Sure it’s a big job; but I don’t know anyone who can do it better than I can.

–John F. Kennedy

Epic Abstract

Epics are enterprise initiatives that are sufficiently substantial in scope so as to warrant analysis and understanding of potential ROI. Epics typically require a lightweight business case that elaborates business and technology impact and implementation strategies. Epics are typically cross-cutting and effect multiple organizations, budgets, release trains and occur over multiple PSIs. Portfolio Epics affect multiple release trains; Program Epics are contained to a single train.

These initiatives are typically used to enhance business value of the full solution set (ex: implement Single Sign On across products in a suite), or harmonize technology for ease of maintenance, or enhancing performance or other nonfunctional requirements (ex: migrate all applications to JBoss application server).  As such, the definition, analysis, selection and implementation of epics are key economic and value drivers for the program portfolio. There are two types of epics in SAFe:

  • Business epics are customer, partner, or internally business facing development initiatives.
  • Architecture epics are technology development initiatives necessary to evolve portfolio solutions to support current and future business needs.

Epics are indeed “epic” in nature, as they typically cut across all or some of three business dimensions:

  • Time – implementation can take multiple PSIs, even years
  • Scope – affecting multiple release trains, applications, solutions, and business platforms
  • Organizations – affecting multiple departments, business units, partners, and others in the end-to-end business value chain

Details

Business Epics and Architectural Epics are captured, analyzed and refined in the Business and Architectural Epic Kanban systems, respectively. Those that are approved are managed in the Portfolio Backlog, which serves as a low cost holding place prior to implementation. As prioritizing epics is a key economic driver for the enterprise, the kanban systems are used to provide the necessary analysis, limit Work In Process, and estimate the job size and cost of delay, and prioritize work accordance with lean Weighted Shortest Job First (WSJF).

Epic Value Statement Template

It can be helpful to initially apply the following Epic Value Statement template to capture, organize and communicate key information about an epic (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Epic value statement template format

Epic Lightweight Business Case

During the epic analysis stage in (either the  Business Epic Kanban system or the Architectural Epic Kanban System) a Lightweight Business Case is created that captures the results of the analysis, including a refined description, success criteria, estimates of implementation time and cost, and program impact. An example format is provided in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1. Epic Lightweight Business Case

You can download a word template for the lightweight business case here:

 


Learn More

Leffingwell, Dean. Agile Software Requirements: Lean Requirements Practices for Teams, Programs, and the Enterprise. Boston, MA: Addison-Wesley, 2011.

 Last update 3, February, 2014

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