What is a Feature in Agile

In Agile development, features stand as a solid foundation of project success, encapsulating distinct units of functionality that deliver significant business value and align with stakeholder requirements. A feature in Agile is not only an independent entity; instead, it represents a confluence of user stories, shaping a cohesive unit that collectively advances the progression of the development process.

This blog explores the features of Agile, how they are specified and developed, and how they contribute to creating a final product. 

Whether you’re an Agile professional or a fresher seeking insights, this blog offers insights about features in Agile, showcasing your role in fostering collaboration, meeting customer expectations, and ensuring the success of Agile projects.

Table of Contents

  1. What is a Feature in Agile Methodology?
  2. Why Use Features in Scrum?
  3. Difference Between Features and Epics in Agile
  4. Who Writes Features in Scrum, and What are the Steps Involved?
  5. Characteristics of Features
  6. What are Feature Points?
  7. Feature Breakdown Structure (FBS)
  8. What are Features Known in Various Agile Methodologies?
  9. Steps to Create a Feature List
  10. Feature Vs. Task Planning
  11. Conclusion

What is a Feature in Agile Methodology?

A feature in Agile methodology, is a distinct and valuable functionality or service within a software product that serves the dual purpose of delivering business value and meeting customer needs. 

Features are essential components that contribute to the overall success of an Agile project. To grasp the concept fully, it’s important to understand the breakdown of features into smaller, more manageable units known as user stories.

The main objective of features in Agile is to provide a structured and incremental approach to software development. Features encapsulate a set of related user stories, which are individual, customer-focused descriptions of specific functionalities. 

By breaking down features into user stories, Agile teams can prioritize, plan, and execute development in smaller, iterative cycles. This approach ensures that each product increment adds tangible value and can be quickly adapted based on changing priorities or customer feedback.

Why Use Features in Scrum?

Using features in Scrum is essential for maintaining a customer-centric and iterative approach to software development. Features representing distinct and valuable functionalities enable the Scrum team to prioritize work based on business value, ensuring that the most crucial aspects are addressed first. 

This incremental delivery approach allows continuous feedback and adaptation, aligning the development process with evolving customer needs. Features act as a shared language between the team and stakeholders, fostering collaboration and transparency in communication. 

The flexibility to adjust the prioritization of features in the product backlog enhances the team’s ability to respond quickly to changing circumstances, making Scrum a well-suited framework for projects where requirements may evolve. 

Overall, using features in Scrum contributes to effective planning, prioritization, and delivering effective value to customers in a structured and adaptable manner.

Difference Between Features and Epics in Agile

In Agile development Features and Epics in Agile development serve distinct roles in managing and organizing work.

Features are intermediate-level units that represent specific, well-defined functionalities of a software product. They are granular components that can be completed within a single sprint, allowing for incremental value delivery to end-users. 

Features provide a detailed focus on immediate requirements and are often further broken down into smaller tasks or user stories during Agile sprint planning.

Epics are higher-level entities that encompass a broader scope of work, often representing major business requirements or themes. They act as placeholders for collections of related features or user stories, allowing for long-term planning and organization of larger bodies of work. 

Unlike features, epics are not typically completed within a single sprint; instead, they span multiple sprints and serve as a means to manage and prioritize more extensive and complex deliverables. 

Who Writes Features in Scrum, and What are the Steps Involved?

An Agile framework in Scrum for software development, the process of writing features in scrum is a collaborative effort primarily led by the Product Owner. The Product Owner plays a significant role in representing the interests and needs of the stakeholders, translating their requirements into actionable features that the development team can implement.

The main aim is to deliver a product that meets customer expectations, adds value, and aligns with the project objectives.

Steps Involved in the Creation of Agile Scrum Features

Here are the steps involved in writing features in Agile:

  1. Define the WHY:

  • Identify user benefits and articulate the feature’s purpose and value.
  • Clearly understand the functionality that users gain from the feature.
  1. Calculate Business Value:

  • Evaluate user base, usage frequency, and development effort.
  • Prioritize features based on the Return on Investment (ROI) for optimal resource allocation.
  1. Prioritize Features:

  • Evaluate features based on business value, customer needs, and project objectives.
  • Create a prioritized product backlog to guide development in delivering the most valuable features first.
  1. Detail Acceptance Criteria:

  • Clearly articulate the acceptance criteria for every user story, outlining the completed conditions.
  • Ensure criteria are measurable and provide clear guidelines for development and testing.
  1. Sprint Planning:

  • Participate in sprint planning meetings to discuss and select user stories for the upcoming sprint.
  • Collaborate with the development team to ensure a shared understanding of the goals for the sprint.
  1. Review with Stakeholders:

  • Review features and progress with stakeholders during sprint reviews.
  • Gather feedback and insights to inform future feature development and refinement.

By following these steps, the Product Owner collaborates effectively with the development team to ensure that features are well-defined, prioritized, and aligned with the project’s overall goals in the Scrum framework.

Characteristics of Features in Agile

The concept of features plays a pivotal role in guiding teams towards delivering valuable and user-centric outcomes. Features represent distinct functionalities or capabilities of a software product designed to provide specific benefits to end-users or stakeholders.

 The Following are the main characteristics of Features in Agile:

  • Features are designed to provide distinct advantages by addressing particular user requirements or achieving project objectives.
  • Descriptions revolve around user interactions, ensuring that features prioritize user experience and satisfaction.
  • Features are designed as independent units, enabling the development team to work on and deliver them incrementally.
  • Features are ranked based on importance, guiding the development team to focus on high-priority items first.
  • Clear acceptance criteria are established for each feature, providing measurable conditions that must be satisfied.
  • Features are sized or estimated, offering insights into the effort and complexity required for implementation.
  • Features allow for adaptability, accommodating changes in requirements throughout the Agile development process.
  • The incremental nature of features supports a step-by-step approach to building and enhancing the product over time.

