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Scrum Epic: What Is It And How To Create The Best Epics In Agile?

Scrum has been a buzzword since a decade now, and why not, it has so many success stories, hey, I am not talking about the stories which mean requirements in Scrum but the actual stories of teams and the organizations practicing Scrum. Looks like, I just gave the hint of what I would be covering in my article today.Yes, we will be talking about the requirements and how are they handled in Scrum. We will be talking about the Epic, so far, we have known Epic as a long narrative about the heroes of great historical or legendary significance performing courageous deeds but here we will touch upon a different side. Believe me, we are now going to talk about the EPICs in Scrum!What is an Epic in Agile?In simple terms, Scrum EPIC in Agile Methodology is a big chunk of work which can be divided into smaller user stories. An epic can be spread across sprints and even across agile teams. An epic can be a high-level description of what the client wants, and accordingly, it has some value attached to it. As we mentioned, an epic is a high-level requirement, hence its scope can change over the course of time.“Epics are a helpful way to organize your work and to create a hierarchy. The idea is to break down the work into shippable pieces so that large projects can actually get done and you can continue to ship value to your customers on a regular basis. Epics help teams break their work down while continuing to work towards a bigger goal.”- Atlassian                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               To explain it better, I would prefer taking a life example, let’s say, throwing a New Year party at your place can be an epic requirement for you. To do so, you’ll need to organize your effort: from the biggest objectives down to the smallest details. You should be able to respond to change, report your progress, and stick to a plan. Once you are aware of the epic, you can drill it down to create smaller tasks like creating a guest list, deciding on the menu, shopping for the grocery, decoration at home, shopping for the new year, etc.Let’s see how we can create an Epic also called Scrum Epic User Story – In today’s era, almost all the tools that the team use have the capability to create an epic, it is up to the product and the team, which type of Epic they want.Some Epics cater to the reporting needs of management. Some Epics are created with a timeframe in mind, it should not be too long and too short, i.e. it should not take more than a couple of weeks to finish. But the widely used way is Storytelling.So, what is StorytellingStorytelling is a tool which helps you visualize the flow of events and how they corroborate back up to the Epic. If you feel, your working pattern does not sit in any of the mentioned ways, create your own. Just remember, Agile is never prescriptive, it shows you the path and how you want to go over it, it’s your choice!Coming back to our example, let us try to break it down into some doable components. It is really important to create chunks out of the epic so that the team can pick those up and deliver in a sprint time. You can compare this activity to art which requires precision in terms of size, priority, minimally interdependent etc. There are some pre-set ways of doing it, like:Workflow break downHere in our example, we talked about a project where we have a New Year party, let’s see how we can break it down in terms of workflow – Shopping can be a workflow where you need to get the items from outside. Another workflow can be cooking the food for the guests, same way we can have decorating the house as another workflow. See how simple it gets to understand once you start connecting it with our lives! This also helps the product owner to easily prioritize the work, in our case, the Product Owner can be the host of the party. Some steps in the workflow may not be important right now and can be moved to later stages. Perhaps baking the cake takes on the priority as it takes time to cool down but the same can be done later as well.Role-based breakdownWe can also break an epic as per the role or the persona, there can be different roles in your product or a project, here we have role of a ‘host’, ‘guest’ or you can have a role as a ‘cook’, you can even add the roles as per your product. In a role-based breakdown we talk in terms of that particular persona, example, for a host, ‘Driving a successful party’ can be one, for a guest, it can be, ‘Looking for some fun games at the party’.Break Down around the timelineSome of the epics can be broken down according to the time it will take