What Are Epics User Stories: Definition, Guide, and Uses

The views expressed in this post are the writer's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Aloa or AloaLabs, LLC.

Tools like epics user stories are valuable in project management. Their adept implementation efficiently streamline the development workflow and improve its overall quality while accelerating delivery timelines. Understanding and utilizing these tools effectively allows teams to articulate their project goals better, ensuring a strategic approach to development that aligns with overarching business objectives. 

At Aloa, a software outsourcing expert, we have a meticulous approach to efficient project management. Our vast network comprises skilled developers proficient in epics, user stories, and features creation. With our dedication to embracing Agile methodologies, clients can streamline their project management and receive regular updates on their projects’ progress to stay informed based on their business objectives.

In this blog, we will discuss what epics user stories are in the context of project management. We'll break down each of these concepts, exploring their core characteristics and differences. After reading, you’ll gain practical ways to effectively create epics and user stories, ensuring your projects run smoothly and deliver maximum value.  

Let's dive in!

Epics User Stories: What Are They?

Epics user stories are fundamental tools in software project management, transforming complex functionalities into achievable objectives. As integral elements of the Agile methodology, they create a structured hierarchy of tasks that streamline project progression and anchor the development process in a user-focused approach.

What are Epics in Project Management?

What are Epics in Project Management

Epics in project management are extensive narratives that encapsulate the primary objectives and functionalities a project aims to achieve throughout its lifecycle. Epics package a vast body of work into a contained unit, simplifying tasks and making grand-scale projects manageable. 

With that, they are instrumental in ensuring every project facet aligns with the strategic goals, maintaining consistency and focus during the project's progression. Building on this understanding of Epics, we can now focus on another crucial element in project management — the User Stories.

What Are User Stories in Project Management

What Are User Stories in Project Management

User Stories are pivotal in Agile product development. They provide clear and concise descriptions of features from the user's perspective. Emphasizing delivery value directly to the user, user stories make sure that the development process aligns with user needs and enhances their experience. 

More than just communication tools, user stories guide the prioritization of development roadmaps and the breaking down of complex tasks into manageable units. This approach fosters adaptability and maintains momentum, focusing on features and functionalities to improve user satisfaction and engagement. 

Core Differences Between Epics and User Stories

Understanding the key differences between epics and user stories is crucial in functioning their roles in Agile project management accordingly. They highly benefit DevOps teams as it allows them to streamline their efforts and structure their workflows more effectively. 

Below, we’ll outline how these concepts differ from one another. 


When it comes to the level of granularity in project management, epics user stories carry significant weight in the process of Agile project outlining. Epics represent ample scopes of work encompassing broad and overarching project tasks. However, user stories possess greater granularity—they are fine-grained tasks centered on specific features or functionalities within the project spectrum.

Timeframe for Completion

The timeframe for completing epics and user stories varies drastically. Understanding this can streamline the project flow and set accurate expectations. Epics typically spread across multiple sprint cycles and can span across different project trails. In contrast, user stories are traditionally designed to be completed within a singular sprint cycle, emphasizing their small-scale and precise nature.

Detail Provided

The level of detail provided by epics and user stories differs, affecting the team’s clarity on what needs to be developed. User stories provide the right amount of information necessary for a team to deliver the required functionality within a short timeframe. Conversely, epics give a high-level overview that is incrementally refined over time, making them ideal for setting out the project's large-scale trajectory.

Development Process

Epics user stories serve different purposes in the development roadmap process. Each contributes to a holistic view of the project and its progress. Epics act as a project roadmap, indicating significant scopes of work that guide the overall project journey. On the other hand, user stories delineate the crucial steps required to achieve the grander goals outlined by the epics, refining the developmental path into actionable tasks.

Stakeholder Involvement

The nature of discussion and stakeholder involvement around epics and user stories showcases their distinction at decision-making levels. Epics, owing to the strategic input they require, are often subjects of conversation among senior-level stakeholders. User stories, being more tactical, are frequently discussed within the development team, serving as immediate action points in the day-to-day developmental workflow.

How To Create an Epic

An epic in software development embodies a strategic vision that guides multiple projects or functionalities toward a unified goal. While seemingly daunting, creating an epic can be distilled into three meticulous steps, ensuring clarity, functionality, and alignment with overarching project goals.

How To Create an Epic

Step 1: Define the Big Picture

Before diving into the specifics of epic creation, it’s essential to lay a solid foundation for understanding its scope and significance. An epic serves as a North Star for development projects. It solidifies a comprehensive vision. Teams can navigate the complexities of software creation with a clear end goal in mind. 

