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Re: [scrumdevelopment] Another User Story terminology thread - Epics/Themes

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  • Christofer Jennings
    My current project uses Jira/GH (green hopper). We don t have themes. We don t have epics in jira/gh either, but they are in some spreadsheets… and their
    Message 1 of 13 , Dec 19, 2012
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      My current project uses Jira/GH (green hopper). We don't have themes. We don't have epics in jira/gh either, but they are in some spreadsheets… and their authors label them as "stories" for the legacy reason that they are new to all this Agile stuff and thought stories could be something rather large. We don't use 'epic' in jira/gh because it isn't very well implemented vis a vis linking to stories. … So many forces affecting terminology.

      Glad you brought up the topic of themes. They might be a way to deal with something I see happening. The SMEs (subject matter experts) who write the epics do it from the perspective of the user, i.e., the user of the legacy system transitioning to the new system. The 'stories' they write cover a lot of ground because that's how they see the users seeing the system. Their stories also tend to have to be broken up into more technically oriented 'stories' that the developers can digest. Often a developer level story has a cross-cutting effect on the SME's stories. The cross-cutting makes it hard to organize the developer level stories relative to the SME's. (we're required to track) Maybe the theme concept could help us here. It sounds like themes could have less 'plot' than stories. That is, they could have less to do with defining how a user gets something done. They could be more oriented toward simple organization and grouping.

      Sound reasonable? Does this work for or against Mr. Bradley's concern on the terminology getting diluted?

      ,chris

      On Dec 19, 2012, at 7:10 PM, Michael Wollin <yahoo@...> wrote:



      I've seen "feature" used as theme - an epic or a collection of stories related to a function, like printing. Mingle rolls stories into epics. 

      On Dec 19, 2012, at 8:25 PM, Charles Bradley - Professional Scrum Trainer and Coach <chuck-lists2@...> wrote:


      No, it's not what you're thinking... at least it's not about an article or anything like that.

      Here it is...

      In the earlier works on User Stories (Cohn, at least -- maybe there's more), the concept of an "Epic" was something like a "big story" or "a story too big to fit into a sprint".  A "Theme" was something like "a collection of related stories."  

      In more recent years, I haven't seen much use of the term Theme, but I have seen quite a bit of use of the term Epic, to mean *either* a big story, *or* a collection of Stories(thus taking on the meaning of a Theme).

      I've noticed this in the last few years.  I first noticed it in one of my clients 3 years ago(especially in use at the D/Director/VP level), then I noticed it in Pivotal Tracker and Greenhopper in the last year.  

      Has anyone else seen this use(misuse?) of the terminology?  Do we (as a community, and as practitioners) care that the term has been co-opted?  Is the impact so small as to not worry about it?
       
      -------
      Charles Bradley
      Scrum Coach-in-Chief
      ScrumCrazy.com






    • Ken 'classmaker' Ritchie
      My present clients are using a classic conceptual hierarchy: Themes, Epics and more Epics, Stories, and [usually but not necessarily] Tasks. The granularity of
      Message 2 of 13 , Dec 21, 2012
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        My present clients are using a classic conceptual hierarchy: Themes, Epics and more Epics, Stories, and [usually but not necessarily] Tasks. The granularity of epics varies from what were "projects" to what are "big stories" to be further split.

        My main point to newbies is that everything and anything above the story level simply represents grouping. 

        "The story's the thing wherein we'll catch the focus of the king." (customer-user).

        Meaning: We say we are accountable for user stories. We estimate, plan, complete, and track stories -- using story points for planning and velocity. The larger things above are groupings. The smaller things below (e.g., tasks, when used) are supporting breakouts only, but not the focus. 

        BTW, VersionOne nicely supports epics, and epics may contain epics. Any story when split becomes an epic to hold the new stories. V1 also supports arbitrary collections called "Feature Groups" (flexible and convenient). 

        Cheers and blessings to all,
        --Ken ;-)

        Ken 'classmaker' Ritchie
        Agile Coach and Trainer



        On Dec 19, 2012, at 22:10, Michael Wollin <yahoo@...> wrote:

         

        I've seen "feature" used as theme - an epic or a collection of stories related to a function, like printing. Mingle rolls stories into epics. 