What are Feature Points?

“Feature points” typically refer to a unit of measurement used in agile project management to estimate the effort or size of a specific feature or user story. Feature points are relative rather than absolute measures, providing a way for development teams to assess the complexity or effort required to implement different features.

The concept is similar to story points, a common metric in agile methodologies like Scrum, but feature points specifically focus on individual features rather than user stories. The goal is to assign a numerical value that reflects a feature’s complexity, effort, and relative size compared to others in the backlog. 

This helps teams during sprint planning and allows for more accurate capacity and resource allocation.

Feature Breakdown Structure (FBS)

In the detailed planning stage of agile development, a feature breakdown structure (FBS) takes priority over the work breakdown structure (WBS) used in waterfall methodologies. FBS provides several advantages, fostering effective communication between customers and development teams through terminology that both parties can understand. 

This shared understanding enhances collaboration and lays the foundation for clear project requirements.

One of the key strengths of FBS is its ability to empower customers to prioritize the team’s work based on business value. Additionally, it facilitates tracking work against actual business value, ensuring transparency and alignment with overarching business goals. 

Furthermore, the flexibility to start with larger features and progressively break them down allows customers to avoid unnecessary details early on, optimizing the development process for adaptability and efficiency.

What are Features Known in Various Agile Methodologies?

Features in various Agile methodologies generally refer to distinct, valuable functionalities or components of a software product that contribute to its overall capabilities. While “feature” is widely used across Agile frameworks, specific practices and terminology may vary.

  • Scrum: In Scrum, features are often user stories in the product backlog, encapsulating specific functionalities.
  • Kanban: In Kanban, features are work items on the board moving through different stages of development.
  • Extreme Programming (XP): XP features are typically user stories or tasks contributing to frequent and incremental value delivery.
  • Feature-Driven Development (FDD): FDD revolves around creating and delivering distinct client-valued functionalities as features.
  • Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM): DSDM uses “Functional Requirements” to represent features that address specific user needs.
  • Crystal: Features in Crystal methodologies are identified and prioritized based on their business importance for incremental delivery.

While the term “feature” is common, the exact practices and terminology can vary. Features represent the building blocks of a software product that, when delivered incrementally, contribute to meeting user needs and business objectives in Agile methodologies.

Steps to Create a Feature List

The process of creating features in Agile involves several steps to ensure clarity, alignment with business goals, and effective communication with the development team. 

Steps to Create a Feature List

Here are the steps to create a feature list:

  1. Feature Identification:

  • At the project’s outset, the team collaborates to compile an extensive list of potential features before diving into release and iteration planning.
  • Feature requests are sourced from various channels, and a designated individual, such as the product manager, customer proxy, or business analyst, is responsible for managing these requests.
  1. Refinement of Requirements:

  • The identified features undergo a thorough refinement process, during which duplicate items, impractical features, and unclear requests are systematically eliminated.
  • This detailed refining ensures that the final list of features is clear, feasible, and ready to be incorporated into the subsequent planning processes.
  1. Preliminary Feature List:

  • The streamlined list of refined features serves as a preliminary outline and foundational input for charting the release and initial iteration plans.
  • Importantly, the Agile approach emphasizes that teams need not wait until all features are strictly defined; they can commence work promptly using the initial list as a starting point.
  1. Adaptive Planning:

  • Recognizing the dynamic nature of Agile projects, the methodology acknowledges that the original feature list and its descriptions and priorities are expected to evolve over time.
  • This adaptive planning approach allows continuous adjustments, ensuring the evolving release plan aligns with emerging project needs and changing industry dynamics.
  1. Continuous Progress:

  • Agile encourages teams to initiate work promptly with the initial feature list, emphasizing the avoidance of unnecessary delays in the development process.
  • Critical new features that emerge during the development process are easily incorporated into the evolving release plan, ensuring a continuous and adaptive workflow.
  1. Flexibility in Development:

  • A key principle of Agile is flexibility, recognizing that project requirements and priorities may shift as the project progresses.
  • The methodology accommodates changes in priorities, additional input from stakeholders, and evolving industry dynamics, ensuring the development process remains responsive and aligned with the project’s goals.

By following these steps, teams can effectively write features in Agile, promoting a shared understanding among stakeholders and providing the development team with the necessary information to deliver valuable and aligned functionality.

Feature Vs. Task Planning

“Feature planning” and “task planning” refer to two distinct levels of planning within the context of project management, particularly in Agile methodologies. Each level serves a specific purpose and involves different scopes of work.

Aspect Feature Planning Task Planning
Definition Focuses on high-level functionalities or capabilities Involves breaking down features into manageable tasks
Scope Features are larger, representing major components Tasks are smaller, specific actions contributing to a feature
Purpose Strategic planning for sequencing and prioritizing Tactical planning for task assignments and progress tracking
Example “User Authentication” or “Shopping Cart Functionality” Tasks like “Design Login Interface” or “Implement Password Encryption”


The overall features of Agile development serve as the essential building blocks, representing distinct and valuable functionalities crucial for delivering customer value. The collaborative and iterative nature of Agile methodologies, coupled with structured feature planning, ensures projects remain adaptable and aligned with evolving business goals.

Embracing features in Agile streamlines development and empowers teams to navigate dynamic industry landscapes, delivering products that resonate with users.

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Billie Keita is known for her exemplary skills in implementing project management methodologies and best practices for business critical projects. She possesses 10+ years of experience in handling complex software development projects across Europe and African region. She also conducts many webinars and podcasts where she talks about her own experiences in implementing Agile techniques. She is a Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) and PMI Project Management Professional (PMP)®, and has published many articles across various websites.


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