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Epic and User Story – A Comparative Study

Epic and User Story – A Comparative Study

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Have you ever developed software? Otherwise, are you planning to engage in software development now? You might have heard about “User Story” and “Epic.” You may have seen these terms in their estimates if you have contacted an IT outsourcing company. These two terms are popular in the tech world. People participating in software development and coding teams use them regularly.

Of course, these two terms are popular in the tech world. However, the problem is that people mean different things when they use these terms. It does not mean that they are hiding things. Development teams use terms that are convenient for them. However, this approach can lead to misunderstanding and miscommunication in instances. This can happen particularly between clients and software developers. In turn, this can have an ill effect on the outcome.

Before understanding the difference between Epic and User Story, let us first understand these two terms.

Epic and User Story are terms used by Software Developers. Those engaged in Agile software development use them very frequently. Agile teams use these terms to refer to needs that deliver value to end-users. The key factor differentiating these two is that User Stories are lightweight, while Epics are larger.

What are User Stories?

User Story is nothing but a lightweight need phrased in a manner that pays attention to the end-user and focuses on the desired outcome. You might think that end-users are users of your product. However, end-users are those who come in contact with your products. They can be internal and external end-users and even your business partners.

Typically, User Stories are present in the Product Backlog. Also, they should be voiced in an easily understandable manner. Further, they should sketch how they generate value and for whom.

Nevertheless, teams should remember one thing about user stories: They should realize that user story phrasing is just the initial stop. In traditional waterfall methodology, you might have noticed that the needs were used to conclude the conversation. However, when it comes to user stories, they should instigate conversations.

When describing the elements of the User Story, Ron Jeffries’s three Cs—cards, conversation, and confirmation can be very helpful.

  • First C is Card:

It denotes the place in which the story has been written. Businesses normally use index cards to write them. However, nowadays, tickets are used as index cards in an issue tracker in the backlog.

  • The second C is Conversation:

The conversation is the real communication between Developers and Product Managers with customers.

  • The third C is Confirmation:

It denotes the acceptance test. Confirmation is given to a particular part of the conversation. This C will explain how the team will test whether or not the User Story has been fulfilled.

What Is Epic?

Epic is a bigger User Story. Yes, this term is often used to denote very long stories. In our daily lives, we use the term Epic to denote big stories written many centuries ago. Regarding software development, the bigger the story, the bigger the chance that you are looking into an Epic. The size is the key difference between Epic and User Stories.

It is as simple as that. You need not have spent time figuring out whether a particular thing is a User Story or an Epic. Let us consider that it can add value to your business. Also, if it should be added to the Product Backlog, it is a User Story. However, if it is big, you should consider it an Epic.

In simple terms, a story point is an Epic and not a User Story when:

  • The story points are more than 8 in number
  • Also, a story that cannot be completed in a single Sprint

Epics can differentiate in size. They can easily fit in a Sprint or be high-level Epics with large features included.

Benefits to Expect from Epics and User Stories:

Advantages of Epics:

When you follow Agile methodology, Epics can help you keep track of loosely defined large ideas in your backlog. However, you do not need to overpopulate the backlog with many items. During backlog refinement, your teams can split the huge Epic into smaller User Stories for easy accomplishment.

Also, when you have Epics, they will allow you to create a hierarchy for your backlog items. In turn, Epics can represent the fundamental idea closely related to a particular result. The User Stories that connect with the Epics denote the different elements of the solution you should deliver. Otherwise, they can also denote your options for meeting your particular needs.

Further, when using Epic, you can also see the theme idea used to bring together User Stories that deal with the same topic. The theme idea is regularly used to bring together User Stories that were recognized individually. It can also be used as a decision filter for sorting the stories brought under a specific Sprint.

Benefits of User Stories:

When it comes to User Stories, you can expect the following benefits:

User Stories will help deliver the highest value by paying attention to immediate and small customer needs. Your Agile team can easily break down the user needs into smaller tasks or features. So, they can implement them and can deliver the same within a few days or even hours. To enhance the value delivered by a team, the Product Owner can prioritize User Stories. In this prioritization process, he can consider factors like business value, risk and user value. These things can be done within the first few Sprints.

User Stories are popular for their minimalistic characteristics. So, they inherently open up opportunities for collaboration among product Development teams, Users, and Product Owners. In traditional product development, teams relied on detailed documents and electronic tools. However, in the Agile platform, they can collaborate with users. In turn, they can plan better and implement things to deliver value to customers.

Also, with the User Story, it will be possible to bring Users close to each other. Further, it helps with building blocks so that the final product will become wholesome in multiple ways. Shared understanding and a boost in transparency are other benefits of User Stories in Agile.

Difference Between Epic and User Story:

You are here to compare Epic vs. user stories. Let us consider whether you are a Product Owner or a Product Manager. Otherwise, if you own a small company, you might hold both positions. In this role, you might constantly convert users. You do this to identify opportunities. You feel that conversing with users allows you to discover your users' requirements continuously.

This table outlines the key differences between Epics and User Stories regarding their purpose, size, scope, timeline, user involvement, management approach, and flexibility.

Aspect

Epic

User Story

Purpose

Manage larger, complex initiatives

Address immediate user needs

Size

Larger often requires a further breakdown

Smaller, focused on specific user requirements

Scope

Broad encompasses multiple features

Narrow typically addresses a single feature

Timeline

Longer timeframe for completion

Shorter timeframe, usually completed in a sprint

User Involvement

Captures high-level user needs

Reflects specific user requirements and feedback

Management Approach

Guides project coordination

Guides development process at a granular level

Flexibility

Allows for flexibility and adaptability

Provides clear direction for implementation


 

Let us consider that your business is helping homebuyers in some way. When conversing with users, most of them face a common issue. The issue is that most of them have a tough time finding a mortgage institution. Many of them have a hard time finding the best mortgage rates and conditions. Even after choosing a bank, they still consider their decision right.

Now, in this example, you have an opportunity. Using the User Story model, you can articulate your findings. For instance, you can provide the best experience to the users by helping them in one way. They should be able to get a good overview of all mortgage conditions and rates. Also, they can decide on the bank to choose from without having to engage in any guesswork.

So, here you are framing a User Story based on real users' feelings. This will help you clearly articulate the type of users you talked to. It will also express users' objectives and why the solution you develop will help them.

However, we cannot add this to a Sprint. You must work on it further to understand the issue better and engage in many other activities. This is where Epic can help you.

How? A good Epic template will guide you through these stages. The right Epic template will even let you capture your conversations with users. It will also aid project management with the coordination needed. They can coordinate with solution developers, designers, and stakeholders. It will also guide your team through the right solution.  

Conclusion:


As opposed to working on the difference between Epic and User Story, the best thing your team can do is to use both. When both these are used together, they will create a tandem of efficiency for your Scrum team. In turn, the best user experience can be achieved for your projects. While the distinctions between Epic and User Story are vital for effective software development, the real power lies in their synergy. Rather than focusing solely on Epic vs. User Story, embracing both in tandem fosters efficiency within your Scrum team. By leveraging Epics to manage larger, more complex initiatives and User Stories to address immediate user needs, your projects can achieve the optimal user experience. At Simpliaxis, we understand the importance of balancing these elements to deliver impactful solutions that resonate with end-users and drive business success.

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