What's the difference? Epic vs Story vs Task vs Feature

Ruth Hadari
Ruth Hadari
Agile Advocate, Engineering Ops Expert
Posted on
Jan 3, 2023
Updated on
Jan 3, 2023
Table of Content

Agile development is a software engineering approach that values collaboration, responsiveness to change, and iterative development. Within the Agile methodologies, there are four terms used frequently: Epic, Story, Task, and Feature. 

Each of these terms refers to specific components of a project which are integral for successful delivery within Agile methodologies. This blog post will explain the differences between epic, story, task, and feature in Scrum. 

It will also provide examples of how these terms are used to build a project timeline and help ensure successful delivery. By understanding the distinctions between each term, as well as their purpose in Agile development, teams can better manage projects and achieve desired outcomes. 

What Is an Epic in Agile?

In Scrum, an epic is a large body of work that can be broken down into several smaller stories, or tasks. It is essentially a large user story that encompasses many features and various stakeholders

Generally, an epic describes the end goal of a project; it often involves multiple scrum teams (such as product management, engineering, UX/UI design) working together to accomplish the goal. 

The epic typically represents a theme that is larger than a single story and often includes several related stories or tasks. Epics are commonly used for larger initiatives, such as launching a new product or feature.

Epics are useful because they provide teams with visibility into how their work contributes to accomplishing broader goals

By breaking down epics into stories, tasks, or features, teams can track their progress and understand what they need to do to reach the end goal. Epics also provide stakeholders with an overview of the project’s scope and timeline.

In Agile methodologies such as Scrum, epics are typically written in user story format. A user story defines the specific requirements of a feature that must be met in order for it to be successful. 

By breaking down epics into user stories, teams can ensure that their work is aligned with the larger goal and track progress more easily.

Why Do We Use Agile Epics?

Agile epics, also known as Scrum epics, are used to break down complex features into more manageable chunks. This helps teams manage workloads and prioritize tasks in a more organized manner. 

Agile epics provide an opportunity for teams to focus on specific areas of the product development process, such as user experience design or coding

Epic estimations are used to estimate timeframes for completion based on the complexity of the task or user story. For example, if a task was estimated as 8 story points (which is a measure of complexity), it could be estimated that it would take about 8 hours to complete.

These estimations allow teams to plan and allocate resources effectively, ensuring that projects are completed on time and within budget.

Additionally, Agile epics provide a common understanding among team members, stakeholders, and customers of what is being developed and enable teams to effectively communicate progress.

Agile epics also allow teams to plan their Sprints more efficiently by enabling them to identify tasks that can be completed in a single iteration, as well as longer-term goals for the product. This helps ensure that tasks are scoped properly so that teams can stay on track and deliver the expected outcomes.

Finally, Agile epics facilitate better collaboration between team members and stakeholders. By providing a shared language for all stakeholders to use in discussing what needs to be done, team members can more easily understand each other’s roles and responsibilities. 

This helps ensure that everyone is working towards the same goal and that the project’s timeline is met.

Epic vs User Story

An Agile user story is a simple, yet powerful tool used in Agile development. It is a brief description of a feature or functionality that the end user will benefit from. User stories are written by the Product Owner and often include details such as who the user is, what they want to do and why they need it. 

As such, user stories provide clarity and context to the development team. They help teams to better understand the purpose of their work, focus on delivering value efficiently, and facilitate better collaboration between team members and stakeholders. 

An example of an Agile user story might be "As a customer, I want to be able to purchase products online." This helps the team understand what is required for them to deliver value in the form of an online shopping experience. 

Story points are used to estimate how much effort each user story will take, enabling teams to better plan and allocate resources accordingly.

User stories are commonly used in conjunction with epics as they enable teams to break down high-level tasks into smaller chunks that can be more easily managed. 

Epic vs. Feature

A feature is a distinct capability or characteristic of the product being developed. It can be anything from a new user experience to an improved process. 

Features are essential in Agile projects as they help teams to better understand and prioritize tasks, while also providing insight into the potential success of a product. They provide clarity and context to development teams, enabling them to focus on delivering value efficiently. 

Additionally, features can be used in conjunction with epics to further break down tasks into smaller components. By doing so, teams are better able to identify and address any issues that arise during the development process. This ultimately helps ensure the successful completion of a project on time and within budget.

Epic vs. Task

A task is a specific action that must be completed in order to achieve a goal. In Agile development, tasks are used to break down epics and user stories into smaller components that can then be assigned to individual team members. 

This approach helps teams focus on completing the necessary steps to reach their desired outcomes. Additionally, tasks provide visibility and clarity to development teams, allowing them to better understand their individual roles and responsibilities. 

Utilizing tasks within an Agile project helps ensure that all team members have a clear understanding of the scope of their work, resulting in more efficient progress toward completion. Ultimately, tasks help teams stay focused on delivering value by providing smaller, manageable steps that can be completed quickly. 

Epic vs. Feature vs. User Story vs. Task Examples

Epic, feature, user story, and task are useful in helping teams better understand their roles and responsibilities within an Agile project. An epic is the highest-level goal of a project, providing direction and context to allow teams to effectively plan out the development process. 

Features provide more detail on how a product should be built, while user stories provide further detail on what needs to be done by each team member.

Tasks are used to break down epics and user stories into smaller components that can then be assigned to individual team members for completion. 

An example of an epic might be creating a new online store for a business. This epic encompasses many user stories, tasks, and features that must be completed in order to make the online store functional. 

For example, one user story might be “As an administrator, I want to manage my inventory so that customers can purchase items from the site.” From this user story, we can break it down into smaller tasks such as creating an interface for managing inventory, designing databases to hold product information, and writing code to connect the database and other components. 

Additionally, different features may need to be included such as shopping cart functionality or checkout processes. All of these tasks and features need to come together in order for the end goal (the epic) to be achieved.

Another example of an epic might be “Create a mobile application for a business.” This epic would include user stories such as “As a customer, I want to view product information so that I can make informed decisions before purchasing,” and tasks such as designing the layout of the app, writing code for connecting with the back-end services, and testing the app on multiple platforms. 

Additionally, features like push notifications or in-app purchases may need to be included in order for the end goal (the epic) to be achieved. 

By utilizing epics, user stories, tasks, and features in Agile projects, companies can ensure the successful completion of their projects on time and within budget while still providing a high-quality product or service. 

Ultimately, these approaches help teams focus on delivering value while efficiently completing projects and helping everyone involved stay organized and focused on their individual roles and responsibilities. 

Conclusion

Epics, user stories, features, and tasks are all essential aspects of work in Agile product development. By understanding the differences between these terms, you can more effectively communicate with your team and manage your product backlog. 

What's more, when you have a clear understanding of each term, you can better prioritize your work to align with your company's goals. If you're looking for a tool to help you retroactively organize and track your epics, user stories, features, and tasks, check out GoRetro.

About the author

Ruth Hadari
Agile Advocate, Engineering Ops Expert

Highly experienced in leading multi-organizational teams, groups, in-shore as well as off-shore. The go-to person who is able to simplify the complex. An agile advocate, experienced in all common methodologies. Responsible for the entire software development lifecycle process from development, QA, DevOps, Automation to delivery including overall planning, direction, coordination, execution, implementation, control and completion. Drives execution, and communicates on status, risks, metrics, risk-mitigation and processes across R&D.

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