User Story Template in agile Methodologies

In the screenshot from Yodiz above, you can see the Epic EP-3 which has the status In Development. The Epic is further subdivided into smaller user stories, US-4, US-6 and US-7.

agile vs waterfall

The Detailed view of the Epic above shows us the status, priority and estimates and owner of each of the individual user stories.

Burndown charts can be used to give a visual representation of Epics. This keeps the development team motivated and the Stakeholders informed. It shows clearly how much progress the team is making as well as where work was added or removed by the Product Owner. This constantly keeps everyone on the same page.