        On Dec 19, 2012, at 8:25 PM, Charles Bradley - Professional Scrum Trainer and Coach <chuck-lists2@...> wrote:

         

        No, it's not what you're thinking... at least it's not about an article or anything like that.

        Here it is...

        In the earlier works on User Stories (Cohn, at least -- maybe there's more), the concept of an "Epic" was something like a "big story" or "a story too big to fit into a sprint".  A "Theme" was something like "a collection of related stories." 

        In more recent years, I haven't seen much use of the term Theme, but I have seen quite a bit of use of the term Epic, to mean *either* a big story, *or* a collection of Stories(thus taking on the meaning of a Theme).

        I've noticed this in the last few years.  I first noticed it in one of my clients 3 years ago(especially in use at the D/Director/VP level), then I noticed it in Pivotal Tracker and Greenhopper in the last year. 

        Has anyone else seen this use(misuse?) of the terminology?  Do we (as a community, and as practitioners) care that the term has been co-opted?  Is the impact so small as to not worry about it?
         
        -------
        Charles Bradley
        Scrum Coach-in-Chief
        ScrumCrazy.com


      • Jesse Houwing
        I can echo the epic as container concept from many customers I work with. They re also used to capture vague requirements/desirements that need refinement. And
        Message 3 of 13 , Jan 5, 2013
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          I can echo the epic as container concept from many customers I work with. They're also used to capture vague requirements/desirements that need refinement. 

          And I also see a lot of 'features'. They're a number of epics/stories which combined deliver a marketable set of functionality. 

          I don't see many theme's, though in TFS, we use Area's to group features/epics/stories into logical groups. These might be themes, but they could also be set up to represent layers, components or any other logical grouping.

          We also use linking of TFS work items to create logically grouped items, similar bugs, stories with the same underlying technology etc. I do see theme's surface here, though we don't call them as such.

          In the end, I do see our customers to attempt to logically group the work, though from a tooling perspective, I'd prefer tagging over linking or grouping or creating hierarchies. They're much more flexible.

          Jesse


          On Thu, Dec 20, 2012 at 6:43 AM, Christofer Jennings <boz.lists@...> wrote:


          My current project uses Jira/GH (green hopper). We don't have themes. We don't have epics in jira/gh either, but they are in some spreadsheets… and their authors label them as "stories" for the legacy reason that they are new to all this Agile stuff and thought stories could be something rather large. We don't use 'epic' in jira/gh because it isn't very well implemented vis a vis linking to stories. … So many forces affecting terminology.

          Glad you brought up the topic of themes. They might be a way to deal with something I see happening. The SMEs (subject matter experts) who write the epics do it from the perspective of the user, i.e., the user of the legacy system transitioning to the new system. The 'stories' they write cover a lot of ground because that's how they see the users seeing the system. Their stories also tend to have to be broken up into more technically oriented 'stories' that the developers can digest. Often a developer level story has a cross-cutting effect on the SME's stories. The cross-cutting makes it hard to organize the developer level stories relative to the SME's. (we're required to track) Maybe the theme concept could help us here. It sounds like themes could have less 'plot' than stories. That is, they could have less to do with defining how a user gets something done. They could be more oriented toward simple organization and grouping.

          Sound reasonable? Does this work for or against Mr. Bradley's concern on the terminology getting diluted?

          ,chris


          On Dec 19, 2012, at 7:10 PM, Michael Wollin <yahoo@...> wrote:



          I've seen "feature" used as theme - an epic or a collection of stories related to a function, like printing. Mingle rolls stories into epics. 

          On Dec 19, 2012, at 8:25 PM, Charles Bradley - Professional Scrum Trainer and Coach <chuck-lists2@...> wrote:


          No, it's not what you're thinking... at least it's not about an article or anything like that.

          Here it is...

          In the earlier works on User Stories (Cohn, at least -- maybe there's more), the concept of an "Epic" was something like a "big story" or "a story too big to fit into a sprint".  A "Theme" was something like "a collection of related stories."  

          In more recent years, I haven't seen much use of the term Theme, but I have seen quite a bit of use of the term Epic, to mean *either* a big story, *or* a collection of Stories(thus taking on the meaning of a Theme).

