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Strategic Development: Coscine Epics

To manage new strategic Coscine requirements at a higher level of abstraction, we use epics. To have a good overview and a FAIR development for our stakeholders, we handel these epics in a predefined and transparent way that is based on the scaled agile framework (SAFe). To coordinate the strategic development we use GitLab.

Epic Template

For every epic a predefined epic template has to be filled out during the different stages. To use the template is mandatory and ensures an equal quality regarding the depth of informations. At the beginning of the template the status of the epic is marked by the epic initiator, epic owner or SAFe coordinator depending on the current stage.

Epic Stages

There are 7 official stages for epics (see figure 1). These are visible on the Coscine SAFe EPIC Board. Every epic is marked with a GitLab label that shows the current stage.

Coscine - SAFe Epic Board

Figure 1 - Coscine - SAFe Epic Board

1. Idea Tank

The epic initiator creates the epic using the template and collects raw ideas/informations/stakeholders etc. (sometimes just a header). The template is used but is not filled out to a certain degree.

2. Funnel

The review part of the epic template ( is filled out by the epic initiator (till the point Nonfunctional Requirements (NFRs)). Important: The detailed analysis of an epic starts only after review release (stage 4).

3. Review

Epic initiator: - informs the SAFe coordinator about completion of the review - marks the status "Ready to Review" - presents epic in steering board meeting (max. 5 min, without slides)

SAFe coordinator: - reviews the status of the epic - invites the epic initiator to the next possible steering board meeting - adds the date for the next steering board meeting in the status

Steering Board: votes and decides - Epic will be analyzed (voted greater than or equal to 3) & epic owner named by SAFe coordinator -> moved to analyzing - Epic has to be revised -> remains in review - Epic will be moved back to Idea Tank (label changed)

4. Analyzing

Epic owner: - analyzes the epic, creates related issues and fills out the template - if necessary: he/she discusses neccessary issues and their approx. weights with other Coscine developers
- informs the SAFe coordinator when epic is ready for review by steering board meeting - marks the status "Ready for Backlog" - presents the analysis (max. 10 min, if necessary with slides) in the steering board meeting

SAFe coordinator: - reviews the status of the epic - invites the epic owner to the next possible steering board meeting - adds the date for the next steering board meeting in the status

Steering Board: votes and decides - Epic will be transferred to the backlog (voted greater than or equal to 3) & prioritized. - Epic must be revised -> remains in the analysis - Epic will be moved back to Idea Tank (label changed)

5. Backlog

The steering board rates the prioritization of the epic and moves the epic to the suiting position inside the backlog stage.

6. In Progress

The product owner of the scrum process moves the epic from backlog to in progress as soon as sufficient development capacity is available. The epic and all related issues are developed and realized.

7. Finished

The development achieved is presented by epic owner in the steering board meeting. Afterwards the epic is closed by the SAFe coordinator.

Epic Meetings

Steering Board Meeting

In this meeting the current stages of the epics are presented, discussed, voted and prioritized.

The meeting is every two weeks for 90 min. Per Steering Board Meeting a maximum of 3 epics can be discussed, for each epic 30 min. These epics are discussed one week before the meeting with the epic initiators and owners and finaly choosen by the SAFe coordinator. The epic initiators and owners are invited by the SAFe coordinator.

Participants of the meeting are the group leads of the RPDM department, the head of the RPDM department, the product owner of Coscine and the service manager of Coscine. Guest can always be invited to the meeting (e.g. stakeholders of discussed epics).

SAFe Planing Meeting

Depending on the current structure of the group, the SAFe coordinator meets the week before the steering board meeting with the Coscine group lead &/ product owner to discuss about the next 3 epics.

Epic Roles

Epic Initiator

  • Who? Anyone from the RPDM department
  • can be commissioned by an external stakeholder
  • What? Initiates a new strategic development
  • fills out the review part of the epic template
  • informs the SAFe coordinator
  • presents the idea to the steering board meeting
  • informs the epic owner / hands over the epic

Epic Owner

  • Who? Anyone from the Coscine development team
  • What? Analyzes the epic & prepares realization
  • fills out the analyzing part of the epic template
  • creates related issues (deligates it to someone from the Coscine development team/discusses it with other developers)
  • informs the SAFe coordinator
  • presents the analysis to the steering board meeting

SAFe Coordinator

  • Who? One person from the Coscine Group
  • What? Coordinates the flow of epics & moderates the steering board meeting
  • monitoring of the SAFe Epic Board
    • updating the status of epics
    • moves epics to the next stage
    • adds labels to the epics (stage, prioritization, stakeholders etc.)
  • planing, preparation & moderation of steering board meeting
    • decides ton the next 3 epics
    • invites epic owners/initiators
    • prepares the votes
    • coordinates the prioritization
    • keeps an eye on the time (e.g. moves broad discussions to seperate meetings)

Steering Board Member

  • Who? Product Owner, Service Manager, Group Leaders, Department Head (optional: stakeholders as guest)
  • What? Go/no go decision regarding new developments & prioritization
  • active member of steering board meeting
    • asks questions regarding the strategic aims of epics
    • focus on a match with the longterm Coscine strategy
    • votes for epics and their prioritization
    • can block an epic by low votes
    • has to explain / discuss his/her votes and prioritization
    • can skip a round in the rating if he/she does not have the sufficient expertise

Product Owner

  • Who? One person from the Coscine Development Team
  • What? Coordinates the scrum development & next sprints
  • moves the next epic and it's related issues from the backlog into in progress stage
  • coordinates the development of epic-related issues (approx. 67%) with small changes and maintenance issues (approx. 33%) per sprint
  • informs the SAFe coordinator & steering board if epic issues have to be delayed due to urgent bugs / maintenance issues

Service Manager

  • Who? One person from the Coscine Group
  • What? Informs other stakeholders about the current developments on the SAFe Board via newsletter / news

Department Head

  • Who? RPDM Department Head
  • What? Can add strategic fit during prioritization


Each Steering Board Member votes based on the fist of five one of the following numbers for stage decisions (e.g. moving an epic from review to analyzing):

  1. No way! This will not work. I'm not on board.
  2. I see MAJOR issues that we need to resolve.
  3. I see MINOR issues we need to resolve now.
  4. I see minor issues we can resolve later.
  5. I'm fine with this plan as it is. It's a good plan.
  6. I love this! I will champion it. Best plan ever.


The backlog prioritization is done in an excel sheet. For the backlog prioritization, the participants of the Steering Board agree per part of the prioritization formula (WSJF = (User-Business value + Time Criticality + Risk Reduction / Job Size) on the following rating numbers:

Possible rating numbers: 1 2 3 5 8 13 20

The department head can choose to multiply the WSJF with a strategic fit:

Strategic Fit 0,8 1 1,5