to complete. The team usually divides the work which can be accomplished in a sprint time. They take up the whole thing, break it into pieces and fit the pieces in different sprints as per the dependency and priority. As I have already mentioned, the breaking down requires consideration into several areas such as size, priority, interdependency etc. Thus, there are two approaches to dividing – Horizontal and Vertical. It is like cutting the cake, if you cut it horizontally, you will get a single layer but if you take a vertical approach, you will get to have a bit of all the layers. Understanding the basic differences between Epic, Story, and TaskWe have been talking a lot about Epic and its breakdown, now let’s capture how it actually disintegrates further. We had an Epic “New Year Party”, this was a big chunk of work to be accomplished, we learned about the techniques to break it down. The result of the breakdown is termed Stories, which can be accomplished in a sprint time. The stories are further broken down into chunks called ‘Tasks’, the team pulls up the tasks and completes them, once all the tasks are completed, the story is marked as Completed. The below figure explains Scrum Epic Vs User Story:Thus,Epic - A requirement that is just too big to deliver in a single sprint. Epics need to be broken into smaller deliverables (stories).Story - A requirement that the business wants. It is something that is deliverable within a single sprint.Tasks - The essentials of a story, these are the milestones to take the story to ‘Done’.Anything that we cannot measure will not yield many results, we have been hearing this for a long time. It does apply here as well. We can use burndown charts to measure how much work has been accomplished in an Epic. This also helps in predicting if the team is on track with the commitments. By keeping a watch on the Burndown chart, it becomes easy to manage the progress and the blockers (if any) that the team is facing. This not only provides transparency to the system but it also helps in building the trust for the team and the clients.How to identify Epics in AgileEpic is something which is a fairly large chunk of work and cannot be completed at one go. It is something which requires discussion and brainstorming so that it can be broken down further into smaller chunks. At the epic level, we give rough estimates which can be in the form of T-shirt sizes, swags, points or any other method the team is comfortable with. The team can track the progress in an epic through the Burndown chart which represents the progress and also reflects if there are any blockers. Benefits of EpicsEpics help in understanding the high-level requirement from the stakeholder and what exactly is the need.It also helps in defining the scope of work which is in agreement with the client. Epics articulate efficiently about final output of user needs. Epics help to track bigger thoughts in a product backlog without the need to overwhelm it with multiple things. They allow establishing a hierarchy for the backlog items where the epic represents the original idea often closely related to a particular outcome.It also helps in estimating how much time it will take to deliver. Epics are time and again used as placeholders for new views that have not been thought out completely, or whose full expansion has been postponed till essentially desirable.Epics are then evolved into split into multiple user stories that help Agile development teams effectively manage and groom their product backlog.Common Pitfalls in EpicThough there are many positive aspects of using the epics in backlog management a coin always has two sides, it has its pitfalls too! Sometimes, the teams can create confusions around the end deliverable from the epic by just viewing them as more than just large user stories. This is deceptive when the team creates multifaceted tools to distinguish between epics and user stories as well as creates far-reaching tools for chasing epics separately from other backlog items.The teams may also try to estimate the epics at a very high level though they might not have a clear picture of what is to be done. This increases the chances of ambiguity and it is very likely that the estimates will not be of any use as it will not serve any purpose in reporting.Finally, here we are, with the discussions around the Epics and how we can break it down. There is no set way to work on the epic, it about what approach suits your needs. Again, it is all about the mindset and way we deal with the backlog. Epics are always fascinating to work with!
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Scrum Epic: What Is It And How To Create The Best Epics In Agile?

