What is Planning Poker? Effort estimation in Agile methodology

In the Sprint zero as a part of release planning, the Agile team has come up with effort estimation for all the stories in the release. The Planning Poker is a popular method of effort estimation which ensures that the entire team is involved in the estimation exercise.

The Planning Poker is a consensus based technique and is used to size the stories (in terms of story point) or effort estimate (in terms of days).

  • It is a non-liner scale of estimation technique.
  • Fibonacci series is used while playing the planning poker with higher numbers rounded off (0, 0.5, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 20, 40, 60, 100).
  • For example : You have been asked to provide your estimate for a Story, your estimates have to be rounded off to one of the number of the Fibonacci series.
  • If you feel the task will take 10 days to complete, the estimate you give will have to be either 8 or 13.

Each team member takes a deck of cards and estimates the effort independently for each story.

  • The stories are wall mapped and arranged relatively with respect to small story which can be coded and tested in a day – taken as a reference.
  • All the stories are arranged relatively with respect to small story from left to right.
  • The parameters on which the stories are estimated are complexity, ideal time taken (in days) and uncertainty.
  • It is always a good idea to break the bigger stories into small ones to make them fit into a Sprint.

The following are the steps followed by the team while using the Planning Poker technique:

  1. Product Owner explains the story and its acceptance criteria in detail
  2. Team discusses the work involved and asks questions to the Product Owner
  3. Everyone estimates individually without getting influenced by others.
  4. Each team member selects a poker card that reflects their estimate of the effort required for that story
  5. Everyone reveals their estimates simultaneously.
  6. Team members who voted with the lowest and highest estimates explain their reasoning behind their estimation and any misunderstanding of scope is neutralized.
  7. After discussion, the team members reselect the cards to reflect their estimates based current discussion.
  8. Take the agreement of final number as the team estimate.
  9. Repeat the process for all the stories in the Sprint backlog.

This estimation technique makes the estimation and planning exercise much more fun. It also ensures that everyone in the team is on the same page in terms of understanding the requirements for a particular story and the complexity involved.