Theme, User Story, Epic

After Scrum methodology settled into the organizational culture, there are some issues that cause confusion and communication problems. First of all, we should not forget that the aim of all these descriptions are only for creating a common language in the organization. That is why, if you already have the common terminology for these definitions, it is alright to keep going with them. In this article I address the well accepted description of these concepts.

Just before defining the three main term, I want to emphasise two basic concepts;

Task & Feature

In real Scrum lifecycle, while creating Product Backlog, requirements are collected by Product Owner while asking the question of “What”. Each answer of this question is handled as Feature and associated with each other. This correlated packages of Features generate Wish List of the project.

The question of “How” is used to get Tasks from the User Stories. Therefore, each of those Tasks are smallest stones of development, delivery and acceptance steps for the User Stories. Dan Chuparkof indicates in one of his presentation about “Jira and Project Management” that a Task have workload between 30 minutes to 3 days.

Request as “As a reporting specialist, I need a search engine tool in the lists to find the data easily”, advance/simple search, filtering criteria, ordering options are called as Feature. The way of implementing these Features like; back-end development, front-end development, development of search engine’s API, designing the result screen, writing the test scenarios can be called as Task.

User Story

User Stories are scripts that reflects functional requirements of the stakeholders from the Project. These scripts are formed with basic words and handle the needs & wants with end user level.

User Stories can be associated with the PMI’s Use Cases. Although they are different from each other, fundamentally both serve to collect stakeholders’ requirements to provide input for the Project. While Use Cases do it with the way of Actors and roles; User Stories prefer to represent the requirements with sentences.

Although User Stories can be formed with any format, the format I share below is a common well accepted one to help Product Owner deduce the PBIs easily.

As a [type of user], I [want/need] to [goal] so that I [receive benefit]

For instance, “As a sales manager, I want to receive monthly sales reports as an automated e-mail so that I have less operational work load.”

In User Stories, the aim of indicating type of user is not for prioritizing or handling the work according to hierarchical position of the position; it is just to understand which type of end user able to do once the feature is live. Therefore, defining end user types like “validator”, “support specialist”, “report specialist”, will be beneficial while constituting the requirement lifecycle.

Epic

The term “Epic” can be defined as a collection of User Stories or a big User Stories. In this description, measurement of the ‘big’ is not declared. With the settlement of the Scrum in organization, measure of this ‘big’ become clear. I reply the question of, “is it big enough to define the story as Epic” as “if you cannot break up it directly to the Task level, then you can call it as an Epic”.

According to Variables and methods, time can differ from Project to Project or organization to organization. However, as I experienced, an Epic takes at least 2 sprint.

Theme

Theme is a name that is given to a collection of User Stories. They reflect the root goal of the project. Sprint Planning Meeting is called as Theme division meeting. Themes that set the framework of the project, can be formed as any format and format does not need to include any of “lifecycle” or “benefits of the project” information. Only defining the main goal of the project like “Creating reporting panel” is enough for Theme.

In conclusion, creating a common language in organization strengthen communication and expedite the processes. That is why, I will write about such confusing issues on occasion. I will be glad to hear about advices and questions in any cases.

Best regards,

Ali SARAÇOĞLU