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  • by Deepti Sinha
  • 12th Feb, 2019
  • Last updated on 20th Feb, 2019
  • 11 mins read
Scrum Epic: What Is It And How To Create The Best Epics In Agile?

Scrum has been a buzzword since a decade now, and why not, it has so many success stories, hey, I am not talking about the stories which mean requirements in Scrum but the actual stories of teams and the organizations practicing Scrum. Looks like, I just gave the hint of what I would be covering in my article today.

Yes, we will be talking about the requirements and how are they handled in Scrum. We will be talking about the Epic, so far, we have known Epic as a long narrative about the heroes of great historical or legendary significance performing courageous deeds but here we will touch upon a different side. Believe me, we are now going to talk about the EPICs in Scrum!

What is an Epic in Agile?

In simple terms, Scrum EPIC in Agile Methodology is a big chunk of work which can be divided into smaller user stories. An epic can be spread across sprints and even across agile teams. An epic can be a high-level description of what the client wants, and accordingly, it has some value attached to it. As we mentioned, an epic is a high-level requirement, hence its scope can change over the course of time.

Epics are a helpful way to organize your work and to create a hierarchy. The idea is to break down the work into shippable pieces so that large projects can actually get done and you can continue to ship value to your customers on a regular basis. Epics help teams break their work down while continuing to work towards a bigger goal.- Atlassian                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

To explain it better, I would prefer taking a life example, let’s say, throwing a New Year party at your place can be an epic requirement for you. To do so, you’ll need to organize your effort: from the biggest objectives down to the smallest details. You should be able to respond to change, report your progress, and stick to a plan. Once you are aware of the epic, you can drill it down to create smaller tasks like creating a guest list, deciding on the menu, shopping for the grocery, decoration at home, shopping for the new year, etc.
Let’s see how we can create an Epic also called Scrum Epic User Story – In today’s era, almost all the tools that the team use have the capability to create an epic, it is up to the product and the team, which type of Epic they want.

Epic and user stories

Some Epics cater to the reporting needs of management. Some Epics are created with a timeframe in mind, it should not be too long and too short, i.e. it should not take more than a couple of weeks to finish. But the widely used way is Storytelling.

So, what is Storytelling

Storytelling is a tool which helps you visualize the flow of events and how they corroborate back up to the Epic. If you feel, your working pattern does not sit in any of the mentioned ways, create your own. Just remember, Agile is never prescriptive, it shows you the path and how you want to go over it, it’s your choice!

Coming back to our example, let us try to break it down into some doable components. It is really important to create chunks out of the epic so that the team can pick those up and deliver in a sprint time. You can compare this activity to art which requires precision in terms of size, priority, minimally interdependent etc. There are some pre-set ways of doing it, like:

Workflow break down

Here in our example, we talked about a project where we have a New Year party, let’s see how we can break it down in terms of workflow – Shopping can be a workflow where you need to get the items from outside. Another workflow can be cooking the food for the guests, same way we can have decorating the house as another workflow. See how simple it gets to understand once you start connecting it with our lives! This also helps the product owner to easily prioritize the work, in our case, the Product Owner can be the host of the party. Some steps in the workflow may not be important right now and can be moved to later stages. Perhaps baking the cake takes on the priority as it takes time to cool down but the same can be done later as well.

Role-based breakdown

We can also break an epic as per the role or the persona, there can be different roles in your product or a project, here we have role of a ‘host’, ‘guest’ or you can have a role as a ‘cook’, you can even add the roles as per your product. In a role-based breakdown we talk in terms of that particular persona, example, for a host, ‘Driving a successful party’ can be one, for a guest, it can be, ‘Looking for some fun games at the party’.

Break Down around the timeline

Some of the epics can be broken down according to the time it will take to complete. The team usually divides the work which can be accomplished in a sprint time. They take up the whole thing, break it into pieces and fit the pieces in different sprints as per the dependency and priority. As I have already mentioned, the breaking down requires consideration into several areas such as size, priority, interdependency etc. Thus, there are two approaches to dividing – Horizontal and Vertical. It is like cutting the cake, if you cut it horizontally, you will get a single layer but if you take a vertical approach, you will get to have a bit of all the layers. 

Understanding the basic differences between Epic, Story, and Task

We have been talking a lot about Epic and its breakdown, now let’s capture how it actually disintegrates further. We had an Epic “New Year Party”, this was a big chunk of work to be accomplished, we learned about the techniques to break it down. The result of the breakdown is termed Stories, which can be accomplished in a sprint time. The stories are further broken down into chunks called ‘Tasks’, the team pulls up the tasks and completes them, once all the tasks are completed, the story is marked as Completed. The below figure explains Scrum Epic Vs User Story:

Epic and story and tasks

Thus,

Epic - A requirement that is just too big to deliver in a single sprint. Epics need to be broken into smaller deliverables (stories).

Story - A requirement that the business wants. It is something that is deliverable within a single sprint.

Tasks - The essentials of a story, these are the milestones to take the story to ‘Done’.

Anything that we cannot measure will not yield many results, we have been hearing this for a long time. It does apply here as well. We can use burndown charts to measure how much work has been accomplished in an Epic. This also helps in predicting if the team is on track with the commitments. By keeping a watch on the Burndown chart, it becomes easy to manage the progress and the blockers (if any) that the team is facing. This not only provides transparency to the system but it also helps in building the trust for the team and the clients.

