Planning Poker
Planning Poker

Effective planning and accurate estimations are cornerstones for any successful project delivery. Many a time these very essential tasks are taken mildly as they are time-consuming and require a lot of patience and practice.

Of the number of planning methods that exist, one of the best ways is playing Planning Poker. Its is a playful consensus-based estimation technique which combines expert opinion with an element of fun for the team to reach reliable estimates.

Here are the steps to be followed to play and ace the planning poker mechanics.

How to Play

The team meets the customer and each team member is given a deck of cards. Each card will have a numerical value which the team can use to estimate a user story. The values could be 0, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 20, 40, 100 and ∞.

The customer will read out and describe each feature that is to be estimated. The customer could be the product owner or a business analyst. The customer is also required to clarify queries raised by the team.

Each team member assesses the effort required and privately selects a card which indicates his/her estimate. The cards are revealed together, once every team member has made a selection.

If the cards are same, it becomes the estimate and the team moves on to the next user story. If in-case they differ significantly, the person with the lowest and highest estimate will be required to give a reasoning for their estimate. The team can have further discussions and repeat the estimation process until a consensus is achieved or the team agrees to keep it on hold until more information is available.

Rules for Poker Planning

  • The estimation team should consist of all the people who will actually do the work. It should include developers, testers, analysts, designers.
  • Managers should not estimate for fear of being biased and reducing the estimate. Instead, they can only provide an estimate when they feel the general estimate consensus is low.
  • It is best not to have a team size greater than ten.  However, if that happens, it is best to split the team into two.

A common card interpretation for poker planning.

Planning Poker Legend

Some benefits of poker planning

  • It fosters team collaboration by engaging the team to come to a consensus estimate.
  • As each team member thinks about the task at hand individually, it encourages the team to come up with different and innovative ideas to implement the task.
  • The activity is entirely based on team discussions. This aids in identifying issues early and ensures all team members better understand the requirements. Also, as the customer is present in the discussions, queries can be resolved during the planning poker activity.

Poker planning is an engaging, productive activity which helps the team to not only arrive at consensus estimates but gives them a good view of implementing the tasks.

An important piece of advice, don’t forget to have fun the next time you are playing planning poker.

Daniela Da Conceicao
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