Planning Poker is a modern method for relative workload estimation in agile software development. This article will give you an insight into what it is exactly, how it works and what benefits it has for you.
One of technology's greatest gifts is that it has helped humans innovate. As a result, everything is more intriguing, whether it's about business planning, coming up with new ideas, or innovative thought. Thanks to technology, there is a fun way to do boring stuff.
Planning Poker is one helpful example to illustrate how games can help businesses to analyze serious and critical aspects of any business. It's a budding concept that is gaining popularity as we speak. So, please find out how planning poker can help software teams assess and plan.
What is Planning Poker?
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Typically, Planning Poker is also known as Scrum Poker. However, some people call it 'Pointing Poker' too. Planning Poker offers an innovative way to plan and estimate project deliverables and other variables in this era of gamification, where everything is measured in points or credits.
In a way, it can make project management more effective. It's a consensus-based game where the participants discuss and make decisions based on what a group says about a particular project variable.
You will see cards like those in regular poker. So, agile teams will use these cards to estimate and plan their product backlogs.
But the best thing about Planning Poker is that it's not monotonous. You can pick from any estimating unit and build around that. Moreover, it also works with ideal days and story points to be used as variables for estimation.
The players involved in the planning are called estimators. In a planning session, there will be a product owner and estimators. Here, the product owner will read out a user story, or they may describe new product features to the estimators.
We will see all about how it works later in this post. For now, just remember that it's a collaborative tool to make your product planning simpler and more effective.
The Need for Planning Poker
Planning Poker stems from the roadblocks that encircle the estimation process. Product managers, software developers, and project managers face too many problems during the estimation phase.
Issues with Estimation
Generally, they face issues predicting how much effort and time might be needed to complete a specific development job. While it may seem a simple job because developers often know how much time and resources they will need, things don't always go as they are planned.
So, on the one hand, estimation seems very helpful because it breaks down a longer project into shorter and achievable goals. But, on the other hand, it's risky when a specific task doesn't go according to plan. In that case, it can shake the entire project timeline and make it harder for project managers.
Achieving Estimation Accuracy Isn't All that Easy
As a project supervisor or manager, you want your team to do their best and finish a task on time. But it's rare to achieve every deadline that you set initially. As a result, your estimation accuracy suffers. As a manager or decision-maker, it can make it very difficult to manage the timing and accuracy of estimations.
This is where Planning Poker can make the job easier. It's a simple yet highly effective technique that will do the job for you every time.
Is Planning Poker for Everyone?
Now that we know that Planning Poker is for a specific set of knowledge and skill-holders, it's also important to involve those who are directly a party to the planning process. So, even though it's a game, it's not for everyone.
Typically, you would want the following people to be parties to a Scrum Planning Poker session.
Product owners and managers describe the features and all the user stories related to the other participants. They are answerable to every question the other team members might ask to plan the product more effectively.
Also known as the Scrum leader, these people act as facilitators in all agile meetings. For example, every Planning Poker meeting must have a Scrum Leader to provide direction and flow to the meeting.
Scrum Team Members
The team members are responsible for delivering the product backlog items. Typically, it includes the list of deliverables, i.e., improvements and new features. Moreover, the input from scrum team members is critical for the story points during the discussion.
How Planning Poker Works
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Here is a breakdown of how a planning poker session works. First, you will need to plan poker cards which are much like regular poker cards with slight variations in terms of numbers. Once you have them, proceed according to the following sequence.
1. Hand out Cards
Start with distributing an identical deck of cards to all participants. Each card has a number previously agreed upon by the team members. These numbers will be used to estimate. Make sure that each player has a set of different numbers.
The recommended numbers are 0, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 20, 40, and 100. Also, there are doubling numbers like 1, 2, 4, 8,...
Each number represents story points, ideal days, and other estimation units that the team agrees upon at the start of the session. Having minimal numbers allows the teams to reach a consensus on a given plan. On the other hand, it can be harder to achieve a common point if you have more numbers.
2. Read Out the Story
Once everyone has the number, the product manager will read the story. Then, they will narrate the story so that everyone can listen. During this phase, the other participants can ask questions, and the moderator must answer all of them.
Perhaps the most time-consuming and critical phase of all is the discussion phase. In the discussion phase, all participants can talk and share their opinions. Typically, the discussion points include:
How to handle the work
Expected number of people that will involve in the project
Required skills to complete a task
How to handle any roadblocks during the completion phase
However, depending on the complexity of the projects, more or fewer questions in the discussion phase are worth answering.
4. Select and Share
The participants will select a card from their respective decks when the discussion is completed. This must be done secretively, and no participants are allowed to peek into the other's selection. Now, you may use it to estimate story points or the number of ideal days for the project.
After selection, it's time to share the selected cards. Everyone must show their cards at the same time. When a person shows a higher value card, it means that the difficulty level of the project will be higher, and it will take longer to complete.
You can expect larger variations in your team's estimates during this phase.
The team has reached a consensus when more people are showing the same card. Now, you can move to the next story. But if there is variation in numbers, there must be more discussion until the team reaches a consensus.
During this discussion, participants who show cards with variations must share their opinion about why they selected the specific number. As a result, negotiations and convincing will be until all team members agree on a specific number.
Typically, the second round is pivotal in the consensus phase. Mostly, participants start to reach a consensus after a couple of rounds of discussion.
Top Benefits of Scrum Poker
Scrum Poker or Planning Poker gives an obvious advantage to project managers. They have a team that agrees on decisions and is more likely to focus on achieving the agreed numbers. But to elaborate further, here are the top advantages of Planning Poker.
Poker Planning Estimates are More Accurate
According to a study, Poker Planning can yield a better estimation accuracy for the same task than individual estimation. It also showed that the estimated values are statistically higher than those of individual estimation.
Everyone has a Say
Perhaps one of the best benefits of Planning Poker is that it gives a voice to everyone. Whether they are low-tier developers or experienced managers, everyone has an equal say in this planning phase. Only logic shall prevail in such meetings, and teams can achieve more sizable and achievable numbers.
Moreover, it helps in getting everyone's experience on the table. For instance, if you had an experience developing a similar app with greater difficulty, you can estimate a higher estimation to convince your team members if they think otherwise.
Identify Loopholes and Gaps
Facts or logical reasoning must back up every estimated number. So, if you choose a higher complexity estimate, it might be because of a lack of resources and complexity in meeting the required demands.
As a result, teams can better understand their strengths, weaknesses, and skillset to achieve a task with better efficiency.
FAQs for Scrum Poker
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Here are a couple of commonly asked questions about Scrum Poker:
When is it best to hold a Scrum Poker Session?
Generally, the team holds a Scrum Poker session after they have created the initial backlog. Moreover, a Scrum Poker session doesn't always end in one day, so it depends on the feasibility of the participants too.
Is there a Scrum Poker online version?
Scrum Poker can be played together in a room, in reality at a table, or virtually on the internet. An easy-to-use version of Scrum Poker online is, for example, pokay.io, which is free of charge and can be played with multiple users.
Does Scrum Planning Work?
Statistically, yes. Scrum Poker has shown notable results, so it's a must-try for teams that want to manage their software development cycles effectively.
Scrum Poker is an innovative technique that brings every team member's point of view to the table. So, it's an effective technique to try and reach a better and more accurate consensus in product planning.