Enhancing Agile Estimating with Planning Poker: A Fun and Accurate Approach

Planning Poker: A Collaborative Approach for Agile Estimation

Planning Poker® is a collaborative approach used in agile projects to estimate tasks. It offers teams an enjoyable and interactive experience as they assign relative estimates to their planned work. During a poker planning session, the product owner or customer presents a user story or feature description to the estimators. Each estimator has a physical or virtual deck of cards known as Planning Poker cards. These cards display values like 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 20, 40, and 100, which represent story points, ideal days, or other estimation units used by the team[^1^].

The process begins with the estimators discussing the feature and asking questions to clarify any uncertainties. Once the discussion is complete, each estimator privately selects a card to represent their estimate. The cards are then revealed simultaneously. If all estimators select the same value, that becomes the estimate. However, if there is disagreement, the estimators discuss their estimates, with a focus on understanding the reasons behind high and low estimations. After further discussion, each estimator reselects a card, and the process repeats until consensus is reached[^1^].

Planning Poker can be used at any stage when estimating product backlog items. It is commonly employed during the creation of the initial product backlog and product backlog refinement sessions. These sessions involve the entire team, including developers, Scrum Master, and the product owner. By leveraging the collective expertise of the team, Planning Poker consistently leads to more accurate estimates compared to other estimation techniques[^2^].

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One of the key benefits of Planning Poker is that it brings together multiple expert opinions from different disciplines, allowing for a comprehensive and accurate estimation process. Studies have shown that lively dialogues and justifications amongst estimators during poker planning improve estimate accuracy, especially for items with high uncertainties, which are common in software projects[^3^]. Moreover, being asked to justify estimates helps compensate for missing information and leads to better estimates. This is particularly important in agile projects, as user stories are often intentionally vague[^3^].

To access Planning Poker tools and cards, Agile Mentors Membership offered by Mountain Goat Software includes a free online Planning Poker tool. Although membership is typically available to those who have received training from Mountain Goat Software, anyone can join and gain access to the tool. The tool allows unlimited guests to participate in virtual Planning Poker sessions, without requiring them to be members of Agile Mentors Membership[^4^].

In addition to the online tool, Mountain Goat Software offers branded Planning Poker cards for purchase, sold at cost as a courtesy to the agile community. Organizations can also obtain royalty-free licenses to produce their own cards[^5^].

Planning Poker is a proven and effective technique for estimating work in agile projects. By facilitating collaboration, encouraging dialogue, and leveraging the expertise of the team, Planning Poker consistently leads to more accurate estimates, ultimately improving project planning and execution.

References:

[^1^]: Image source: Planning Poker Cards
[^2^]: “Why Planning Poker?”. Mountain Goat Software. Available at: https://www.mountaingoatsoftware.com/agile/planning-poker
[^3^]: Jørgensen, M. (2004). “Expert Estimation of Software Development Work”. In Proceedings of the Third International Symposium on Empirical Software Engineering (ISESE 2004), pp. 95-104.
[^4^]: “How to Access Planning Poker Tool / Cards”. Mountain Goat Software. Available at: https://www.mountaingoatsoftware.com/agile/software-development-tools
[^5^]: “Planning Poker Cards”. Mountain Goat Software. Available at: https://www.mountaingoatsoftware.com/agile/planning-poker/cards

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