In your Agile group you have your user stories, but it seems like some user stories belong in the same category with each other and others don’t seem to correlate. When this happens you need to make something called an Epic or a Theme.
An Epic or a Theme is “a way to organize similar stories into appropriate workstreams” (Rose). And Epics/Themes are typically created after the team creates the user stories. There are many ways to organize similar user stories, one is “grouping together a similar value proposition”, meaning higher valued stories with other higher valued stories, this can keep the group focused on the more important stories. There are many other ways to group stories, it’ all depends on the group and the situation.
In the lynda video, Doug Rose says that the product owner usually creates a large value statement instead of several smaller stories, which is okay because that’s how most people think. In that situation we need to work backwards and break the Epic into smaller parts that all combine together to make the original Epic. These Epics are typically large anyways and are not the same as user stories, when the product owner gives a huge task that seems vague that’s an indicator that the team should break it down into user stories.
There’s an 8 step process that can be remembered by the acronym “FEEDBACK”. In this article, I’m only going to give a brief description of what FEEDBACK is, if you want to learn more about it watch this (Lynda).
F stands for Flow, this is how the story might go through the application’s workflow. E stands for Effort here you might break down the epic based on the developer’s level of effort. E stands for Entry, sometimes the team might want to break down the epic by how the customer enters the data. D stands for Data operations, you may want to break up your epic based on common data operations, such as read, update and delete. B stands for Business rules, sometimes you’ll see there’s a lot of complex value in the epic, when this happens you may want to to split that epic down into business rules. A stands for Alternatives, some epics can easily be broken into stories with alternative criteria. C stands for Complexity, product owners start thinking, they find greater and greater value, when this happens the epic is just a simple start, then you can break it down into stories with increasing complexity. And finally K stands for Knowledge, sometimes the product owner will present the epic and the team will need more knowledge, when this happens the developers will create spikes.
“They are naturally grouped together and need to be split up.It's like an orange that falls to you, naturally whole. Now you have to go through the process of splitting it into edible segments.”