How to identify Epics in Agile

Epic is something which is a fairly large chunk of work and cannot be completed at one go. It is something which requires discussion and brainstorming so that it can be broken down further into smaller chunks. At the epic level, we give rough estimates which can be in the form of T-shirt sizes, swags, points or any other method the team is comfortable with. The team can track the progress in an epic through the Burndown chart which represents the progress and also reflects if there are any blockers.

 Benefits of Epics

  • Epics help in understanding the high-level requirement from the stakeholder and what exactly is the need.
  • It also helps in defining the scope of work which is in agreement with the client. Epics articulate efficiently about final output of user needs. 
  • Epics help to track bigger thoughts in a product backlog without the need to overwhelm it with multiple things. They allow establishing a hierarchy for the backlog items where the epic represents the original idea often closely related to a particular outcome.
  • It also helps in estimating how much time it will take to deliver. Epics are time and again used as placeholders for new views that have not been thought out completely, or whose full expansion has been postponed till essentially desirable.
  • Epics are then evolved into split into multiple user stories that help Agile development teams effectively manage and groom their product backlog.

Common Pitfalls in Epic

  • Though there are many positive aspects of using the epics in backlog management a coin always has two sides, it has its pitfalls too! Sometimes, the teams can create confusions around the end deliverable from the epic by just viewing them as more than just large user stories. This is deceptive when the team creates multifaceted tools to distinguish between epics and user stories as well as creates far-reaching tools for chasing epics separately from other backlog items.
  • The teams may also try to estimate the epics at a very high level though they might not have a clear picture of what is to be done. This increases the chances of ambiguity and it is very likely that the estimates will not be of any use as it will not serve any purpose in reporting.
  • Finally, here we are, with the discussions around the Epics and how we can break it down. There is no set way to work on the epic, it about what approach suits your needs. Again, it is all about the mindset and way we deal with the backlog. Epics are always fascinating to work with!
Deepti

Deepti Sinha

Blog Author

Deepti is an Agile Coach by profession and Freelance Trainer with over 11 years of industry experience working primarily with healthcare & finance clients in delivering business. She has played a wide variety of roles in the graph of her career, whether it be, management, operations or quality. She likes reading fiction, management and loves to write her experiences. Her colleagues mostly describe her as very detail oriented person with a knack of creativity and imagination. And yes, she loves feedback more than her coffee!!

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The teams only interact with each other for project discussion and process linking as they are otherwise not self-sufficient. Generally speaking, an Agile project consists of three parts: The product owner – the expert on the project (for which the product is being developed) and is the main person who oversees the projects The scrum master – this person manages the process involved in Agile. He/she looks after the iterations and its completion The team – individuals who play significant and minor roles in the software development process Customer Engagement In Agile, customer engagement is at the very top. The customer is regarded highly in its frameworks as after every iteration, feedback is generated and acted upon. Overall, Agile is clearly the winner among project management systems. When compared with other traditional approaches, Agile’s features come to the fore and reiterate why it is one of the top software used by companies globally. Can Agile Coexist with Other Approaches? This is a question asked by many project managers, and opinions of experts seem to be divided. While some say it is possible for Agile to coexist with traditional project management systems, they suggest being cautious and using them for different terms. For example, using two different approaches on the same project can be counter-productive and highly explosive. As Agile and most other frameworks are totally contrasting to each other, the projects may go for a toss. On the other hand, some experts believe that it is not possible for Agile and other tools to co-exist because of their contrast. Using them together can cause disorder in the entire company system, making the productivity to go for a toss. Agile vs Traditional- Adoption Growth According to a recent online survey of 601 IT and development professionals, it is proved that Agile is the new typical formula for project success. The majority of projects and development teams are now adopting this methodology, while the traditional waterfall approaches have many flaws.    Traditional organizations vs. #Agile organizations #SALC16 pic.twitter.com/bBgxkQB1fI — Scrum Alliance (@ScrumAlliance) January 20, 2016 Agile was first introduced about 15 years ago as a substitute for traditional software development approaches. Many people considered it as challenging to implement traditional approach practices and Agile adopters stated that this new style of software development improves team collaboration and is more customer-centric.  Though Agile method was present more than a decade ago, the vast majority of organizations have adopted the practice in the last 5 years. Moreover, the survey reported that agile adoption saw an inflection point between the year 2009-2010. As shown in the above figure, agile adoption seems to have slow incremental growth till 2008 and then its growth was accelerated after gaining traction in the market. Reasons for the transition to Agile Most of the organizations who transitioned from traditional to agile project management have listed the following reasons: Improves collaboration between teams- 54% Enhances the quality level of software in organizations- 52% Results in enhanced customer satisfaction- 49% Speeds time to market- 43% Reduces development cost- 42% The Verdict In the traditional software development, the customer involves only before the start of the development process. So, there might be a number of mistakes and a large amount of money needs to be spent to rework on them. Since in the Agile software development, the customer involves at each stage, the corrections can be made once the defects are detected. This helps us in saving cost. As we can see, Agile project management is really in-demand for teams. It helps the team to work on the top priority ones at the right time and allows them to walk through the risks much faster than they would with traditional project management tools.  
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Agile Project Management Vs. Traditional Project M...

