Quick and accurate estimates made easy thanks to planning poker

By Ivanna Nösel
Published: 18/12/2020
how-to backgroundQuick and accurate estimates made easy thanks to planning poker

In the world of software, developers are constantly faced with different challenges. Making an estimate about the scope or size that a project will have, is one of them.

Let's see what this methodology consists of, what is required to put it into practice, and what advantages it offers to fully comply with the prioritised list of objectives or product backlog.

What is planning poker? Definition

Planning poker is a variation of the Wideband delphi method. Planning Poker is a consensus-based technique of gambling and estimation, also known as Scrum Poker, implemented within the agile teams, mainly within the scope of software development.

Planning Poker was born as a technique that seeks to facilitate such an estimate and ensure its accuracy. Inscribed within the agile methodologies, this method also facilitates the distribution of work among the team members.

scrum-methodology©robert-matthees

How do you play planning poker?

Prerequisites for the planning poker estimation technique

The essential elements to hold a game of planning poker include:

  • a meeting room to carry out the session,
  • a moderator, who is usually the Product Owner,
  • the team members who will develop the product,
  • a deck of planning poker cards.

Session dynamics

A planning poker session is developed following the following stages:

scrum-methodology© visual-paradigm

  1. The team of developers, together with the Product Owner, meets in a room, each provided with a physical card or a planning poker app.
  2. The Product Owner presents to the team a user story and provides a space for questions so that all the people understand it. They can start from the same base in order to make an estimate of each of the items that make it up.
  3. The estimation process begins: the first item to be evaluated is chosen and each participant, individually and privately, assigns a card from their deck, according to the effort they consider will be required.
  4. Then, the participants reveal their cards to the group at the same time.
  5. If all the cards match, the value is assigned to the item and the estimation ends.
  6. If the cards are different, the aim is to discuss those values that are particularly distant. Thus, the person who assigned the lowest value and the person who assigned the highest value are invited to justify their choices.
  7. Once the reasons have been explained and considered by the whole team, a new estimate is called.

This process continues until a consensus is reached.

Advantages of the planning poker methodology

The benefits that this methodology offers to the teams that develop products are:

  • Promote greater cohesion and collaboration within teams.
  • Get to make more accurate estimates, based on opinions of different experts and the process of sharing personal estimates.
  • Detect more easily the lack of technical certainty regarding the product.
  • Improve the understanding of the backlog product.
  • Optimise the process of determining the value that each item brings to the business against the estimated cost of its development, according to the Return on Investment (ROI).

Planning Poker: more than a game of chance

The lack of planning in a team reduces its ability to estimate and, therefore, the customer's confidence in the product. So especially now in the time of COVID-19, it is important to have efficient tools to be able to work remotely.

For example, teams can use ScrumPoker - a Microsoft Teams add-on that enables them to work faster and get more effective estimations of stories. Such tools make planning poker even more fun.

♣ ♠ Do you dare to bet on this game? ♥ ♦ Tell us in the comments!

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