What is an Epic in Agile Development?

What is an Epic in Agile Development?

What is an Epic in Agile Development ? Agile development is a project management approach that emphasizes flexibility, collaboration, and iterative progress. One of the key concepts in agile development is the use of user stories to define requirements and guide development efforts. User stories are short, simple descriptions of a feature or functionality from the perspective of the end user. But what happens when a user story is too large or complex to be completed within a single iteration? That’s where epics come into play.


Understanding the Concept of an Epic

In agile development, an epic represents a collection of related user stories that share a broader strategic objective. It is a way to group together multiple user stories that are too big to be completed within a single iteration. Think of an epic as a larger, high-level story that encompasses several smaller stories.

The Relationship Between Epics, Themes, and Stories

To better understand the role of an epic, let’s examine how it fits into the broader hierarchy of agile development. At the highest level, we have themes. A theme represents a team’s high-level strategy for a product or project. It outlines the overall goals and objectives.

An epic, on the other hand, is a more detailed breakdown of a theme. It represents a smaller, more focused strategic plan that contributes to the achievement of the theme. Epics are further broken down into individual user stories, which are the smallest units of development work.

Here’s a visual representation of the relationship between themes, epics, and stories:

Theme Epic Story Explanation Graphic

Let’s take a look at an example to see how this hierarchy works in practice.

Example: Using Epics in Agile Development

Imagine a major movie theater chain facing the challenge of filling empty seats in its theaters for movies that have been showing for several weeks. The senior management of the theater chain tasks its product team with finding a solution to this problem.

Theme: Fill Empty Seats in Theaters

The product team identifies a potential solution – using a mobile app to drive last-minute ticket sales. This solution can be broken down into several epics, each representing a different aspect of the strategy. Here are some examples of potential epics for this theme:

Epic 1: Create and Assign Promotional Codes

This epic involves creating and assigning promotional codes that customers can use to make last-minute purchases at a discounted price. By offering discounts, the theater hopes to attract more customers to fill the empty seats.

Epic 2: Add Text-Message Capability to the Mobile App

To effectively promote last-minute deals and offers, the mobile app needs to have text-message capability. This epic focuses on enhancing the app’s functionality to send promotional messages and coupons via text messages.

Epic 3: Develop Creative for Promo Emails and SMS Texts

In order to effectively market the last-minute ticket sales, the product team needs to develop engaging and persuasive content for promotional emails and SMS texts. This epic involves designing and creating compelling marketing materials.

By breaking down the overall strategy into specific epics, the product team can focus on tackling each aspect of the problem individually. This allows for a more manageable and targeted approach to development.

Benefits of Using the Theme-Epic-Story Framework

The theme-epic-story framework in agile development offers several benefits for teams and organizations.

1. Strategic Decision Making

Breaking down a theme into epics and stories provides a structured approach to strategic decision making. By assigning story points to each user story, teams can estimate the effort required for each epic and get a sense of the resources and time needed. This allows for better-informed decisions on prioritization and resource allocation.

2. Performance Monitoring and Timeline Estimation

Using the theme-epic-story framework enables teams to monitor performance more effectively. By estimating the number of story points that can be completed in a given sprint, teams gain insights into their capabilities and can better plan and manage their work. This helps prevent overcommitment or underutilization of resources.

3. Focus on Key Goals

Themes provide a clear direction and overarching goal for the product or project. Epics help tie the individual stories together, ensuring that the team remains focused on the key objectives. This alignment helps maintain a sense of purpose and unity within the team.


In agile development, an epic represents a collection of related user stories that share a broader strategic objective. It provides a way to break down large and complex requirements into more manageable pieces. By using the theme-epic-story framework, teams can make more informed decisions, monitor performance effectively, and stay focused on their key goals. Incorporating epics into the agile development process can enhance collaboration, flexibility, and ultimately lead to successful outcomes.

To learn more about how epics fit into your product strategy and build better roadmaps, check out this comprehensive guide.

Related Articles :

  1. Agile Methodology in Software Engineering
  2. The Agile Model in Software Engineering: A Comprehensive Guide
  3. Agile Software Development Life Cycle: A Comprehensive Guide
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Author: Pallavi

Business Analyst , Functional Consultant, Provide Training on Business Analysis and SDLC Methodologies.

29 thoughts on “What is an Epic in Agile Development?”

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