          I've noticed this in the last few years.  I first noticed it in one of my clients 3 years ago(especially in use at the D/Director/VP level), then I noticed it in Pivotal Tracker and Greenhopper in the last year.  

          Has anyone else seen this use(misuse?) of the terminology?  Do we (as a community, and as practitioners) care that the term has been co-opted?  Is the impact so small as to not worry about it?
           
          -------
          Charles Bradley
          Scrum Coach-in-Chief
          ScrumCrazy.com









        • George Dinwiddie
          Charles, On 12/19/12 8:25 PM, Charles Bradley - Professional Scrum Trainer and ... I ve seen lots of organization use lots of different terminology. Often they
          Message 4 of 13 , Jan 5, 2013
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            Charles,

            On 12/19/12 8:25 PM, Charles Bradley - Professional Scrum Trainer and
            Coach wrote:
            >
            >
            > No, it's not what you're thinking... at least it's not about an article
            > or anything like that.
            >
            > Here it is...
            >
            > In the earlier works on User Stories (Cohn, at least -- maybe there's
            > more), the concept of an "Epic" was something like a "big story" or "a
            > story too big to fit into a sprint". A "Theme" was something like "a
            > collection of related stories."
            >
            > In more recent years, I haven't seen much use of the term Theme, but I
            > have seen quite a bit of use of the term Epic, to mean *either* a big
            > story, *or* a collection of Stories(thus taking on the meaning of a Theme).
            >
            > I've noticed this in the last few years. I first noticed it in one of
            > my clients 3 years ago(especially in use at the D/Director/VP level),
            > then I noticed it in Pivotal Tracker and Greenhopper in the last year.
            >
            > Has anyone else seen this use(misuse?) of the terminology? Do we (as a
            > community, and as practitioners) care that the term has been co-opted?
            > Is the impact so small as to not worry about it?

            I've seen lots of organization use lots of different terminology. Often
            they use "feature" instead of either "epic" or "theme." I've seen
            "capability" for the middle level. I don't worry about it much as long
            as people in the organization find it clear and agree on the
            terminology. Often a term must be avoided because it has multiple
            meanings in the organization.

            - George

            --
            ----------------------------------------------------------------------
            * George Dinwiddie * http://blog.gdinwiddie.com
            Software Development http://www.idiacomputing.com
            Consultant and Coach http://www.agilemaryland.org
            ----------------------------------------------------------------------
          • Chet Hendrickson
            Hi, I use feature to refer to a thing the business/stakeholders want from us. I use story and user story interchangeably for the team s description of a
            Message 5 of 13 , Jan 5, 2013
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              Hi,

              I use 'feature' to refer to a thing the business/stakeholders want from us.  I use 'story' and 'user story' interchangeably for the team's description of a feature or features.  I don't use 'epic' or 'theme' or 'saga' or 'ode'.  I don't know what they mean and I bet, like me, you have seen too much time spent determining when one category ends and another starts.  

              I call them all 'stories'.  Some are small enough to be scheduled into a Sprint and others aren't.  And some, we don't know enough about to know.

              chet

              Chet Hendrickson



              On Jan 5, 2013, at 2:29 PM, George Dinwiddie <lists@...> wrote:

               

              Charles,

              On 12/19/12 8:25 PM, Charles Bradley - Professional Scrum Trainer and
              Coach wrote:
              >
              >
              > No, it's not what you're thinking... at least it's not about an article
              > or anything like that.
              >
              > Here it is...
              >
              > In the earlier works on User Stories (Cohn, at least -- maybe there's
              > more), the concept of an "Epic" was something like a "big story" or "a
              > story too big to fit into a sprint". A "Theme" was something like "a
              > collection of related stories."
              >
              > In more recent years, I haven't seen much use of the term Theme, but I
              > have seen quite a bit of use of the term Epic, to mean *either* a big
              > story, *or* a collection of Stories(thus taking on the meaning of a Theme).
              >
              > I've noticed this in the last few years. I first noticed it in one of
              > my clients 3 years ago(especially in use at the D/Director/VP level),
              > then I noticed it in Pivotal Tracker and Greenhopper in the last year.
              >
              > Has anyone else seen this use(misuse?) of the terminology? Do we (as a
              > community, and as practitioners) care that the term has been co-opted?
              > Is the impact so small as to not worry about it?

