Epics in Jira vs enhancements in DevRev
If you’re working out of Jira, you’ve likely used epics to plan out your product roadmap. Epics are often a large product update or feature launch that are then broken down into smaller units of work called issues. Similar epics can be grouped into Projects, which are larger strategic initiatives. As a seasoned software developer who has transitioned into the realm of Product Management, I've witnessed the ebb and flow of traditional project and epic management. While these methods have their merits, they also harbor limitations that impede the true potential of software development.
The limitations of epics
1. Projects drag on endlessly
Traditional projects and epics often seem like never-ending endeavors, with no clear conclusion in sight. This can demotivate team members and hinder the overall productivity of the development process.
2. Focus on features over innovation
The prioritization of delivering features over fostering innovation and continuous improvement is a common pitfall in epics. Once a project is completed, teams often move on to the next task, leaving little room for iteration and improvement. This results in lost opportunities for learning and value creation.
3. Tracking of vanity metrics
The fixation on metrics like 'Time to Project’ and ‘Epic Completion' tends to shift the focus to immediate possibilities. This fixation stifles innovation, making it a rare occurrence within the confines of traditional project management.
4. Product evolution isn’t tracked
Tracking the evolution of a product in terms of capabilities and features over time is a significant challenge. Traditional approaches fail to provide a means of documenting and analyzing continuous enhancements delivered on a weekly, quarterly, and yearly basis.
Is it time to move on from epics?
Software development has evolved from just serving business needs to taking center-stage. As the lines get blurred between product companies and service companies - SaaS, PaaS, IaaS, etc., software development teams are thinking more ‘product’ than ‘project’ in their daily language. There is also the need to factor in ‘edge cases’ while building functionalities or PLG models over pure-SLG business models. This is why merging the worlds of product planning and project/work management is critical now.
Creating a visual product hierarchy
At DevRev, we've reimagined software development management through Trails and Parts, steering away from the conventional 'Projects and Epics' model. Trails provides a common context for product planners, builders, and operators, breaking down the product into a hierarchy of Capabilities and Features. This outside-in approach, coupled with the connection to engineering's 'runnables' or microservices, offers a cohesive and effective way to track, envision, and build the present and future of a product. This central mindmap-styled view aligns the teams to own and deliver on the success of the product and not just “keep working”.
Move from epics to enhancements
The enhancements methodology serves as the bridge between product parts and work management. Unlike epics, enhancements start as vague concepts (ideas) and progress through a lifecycle of Ideation, Prioritization, In-Progress, and Deployment. This approach fosters a seamless transition from a simple description in a text box to a well-formed Product Requirement Document (PRD) and design documents, with execution occurring in sprints.
Each part of the product is owned by a Part owner responsible for continuous improvements through enhancements. These enhancements are further divided into specific tasks for engineers to tackle in either scrum or kanban mode. The cycle of continuous learning and improvement eliminates the problem of project abandonment after completion.
Launch features with confidence
DevRev's 'enhancements' allow for a comprehensive launch process that goes beyond coding and deploying features. The beta release and 'Limited Availability' phases enable teams to gather feedback from the audience, iterate on it, and make informed decisions. Once feedback has been gathered and worked upon, the product teams can confidently move their enhancements to ‘General Availability’ after completing some crucial launch activities like compiling an effective release note (which can be auto-generated in DevRev) and communicating the changes to front-office teams like CS, sales and marketing so that they are better equipped to communicate it to customers and deal with product-related queries.
In conclusion, DevRev's approach to managing product development through product parts, coupled with the 'enhancements' methodology, marks a paradigm shift in software development. This model fosters continuous learning, improvements, and innovation—essential components in navigating the dynamic landscape of today's business environment. It's time for software development teams to embrace a future where projects are not just completed but are continually refined and optimized for sustained success.