Transformation Epic vs. Transformation Feature vs. User Story

In the Living Transformation®, there are three types of Transformation Items:

  • the Transformation Epic (TrEpic)
  • the Transformation Feature (TrFeature)
  • the Transformation User Story (TrUS)

A Transformation Epic emerges from a Transformation Idea, as described in the chapter “From the Idea to the Transformation Epic”. You can see this documented in the template shown here. In preparation for the first prioritization (see chapter “Prioritization”), this information should at least be updated. It is important to note that a TrEpic does not contain concrete solutions, but rather measures or fields of action.

The “Definition of Ready” helps in analyzing if it is a TrEpic in the sense of the Living Transformation® or a TrFeature, a TrUS or maybe something completely different—perhaps it is an activity for a Scrum Master in his or her role as a coach for one or more agile teams. The “Definition of Ready” for TrEpics may vary from organization to organization. It will also change or improve over the course of the Living Transformation®.

For guidance on the topic of “Definition of Ready”, consider the following four points:

  • TrEpics are designed to contribute directly to transformation goals. Often the use of Transformation Objectives and Key Results is helpful towards answering this question.
  • TrEpics have written and measurable Leading Indicators. Leading Indicators give us the opportunity to pay attention to the impact that implementations of TrEpics will have at the time of implementation and then learn from this.
  • TrEpics always affect changes to the entire organization, not just individual organizational units like one or two agile teams.
  • TrEpics require a longer period for a successful implementation with real impact on an overall system of the organization. This usually means significantly more than two to three Transformation Increments, which is equivalent to more than 6 months.

Transformation Features are small packages that are thematically assigned to a TrEpic. They influence the interaction between the TrEpic and the transformation target and can be implemented within one TI (usually in three months). They also differ from TrEpics because they have clear acceptance criteria that need to be defined by the Transformation Epic Owner before the implementation starts.

The relationship of the Transformation User Stories and the TrFeatures is similar to the TrEpics and the TrFeatures: User Stories are smaller items that are assigned to a TrFeature and, in the entirety of the assigned stories, are intended to meet the acceptance criteria of the TrFeature. User Stories must be completed within one sprint. They have their own acceptance criteria that need to be met. Often, during finalization, it’s the team that works together on a User Story—than rarely just one person.

In terms of acceptance criteria for TrFeatures and User Stories, Bill Wake’s observations on this topic prove helpful. He was one of the first to define criteria as a checklist. Here is a version adapted to the Living Transformation®:

Independent and immediately actionable: The items in the sprint are independent of each other (as much as possible) so that it is easier to re-prioritize and estimate them. In addition, this avoids unnecessary planning effort for their implementation.
Negotiable: Items are negotiable so that the details can be determined in conversation, allowing better or more favorable options to be identified.
Valuable: Items add value to the transformation so that only requirements that add value are implemented, ensuring that only what is needed is implemented. Items that are not completed do not provide value.
Estimable: Items can be estimated. In this way, you can see if the people implementing the items have a professional and technical understanding of the items.
Small: Items have the right size. TrUS have to be implemented in one sprint, and TrFeatures in one TI. TrEpics have no limit.
Testable: Items can be tested. TrEpics are generally intended to contribute to Transformation Objectives and Key Results, and TrFeatures and TrUS have acceptance criteria that they have to meet.

While the Living Transformation® comes with a template for the TrEpic, we deliberately didn’t include a template for the other two transformation items, TrFeatures and TrUS. Depending on the organization’s current way of working, you could, for example, use the usual story format (see illustration) for the story, or design a completely different format.

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