              I've seen lots of organization use lots of different terminology. Often
              they use "feature" instead of either "epic" or "theme." I've seen
              "capability" for the middle level. I don't worry about it much as long
              as people in the organization find it clear and agree on the
              terminology. Often a term must be avoided because it has multiple
              meanings in the organization.

              - George

              --
              ----------------------------------------------------------
              * George Dinwiddie * http://blog.gdinwiddie.com
              Software Development http://www.idiacomputing.com
              Consultant and Coach http://www.agilemaryland.org
              ----------------------------------------------------------


            • Charles Bradley - Professional Scrum Trai
              Thanks to all for the feedback on this thread.  What I gathered, in terms of my original questions, is that the community has seen this practice, doesn t care
              Message 6 of 13 , Jan 6, 2013
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                Thanks to all for the feedback on this thread.  What I gathered, in terms of my original questions, is that the community has seen this practice, doesn't care that much about the mixing of the terms, and the impact of the mixing is not that important.  Many pointed to the key strategy that terms be fairly well understood inside of a particular team or organization, which make sense.  I'm personally ok with all of this. 

                Out of deference for the User Story pioneers, and those who are active in the community, I just wanted to get a sense for where the community stands.

                I thank you all for your input and intend to reflect future writings/trainings/coachings to reflect the community sentiment.
                 
                -------
                Charles Bradley
                Scrum Coach-in-Chief
                ScrumCrazy.com




                From: Chet Hendrickson <lists@...>
                To: scrumdevelopment@yahoogroups.com
                Sent: Saturday, January 5, 2013 1:29 PM
                Subject: Re: [scrumdevelopment] Another User Story terminology thread - Epics/Themes



                Hi,

                I use 'feature' to refer to a thing the business/stakeholders want from us.  I use 'story' and 'user story' interchangeably for the team's description of a feature or features.  I don't use 'epic' or 'theme' or 'saga' or 'ode'.  I don't know what they mean and I bet, like me, you have seen too much time spent determining when one category ends and another starts.  

                I call them all 'stories'.  Some are small enough to be scheduled into a Sprint and others aren't.  And some, we don't know enough about to know.

                chet

                Chet Hendrickson



                On Jan 5, 2013, at 2:29 PM, George Dinwiddie <lists@...> wrote:

                 
                Charles,

                On 12/19/12 8:25 PM, Charles Bradley - Professional Scrum Trainer and
                Coach wrote:
                >
                >
                > No, it's not what you're thinking... at least it's not about an article
                > or anything like that.
                >
                > Here it is...
                >
                > In the earlier works on User Stories (Cohn, at least -- maybe there's
                > more), the concept of an "Epic" was something like a "big story" or "a
                > story too big to fit into a sprint". A "Theme" was something like "a
                > collection of related stories."
                >
                > In more recent years, I haven't seen much use of the term Theme, but I
                > have seen quite a bit of use of the term Epic, to mean *either* a big
                > story, *or* a collection of Stories(thus taking on the meaning of a Theme).
                >
                > I've noticed this in the last few years. I first noticed it in one of
                > my clients 3 years ago(especially in use at the D/Director/VP level),
                > then I noticed it in Pivotal Tracker and Greenhopper in the last year.
                >
                > Has anyone else seen this use(misuse?) of the terminology? Do we (as a
                > community, and as practitioners) care that the term has been co-opted?
                > Is the impact so small as to not worry about it?

                I've seen lots of organization use lots of different terminology. Often
                they use "feature" instead of either "epic" or "theme." I've seen
                "capability" for the middle level. I don't worry about it much as long
                as people in the organization find it clear and agree on the
                terminology. Often a term must be avoided because it has multiple
                meanings in the organization.

                - George

                --
                ----------------------------------------------------------
                * George Dinwiddie * http://blog.gdinwiddie.com
                Software Development http://www.idiacomputing.com
                Consultant and Coach http://www.agilemaryland.org
                ----------------------------------------------------------






              • daswartz@prodigy
                Dean Leffingwell s Scaled Agile Framework, targeted at large organizations, uses feature and story in much the same way as Chet. A story is what teams work on.
                Message 7 of 13 , Jan 7, 2013
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                  Dean Leffingwell's Scaled Agile Framework, targeted at large
                  organizations, uses feature and story in much the same way as Chet.