Here are the essential key points to define this step: 

  • Identify the Main Objective: At the core of every epic lies a central goal or problem it seeks to address. Pinpointing this objective requires a deep understanding of the project's end goal, encapsulating what success looks like in its completion.
  • Engage with Stakeholders: Engaging with stakeholders, clients, end-users, or team members provides invaluable insights, aligning the epic's direction with the needs and expectations of those it aims to serve.
  • Outline a High-Level Vision: Crafting a concise, clear summary statement that exemplifies the desired outcome is crucial. It sets a tone for the project, ensuring every team member is on the same page, devoid of technical complexity for accessibility.

Step 2: Break Down the Epic

To effectively navigate an epic's complexities, dissecting the overarching narrative into smaller, practicable segments is essential. This is a systematic procedure that enhances manageability and team focus. Let's delve deeper into breaking down this crucial phase.

  • Divide Into Manageable Tasks: Segment the epic into smaller, actionable tasks or features. Doing so makes the project more digestible, allowing for focused, efficient progress.
  • Prioritize the Components: Not all tasks hold equal urgency or importance. Identifying critical initial tasks versus those that can afford delayed development ensures a strategic, efficient approach to project execution.
  • Ensure Each Task Adds Value: Every component within the epic must propel the project toward its ultimate goal. This guarantees that resources are allocated efficiently, eliminating redundant tasks.

Step 3: Plan for Tracking and Adaptation

Finalizing the epic creation process demands structured planning and flexible adjustment. This involves setting firm benchmarks while staying receptive to changes, keeping the project user-oriented and robust. Consider these metrics in your planning stage:

  • Set Measurable Milestones: Establishing clear, quantifiable benchmarks facilitates the ongoing assessment of progress, enabling teams to adjust timelines and resources as needed.
  • Stay Open to Feedback: The dynamic nature of software development necessitates adaptability. Remaining receptive to feedback throughout the epic's lifecycle ensures the project aligns with user needs and industry standards.
  • Keep Communication Transparent: Regular updates to all stakeholders foster a culture of transparency and trust, which are critical elements for successful collaboration and project alignment.

Overall, the journey of crafting an epic is a strategic endeavor, requiring attention to detail and an overarching vision. It's also the guiding compass for development teams, directing individual efforts toward a united, impactful goal.

How To Create a User Story

Learning how to create user stories is crucial in translating overarching visions into digestible, actionable features that align with the end-user's needs and preferences. Here, we’ll delve into the key steps in formulating agile user stories. This process crystallizes the path from conceptual framework to practical execution.

How To Create a User Story

Step 1: Capture the User's Perspective

The initial step to creating a user story lies in gathering the project’s feedback through the user's lens. Doing so is instrumental in shaping meaningful development based on the user's needs, transforming them into tangible features that cater to specific requirements. Here are essential ways to look out for:

  • Define the User: Understanding who will benefit from a feature is the first step in creating a user story. Developing user personas can greatly enhance empathy and insight into the user's needs.
  • Articulate the Need: What specific functionality does the user require? The clarity and specificity of this need are paramount, setting the stage for targeted, effective development.
  • Explain the Purpose: Each feature must have a justified value, lending to the overall usefulness and appeal of the software to its end users. Understanding 'why' is as crucial as knowing 'what.'

Step 2: Keep It Simple and Concise

The power of an effective user story falls in its clarity and brevity. Once the user story is defined and their needs are addressed, the next critical step is to encapsulate this understanding into a concise narrative. 

This clarity in communication allows for a more focused approach, making it simpler for all stakeholders to understand the fundamental purpose and function of the feature at hand. Here are some strategies to achieve simplicity and conciseness:

  • Utilize User Story Map: One helpful tool for creating User Stories is a user story map. This helps agile teams think about the user experience with every part of the product. It also provides a satisfying way to organize and prioritize work instead of using one flat backlog.
  • Use Straightforward Language: Accessibility is key. Writing User Stories in simple, jargon-free language ensures they are easily understood by all stakeholders, irrespective of technical expertise.
  • Limit the length: Brevity aids in maintaining focus. A concise one or two sentences per user story helps keep the project clear and manageable.
  • Focus on the ‘Why’: The primary aim of a user story is to communicate the purpose behind a feature, guiding development towards meaningful, user-oriented outcomes.

