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Manage   »   Estimation   »   Planning Poker Estimating

Planning Poker estimating is a facilitator led activity that uses cards held by each participant to assign estimated story points to user stories. The technique relies a little on SCRUM terms but is flexible enough to allow estimation of products as well as user stories. We use the term user stories to represent something tangible a user wants such as a system feature e.g. security login facility, a report, component that delivers or creates some output. For the purposes of this description we continue with the use of the term whilst we confirm that other deliverables can be estimated using the technique.

The process used in Planning Poker involves a series of individual stories being presented for estimation. The facilitator will offer a period of discussion wherein the story is explored and questioned by the participants. Once the debate is complete, without exploring in too much detail, each participant chooses a numbered card from their own deck. The numbered card signifies the participants estimate of the work involved in delivering the story.

This estimate is kept concealed from the participants until each participant has chosen their own card and estimate. Once all cards are ready, estimates are revealed and discussion begins. Planning Poker participants visualise the amount of effort to deliver a story in comparison to a base story. The base story is a straightforward story that is presented to the team at the start of the Planning Poker session.

On the first pass of estimating, it is almost certain that the estimates from the participants will differ appreciably. This is not failure; this is the right result. If estimates diverge, the participants with the highest and lowest estimates are invited to further clarify their estimates and so further explain the story. It is incumbent upon the facilitator to make sure these explanations and justifications for the estimates are seen and taken as a further understanding of the story and not an attack on or challenge to the individual estimator. Now let us look at the cards.

Debate surrounds the values you will use on the cards. A search of the web will reveal a variety of sets and values. The sequence 0, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 20, 40 & 100 seems to be popular and Wikipedia seems to believe the cards should follow the Fibonacci sequence plus a zero: 0, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55 and 89. Practice makes perfect and we advice that the sequence we consistently use is: 0, ½, 1, 2, 3, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, the infinity sign (signals a story that is so large it needs subdividing to allow further estimation) and a question mark (signalling you are unsure about the estimate and need more debate or information).


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Planning Poker Estimating


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