January 9

How To Use Planning Poker to Estimate Software Projects

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Planning Poker is a popular technique for agile estimating that involves the whole team in a fun and engaging way. In this article, we will explain what Planning Poker is, how it works, and why we use it at BitStone to estimate our software projects.

What is Planning Poker?

Planning Pokeris a consensus-based technique that allows the team to estimate the effort and complexity of the user stories or features that they need to implement. The team uses a deck of cards with values that represent the number of story points, ideal days, or any other unit of estimation. The values are usually based on the Fibonacci sequence, such as 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, etc., to reflect the uncertainty and variability of the estimates.

Planning Poker is also known as Scrum Poker, or Agile Poker. It is based on the Delphi method, which is a technique for reaching a group decision by collecting and aggregating the opinions of experts. Planning Poker was first introduced by James Grenning in 2002, and popularized by Mike Cohn in his book Agile Estimating and Planning.

How does Planning Poker work?

To start a Planning Poker session, the product owner or customer reads one of the user stories or features that they want the team to estimate. The team members then discuss the story, asking questions and clarifying the requirements and assumptions.

When the team has enough information, each member privately selects a card that represents their estimate and places it face down on the table. Then, all the cards are revealed at the same time.

If all the team members have selected the same value, that becomes the estimate for the story. If not, the team members discuss their estimates, especially the ones that are significantly higher or lower than the others.

The team members explain their reasoning and share their perspectives and insights. The goal is not to convince or persuade others, but to understand and learn from each other.

After the discussion, the team members can revise their estimates and select new cards. The process is repeated until the team reaches a consensus or a reasonable agreement on the estimate. The team can also decide to split the story into smaller and simpler ones, or to defer the estimation until more information is available.

The Planning Poker session can be done in person or online, using physical cards or digital tools. There are many online tools that facilitate Planning Poker, such as PlanITpoker, Planning Poker, and Scrum Poker Cards. These tools allow the team to conduct Planning Poker remotely, asynchronously, and anonymously, and also provide features such as timers, voting, and statistics.

Why do we use Planning Poker at BitStone?

At BitStone, we use Planning Poker for several reasons:

  • It is a simple and effective way to estimate our software projects. It helps us to create realistic and reliable estimates that reflect the team’s collective knowledge and experience. It also helps us to avoid common estimation pitfalls, such as anchoring, optimism bias, and groupthink.
  • It is a collaborative and participative way to estimate our software projects. It involves the whole team in the estimation process, ensuring that everyone’s voice and opinion is heard and valued. It also fosters a sense of ownership and commitment among the team members.
  • It is a fun and engaging way to estimate our software projects. It adds an element of gamification and excitement to the estimation process, making it more enjoyable and motivating for the team. It also helps to build trust and rapport among the team members.

How to use Planning Poker effectively?

To use Planning Poker effectively, we follow these best practices:

  • We prepare the user stories or features in advance, and make sure they are clear, concise, and testable. We use the INVEST criteria (Independent, Negotiable, Valuable, Estimable, Small, and Testable) to ensure the quality of our user stories.
  • We limit the number of user stories or features that we estimate in each session, and prioritize them according to their importance and urgency. We usually estimate no more than 10 stories per session, and focus on the ones that are in the next sprint or release.
  • We limit the duration of each session, and take breaks when needed. We usually spend no more than one hour per session, and avoid fatigue and boredom that can affect our estimates.
  • We use a reference story or feature to calibrate our estimates and align our expectations. We choose a story or feature that we have already implemented or estimated, and assign it a value that we agree on. We then use it as a baseline to compare and estimate other stories or features.
  • We respect each other’s opinions and perspectives, and listen to each other’s arguments and explanations. We do not criticize or judge each other’s estimates, and we do not try to influence or manipulate each other’s estimates. We aim for a consensus or a reasonable agreement, not a unanimous or a perfect estimate.

Planning Poker is a technique that we use at BitStone to estimate our software projects in an agile way. It allows us to estimate the effort and complexity of the user stories or features that we need to implement, using a deck of cards with values that represent the units of estimation. It is a simple, collaborative, and fun technique that helps us to create realistic and reliable estimates, and to improve our communication and teamwork.


About the author

Hello, I'm Albert, one of the Co-CEOs at BitStone, and I'm passionate about steering our company toward excellence in the tech industry.

My journey in technology has been one of continuous learning and adaptation. As a Co-CEO, I am dedicated to fostering innovation, driving growth, and ensuring that BitStone remains a pioneer in the ever-changing tech landscape.

Leading alongside Grigore, I believe in creating a workplace where ideas flourish, and collaboration fuels our success. Together, we aim to shape BitStone into a dynamic force, not only meeting but exceeding the expectations of our clients and the industry.

Beyond the leadership responsibilities, I'm eager to share my perspectives on the evolving tech world. Join me on this journey, where BitStone's commitment to innovation and excellence unfolds. Let's explore the boundless possibilities that technology brings to our fingertips.