Step 3: Ensure Readiness for Development

Each user story should capture the user's need and be wrapped up with criteria primed for action. Establishing definite readiness checklists for each story ensures the project remains coherent and the goals set are achievable. Here are essential components to ensure each user story is ready for development:

  • Acceptance Criteria: Clearly defining what success looks like for a user story sets a concrete goal for development, outlining the conditions that must be met for completion.
  • Prioritization: Assessing the relative importance of User Stories ensures resources are allocated efficiently, focusing on delivering maximum value in alignment with project goals.
  • Refinement and Estimation: Regular discussions and revisions of User Stories and effort estimation ensure the development process remains agile and responsive to project needs.

Generally, user stories transform abstract project goals into tangible functionalities. The broader vision encapsulated by Epics becomes achievable through these detailed, focused user stories. It aligns development efforts with the needs and expectations of users.

Benefits of Epics User Stories 

To fully grasp the value of epics user stories, you need to consider the inherent connection between business objectives, project workflows, and developers' daily tasks within software project management. When objectively utilized, these components of DevOps can provide advantages for startups and established businesses. 

Here are their benefits in streamlining communication, project clarity, and aligning team efforts with business goals:

Benefits Of Epics User Stories For Business_ Startups

Streamlined Communication

Unified communication is the foundation of successful project management. Epics user stories bridge the gaps within project management space, making complex details accessible to everyone. Here are their benefits in terms of streamlining communication:

  • Shared Vocabulary: Epics user stories create a common lexicon that simplifies complex software development concepts for all involved parties.
  • Consistency and Clarity: This approach aids in maintaining consistency across the project, ensuring everyone clearly understands objectives and requirements.

Collaborative Empowerment

The synergy of epics and user stories fosters a team-oriented environment. It opens the door to enhanced collaboration and shared project vision. Here are ways how this framework impacts teamwork:

  • Breaking Down Large Tasks: Facilitates understanding and ownership by dividing significant objectives into smaller, actionable items.
  • Promoting Collective Responsibility: Encourages shared responsibility and unity within the team, fostering a collaborative work environment.

Customer-Oriented Development

User Stories prioritize the end user’s perspective, focusing development on user needs. Epics ensures this user-centric approach remains broad and inclusive. Here are the advantages that illustrate the customer-oriented strategy of development:

  • User-Centric Approach: Prioritizes user needs and expectations in every development phase, from conception to launch.
  • Alignment with User Requirements: Epics user stories guarantee that the final product resonates with the target audience, enhancing user satisfaction and adoption rates.

Accelerated Delivery

Agile adoption through Epics user stories leads to quicker development and market readiness. This approach promotes rapid iteration and high-quality outcomes. Here are the their benefits in speeding up the delivery process:

  • Iterative Development: Supports rapid development cycles, allowing for quick adjustments and improvements.
  • Faster Time to Market: Accelerates product delivery, giving businesses a competitive advantage in rapidly evolving markets.

Effective Resilience to Changes

Adaptability is vital in software development. User Stories and Epics offer the flexibility to adjust to shifts without sacrificing project goals. Here are ways epics user stories maintain project course amidst change:

  • Flexibility and Adaptability: Offers the agility needed to respond to changes without compromising the project's integrity.
  • Continuous Improvement: Encourages the ongoing refinement of the project, ensuring it remains relevant and effective.

Maximized Return On Investment (ROI)

Strategic organization into User Stories and Epics can streamline focus and optimize resource use. This careful planning delivers higher value and minimizes risks. Here are strategies to enhance the ROI through epics user stories:

  • Focused Delivery: Prioritizes development efforts on high-value features, ensuring efficient use of resources.
  • Risk Mitigation: Reduces the likelihood of project overruns and scope creep by clearly focusing on defined goals and User Stories.

Key Takeaway

Starting a software development project demands a deep understanding of methodologies that prioritize precision, accountability, and innovation. Within the Agile software development framework, epics user stories are indispensable elements for successful project execution. They significantly contribute to a structured yet flexible approach, allowing teams to deliver value more efficiently and consistently.

Furthermore, epics and user stories bridge the gap between complex project demands that lead to successful outcomes. Breaking down an agile epic into specific user stories, teams can effectively manage and prioritize their work. This approach allows for continuous customer feedback, enabling teams to deliver value iteratively to customers and end-users throughout the development process.

Looking for more insights in development operations and project management? Sign up for the Aloa email list via our blog page to receive updates on our latest published blogs. Whether you're a startup, product owner, project manager, or developer, staying informed is key to navigating the challenges and leveraging the opportunities in software development.

Aloa is your trusted software development partner.

Hire your team
Innovate freely ✌️
See why 300+ startups & enterprises trust Aloa with their software outsourcing.
Let's chatLet's chat

Ready to learn more? 
Hire software developers today.

Running a business is hard,
Software development shouldn't be ✌️