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What is an Epic?

People often use “project” and “Epic” interchangeably. Here’s the distinction!

The Epics in Agile are a collection of multiple tasks or User Stories. They are usually responsible for producing a major deliverable, which may include various product features, for example.

The project, on the other hand, is a very tensile term. What we mean is that a project can vary widely in its scope and definition. For instance, building a small browser extension can be defined as a project, so also is building an Enterprise grade CRM solution. 

Essentially, when defining a project time is taken as a resource/constraint to be managed. Whereas the best way to define an Epic is to look at the time it would take to complete the work.

A broad guideline that Prakya recommends is that any work that takes between 3 to 6 months of time, can be defined as an Epic.

To connect the concept of projects to Epics, we can say that, If its size and scope are big, then Projects might include several project Epics. 

Examples of Epics

To quote an example, let us take a common scenario. Let us say you want to construct a house. Depending on the size of the house, the team that you have and the process to build it, it can take anywhere from 6 months to 1 year to construct it. 

Thus, a house construction work can have two or three Epics. They may probably be defined as below:

Epic – 1: Select and finalize a site of construction
Epic – 2: Design the house
Epic – 3: Construct the house

Note that the above Epics are manageable within the broad timeline of 3 to 6 months. Also notice that each Epic can be assigned to a specific owner for accountability. Further, each Epic can also be broken down into smaller components each of which can be handled by a specific team.

Why Epics?

Epics are a great way to organize agile work into deliverable components. From a management point of view, Epics are a part of several tactical initiatives taken to fulfill a strategic goal. 

Continuing from the above example, creating assets could be a strategic goal for a household. We may think of liquid asset creation (like investments in stocks) and property assets (like a house to live in) as themes to achieve the strategy goal. Under the property assets, we may think of commercial and domestic property as tactical initiatives.

Further, under the domestic property initiative, we can think of the construction of a home to live in as a roadmap item. Under this roadmap item we have 3 Epics as defined in the previous section.

So, we can see that an Epic gives us the opportunity to:

  1. Align our current work with the larger vision of the organization
  2. Create a trackable item of work which can be owned by a leader
  3. Break down the work into sub components to be assigned to different teams

Who will create Epics in the team?

Epics are created by product management teams for different focus areas and all requirements in the form of User Stories are mapped to that focus area of Epic. It simplifies tracking of the specific work area of a project.

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