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Agile: User Stories versus Epics, what's the difference?

Posted by Chris Adams

Article Rating // 21187 Views // 0 Additional Answers & Comments

Categories: Business Analysis, Systems Analysis, Agile Methods, SDLC, Process, and Methodologies


User Stories and Epics make up the essential building blocks of agile planning and development. They are closely related and, therefore, the differences are often misunderstood.

User Stories

  • A user story is self-contained. It can be fully coded and tested to ensure it meets expectations.
  • A user story is a chunk of work that has been agreed upon through collaboration between developers and stakeholders.
  • User stories are the building blocks of your sprint.
  • User stories may roll up to create Epics (think larger user stories)
  • While user stories that make up an epic are self-contained, their business value often isn't realized until the entire epic is complete.
There are times when one user story is dependent upon another, but this should be avoided whenever possible. For example, instead of having user stories 1,  2a, 2b, and 3, where 2a is dependent upon 2b for completion, if possible 2a and 2b should be combined into a single user story (if not too large).


  • Epics are made up of multiple user stories. 
  • Epics are initially described as big story but when detailed will reference the stories which comprise it.
  • Epics represent a complete user workflow, therefore epics realize and deliver business value against a business goal (whereas user stories may, but often do not, realize business value on their own).
  • Epics are delivered only after all of it's underlying stories are complete.
  • Epics help organized and manage the product backlog in a way the aligns with the business goals.
  • Epics help sequence stories  as needed to achieve user goals



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