                  A story is what teams work on. A feature is something a marketer could
                  put in a product brochure. A feature might be implemented by one
                  story, but often takes more than one. An epic is larger than a
                  feature and represents an organizational initiative. Epics often longer
                  than one release to execute.

                  For example, an epic for a software product might be "Implement
                  single sign-on". Features could be "Active Directory Integration, and
                  Sign-on using Facebook login"

                  Doug Swartz

                  Saturday, January 5, 2013, 2:29:54 PM, you wrote:

                  > Hi,



                  > I use 'feature' to refer to a thing the business/stakeholders want
                  > from us. I use 'story' and 'user story' interchangeably for the
                  > team's description of a feature or features. I don't use 'epic' or
                  > 'theme' or 'saga' or 'ode'. I don't know what they mean and I bet,
                  > like me, you have seen too much time spent determining when one
                  > category ends and another starts.




                  > I call them all 'stories'. Some are small enough to be scheduled
                  > into a Sprint and others aren't. And some, we don't know enough about to know.




                  > chet




                  >
                  > Chet Hendrickson

                  > lists@...




                  >
                  >

                  > On Jan 5, 2013, at 2:29 PM, George Dinwiddie <lists@...> wrote:


                  >
                  >
                  > Charles,
                  >
                  > On 12/19/12 8:25 PM, Charles Bradley - Professional Scrum Trainer and
                  > Coach wrote:
                  >>
                  >>
                  >> No, it's not what you're thinking... at least it's not about an article
                  >> or anything like that.
                  >>
                  >> Here it is...
                  >>
                  >> In the earlier works on User Stories (Cohn, at least -- maybe there's
                  >> more), the concept of an "Epic" was something like a "big story" or "a
                  >> story too big to fit into a sprint". A "Theme" was something like "a
                  >> collection of related stories."
                  >>
                  >> In more recent years, I haven't seen much use of the term Theme, but I
                  >> have seen quite a bit of use of the term Epic, to mean *either* a big
                  >> story, *or* a collection of Stories(thus taking on the meaning of a Theme).
                  >>
                  >> I've noticed this in the last few years. I first noticed it in one of
                  >> my clients 3 years ago(especially in use at the D/Director/VP level),
                  >> then I noticed it in Pivotal Tracker and Greenhopper in the last year.
                  >>
                  >> Has anyone else seen this use(misuse?) of the terminology? Do we (as a
                  >> community, and as practitioners) care that the term has been co-opted?
                  >> Is the impact so small as to not worry about it?
                  >
                  > I've seen lots of organization use lots of different terminology. Often
                  > they use "feature" instead of either "epic" or "theme." I've seen
                  > "capability" for the middle level. I don't worry about it much as long
                  > as people in the organization find it clear and agree on the
                  > terminology. Often a term must be avoided because it has multiple
                  > meanings in the organization.
                  >
                  > - George
                  >
                  > --
                  > ----------------------------------------------------------
                  > * George Dinwiddie * http://blog.gdinwiddie.com
                  > Software Development http://www.idiacomputing.com
                  > Consultant and Coach http://www.agilemaryland.org
                  > ----------------------------------------------------------
                • Ken 'classmaker' Ritchie
                  That seems like the simplest thing that could [and does] work. Kudos to you, Chet, for the gentle smack of Einstein s KISS (... Simple & Sufficient). Just
                  Message 8 of 13 , Jan 7, 2013
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                    That seems like the simplest thing that could [and does] work. 

                    Kudos to you, Chet, for the gentle smack of "Einstein's KISS" (... Simple & Sufficient). Just enough. I needed that! 

                    Cheers all,
                    --Ken ;-)

                    Ken Ritchie 
                    Classmaker


                    On Jan 5, 2013, at 15:29, Chet Hendrickson <lists@...> wrote:

                    I call them all 'stories'.  Some are small enough to be scheduled into a Sprint and others aren't.  And some, we don't know enough about to know.

                    chet

                    Chet Hendrickson
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