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What is an Epic?

Ruben Buijs

Founder & Digital Consultant

Written on Aug 10, 2023

2 minutes

Product Management

An epic is a powerful concept in product management that helps teams plan, prioritize, and deliver value to customers. It is a large body of work that is too big to be accomplished in a single iteration or sprint. Epics are typically broken down into smaller, more manageable user stories or tasks.

Examples

Here are a few examples to help you understand what an epic might look like:

  • Developing a mobile app for a new product line
  • Implementing a new payment gateway across multiple platforms
  • Redesigning the user interface of a complex software application

Importance

Epics are crucial in product management for several reasons:

  1. Planning and Prioritization: Epics allow product managers to strategically plan and prioritize work based on the overall goals and objectives of the product. By breaking down large initiatives into smaller, actionable items, teams can better allocate resources and set realistic timelines.
  2. Alignment: Epics help align cross-functional teams by providing a shared understanding of the work that needs to be done. They act as a communication tool, ensuring that everyone is on the same page and working towards a common goal.
  3. Flexibility: Epics provide flexibility in product development. As new information emerges or market conditions change, epics can be adjusted, reprioritized, or even discarded without impacting the entire product roadmap.

How to Use It

To effectively use epics in your product management process, follow these steps:

  1. Identify and Define: Identify large initiatives or features that require significant effort and are too big to be completed in a single iteration. Clearly define the objectives and scope of each epic.
  2. Break It Down: Once an epic is identified, break it down into smaller, manageable user stories or tasks. These smaller units of work should be independent and deliverable within a single iteration.
  3. Prioritize and Sequence: Prioritize the epics based on strategic importance, customer needs, and business value. Sequence them in a logical order to ensure a smooth flow of work.
  4. Collaborate and Estimate: Collaborate with cross-functional teams, such as developers, designers, and stakeholders, to estimate the effort required for each epic. This helps in resource allocation and setting realistic timelines.
  5. Track and Adapt: Continuously track the progress of each epic and adapt as needed. As work progresses, reevaluate priorities and adjust the epic's scope or sequence based on feedback and changing circumstances.

Useful Tips

Consider the following tips to enhance your use of epics in product management:

  • Keep it Actionable: Ensure that every epic can be broken down into actionable user stories or tasks. Avoid vague or ambiguous epics that make it difficult for teams to understand and deliver the desired outcome.
  • Regularly Refine and Update: As the product evolves and new information emerges, regularly refine and update your epics. This keeps your product roadmap relevant, adaptable, and aligned with changing customer needs.
  • Collaborate and Communicate: Epics require collaboration and effective communication across teams. Encourage open dialogue, share progress updates, and address any concerns or dependencies to ensure a smooth workflow.

FAQ

An Epic in product management refers to a large and strategic piece of work that cannot be easily accomplished within a single development cycle. It usually consists of multiple user stories and requires several sprints to complete.
While a user story represents a specific feature or functionality from an end-user perspective, an Epic represents a broader goal or theme. Epics are typically broken down into smaller user stories to make them more manageable.
In product management, the product manager is usually responsible for defining and prioritizing Epics. They work closely with stakeholders, development teams, and customers to identify strategic initiatives that align with business objectives.
Yes, an Epic can span multiple projects. It often involves cross-functional collaboration and may require contributions from multiple teams or departments to achieve the desired outcome.
Epics are estimated and planned by breaking them down into smaller, more manageable user stories. These user stories are then estimated individually, and their combined effort helps in estimating the overall effort required for the Epic. The planning is done considering team capacity, dependencies, and priorities.
An Epic roadmap provides a high-level overview of the Epics planned for future releases. It helps in visualizing the strategic initiatives and their expected timeline, enabling stakeholders to understand the product's direction and make informed decisions.
Yes, Epics can change or evolve over time. As more information becomes available or market conditions shift, the product manager may update, reprioritize, or even remove certain Epics to adapt to the changing needs of the business and customers.
Epics are commonly used in Agile development methodology as a way to manage and prioritize larger pieces of work. They provide a framework for breaking down complex projects into smaller, more manageable user stories that can be completed within a sprint.
No, Epics are not limited to software development projects only. While they are commonly used in software development, they can be applied to any project or initiative that requires breaking down a large goal into smaller, actionable tasks.
An Epic is a larger and more strategic piece of work that encompasses multiple user stories and often spans multiple sprints. On the other hand, a feature represents a specific functionality or capability that can usually be completed within a single sprint.

Article by

Ruben Buijs

Ruben is the founder of ProductLift. I employ a decade of consulting experience from Ernst & Young to maximize clients' ROI on new Tech developments. I now help companies build better products

Table of contents

  1. Examples
  2. Importance
  3. How to Use It
  4. Useful Tips
  5. Related Terms

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