Agile methodologies can help organizations meet their strategic goals and modernize their legacy systems to keep up with rapidly evolving markets and industry best practices. Having a complete understanding of Agile terminology, techniques, and components while establishing business needs, workflows, and desired outcomes is critical to the success of these projects. 

Because of the growing popularity of Agile, it is important to watch out for assumptions or practices that may not truly reflect successful Agile methodology. Clarifying terms and techniques with stakeholders and new team members to establish accurate expectations and timelines will streamline the process of gathering and organizing requirements.  

Epics, User Stories, and Use Cases are important concepts for an Agile team to utilize to organize requirements and design elements while creating a solution that meets the needs of the organization. It is essential these terms are well understood to avoid poor definition of requirements, unclear workflows, and a disorganized backlog that delay solution delivery, costing time and money.  

So…Which One is Which? 

Epics, User Stories, and Use Cases form a coherent hierarchy which describe the system to be deliveredand each vary in their level of complexity and relevance to the project.  

At the top, Epics describe the high level functional and non-functional requirements of the system from a business user perspectiveusually representing work that will be completed in more than one sprint. These are written from the perspective of the business user – the persona in Agile terminology  and describe in short form the workflow. 

User Stories describe the result and benefit of a functionality articulating why a specific user persona accesses the system. They are often written “as a [user persona] I want to [do activity] because [desired outcome].”  

At the most granular level, Use Cases show how a user will complete a specific taskThis behavior focused interaction will describe the steps the user goes through to achieve a small functional goal. For example, “logging in” would be one task that is described in a use case.  

It Matters! 

Concept definition and clarifying terms and practices with stakeholders and team members at project initiation can help reduce the risk of modernization efforts by establishing a common understanding and form the basis for determining priorities to create the best solution which meets business objectives. Epics, User Stories, and Use cases are extremely useful in creating a multilevel structure which describes the business and solution requirements and organizes the workflows with increasing levels of detail 


Check out the table below for tips on Agile project and requirements definition and check out this whitepaper for more detail on these concepts and why they can help achieve a successful project. 


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