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How To Pass Leading SAFe® 4 Exam ?

Scaled Agile Framework is a roadmap that leads the organizations in implementing the Lean and Agile Practices. SAFe® includes the three foundational bodies of knowledge that are System Thinking, Lean Product Development, and Agile Software Development. It helps the organizations to improve themselves according to the business requirements, deals with challenges involved in developing and delivering ideal software and systems within a specified time. SAFe® practices are essential but, sometimes they can be complex and entail some challenges. It might be easy to deal with such challenges and move your enterprise towards SAFe® practices by becoming a professional SAFe® Agilist. Passing a SAFe® Agilist Certification exam proves that you are an expert in implementing Agile and improving the project you want to get involved in.Here, in this article, we will guide you through your Leading SAFe® 4 exam preparation.Firstly, the 2-day Leading SAFe® 4.6 training is the most crucial part of this certification. Join the course and ask all the doubts you have during the workshop without any hesitation. Make a note of all the important things which will be helpful for future references. After completing the course successfully, you should pass the exam to obtain SAFe® Agilist Certification.Exam DetailsFormat of the examThis is a web-based, timed, and closed book exam that will be conducted in English and delivered in the format of multiple choice questions. Upon completion of the Leading SAFe® training, candidates will get access to the exam within the SAFe® Community Platform. Candidates will have 90 minutes to finish the exam once it starts.The exam consists of 45 questions in total and you must answer a minimum of 34 questions correct out of 45. You can take the exam at any time and the fee for the first attempt will be included in the course registration fee only if the exam is taken within 30 days of course completion.Retake policy of the examIf the certification exam is not cleared in the first attempt, you can retake the exam again and again, but each retake costs $50.You can take the second attempt immediately after the first attemptYou need to wait for a minimum of 10 days to retake the exam for the third timeA minimum of 30-day wait is required to retake the exam fourth timeCandidates are not allowed to retake the exam, once they got a minimum passing score of 76% unless there are updates announced to the exam.Exam preparationThe exam is specifically designed to analyze the skills and knowledge of a particular candidate. Develop a study plan before going to take the exam.Here are a few important points you should remember-You should gain both practical and theoretical knowledge in order to pass the exam successfully.The course materials are more helpful to prepare for the exam and we at KnowledgeHut offer course materials authored by the Scaled Agile Academy. These materials can be used for referring the concepts that are presented during the training.Take the practice tests that are designed with the same level of difficulty, time duration, and the same number of questions. You can take the exam without any additional cost. The practice tests once completed, let’s you know the chapters you should study more in pink color. Study those topics again.  As a preparation, on scaledagileframework.com, on the big picture (framework) click on the words if have confusion/not sure and read the guidance article. It makes you prepare well for the main certification exam and boosts your confidence level.Choosing a right path takes you to important destinations in your career. Becoming a SAFe® 4 Agilist is a career path for many and it requires an excellent range of skills. The best institute guides you towards a bright career. So, choose the right and best institute that is authorized to do so and can help you reach your goals.
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How To Pass Leading SAFe® 4 Exam ?

Scaled Agile Framework is a roadmap that leads the... Read More