Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Illustration of Planning Poker Game Usage in Agile

By Suresh Juturu, PMP, ACP, CSM

Planning Poker is a consensus-based technique for estimating, mostly used to estimate effort or relative size of user stories in Scrum.

Planning Poker combines three estimation techniques − Wideband Delphi Technique, Analogous Estimation, and Disaggregation. Next, we will understand what these techniques are.

Three Techniques Used 
  • Expert Opinion − In expert opinion-based estimation approach, an expert is asked how long something will take or how big it will be. The expert provides an estimate relying on his or her experience or intuition or gut feel. 
  • Analogy − Analogy estimation uses comparison of user stories. The user story under estimation is compared with similar user stories implemented in the past sprints by the same team.
  • Disaggregation − Disaggregation estimation is done by splitting a user story into smaller, easier-to-estimate user stories. 

Step By Step – Planning Poker Game
  • In Planning Poker Estimation Technique, estimates for the user stories are derived by playing planning poker. The entire Scrum team is involved.
  • Planning Poker is played with a deck of cards. As modified Fibonacci sequence is used, the cards have numbers - 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 20, 40, 100 etc. These numbers represent the “Story Points”. Each estimator has a deck of cards.
  • One of the team members is selected as the Moderator. The moderator reads the description of the user story for which estimation is being made. If the estimators have any questions, product owner answers them.
  • Each estimator privately selects a card representing his or her estimate. Cards are not shown until all the estimators have made a selection. At that time, all cards are simultaneously turned over and held up so that all team members can see each estimate.
  • In the first round, it is very likely that the estimations vary. The high and low estimators explain the reason for their estimates. The team can discuss the story and their estimates for a few more minutes.
  • After the discussion, each estimator re-estimates by again selecting a card. Repeat the process till the estimates converge to a single estimate that can be used for the story. 
  • Despite relative estimating being easier than absolute estimating, there will still be times when someone will not be able to estimate a particular product backlog item. This might be because the person’s skills aren’t needed on that item. But that person may still be able to contribute to the discussion.
A representation figure of cards is depicted below. 

Image Source: Book: I Want To Be An ACP, 2nd Edition

In the above figure, you would have noticed cards with marks such as “0”, or “½” or a question mark. You would be wondering what are these cards? In planning poker, these are special cards, e.g., the card marked with "0" can be for “this story is already done,” or “this story is almost nothing, just a few minutes of work".

Various Questions on Planning Poker Estimation
Question – 1: The purpose of the planning poker?
Answer: The purpose is to get each team member's input on how difficult the story is from their point of view and estimate.

Question – 2: Agile teams uses scrum but may be having the difficulty in using the right estimation technique and try with planning poker once/twice and stop using it. Why?
Answer: Some of the teams start with planning poker estimation, without sufficient background work on understanding the concept and thinks this estimation technique takes too long for an agile team to adapt as they tend to see lot of debates for a given user story estimation which may vary from 5mins to 60mins! in the beginning, due to which many will stop using this technique.

Question – 3: What is the key to succeed with planning poker? 
Answer: There are two key points to note here.
  • Apply T-Shirt sizing technique first and categorize the user stories based on its size. Your team needs to get this done before sprint planning meeting.
  • Once the relative size is known(done with T-shirt sizing in the first key point), team can easily go for estimating the story points with their analogy and comparing from the past Sprint’s sample user stories.
Example: If the user story “JIRA-1234” (considering you are using JIRA tool for your Agile development work) took 3 story points, your team can now compare that with the current story point value (arrived viaT-Shirt size technique) and say that the current user story takes either more than 3 story points or less or may be equal and gets into the estimation. 

Question – 4: What if there are technical and/or product uncertainties and product owner needs more time to provide clarity? What if the product owner needs to get end users input to provide clarity to answer’s team’s questions? Or what if the team is unable to fold the cards to the same number and has large differences?
Answer: Best thing is to put back into the product backlog so that product owner gets more clarity for next sprint and move to next highest priority or go with a range of estimates.

Question – 5: Teams may have a situation where there will be dedicated testers will be there, but during planning meeting do they need to participate and estimate the user stories for other developers using planning poker?
Answer: I would say the answer is Yes. Because all the scrum team members need to participate in the planning meeting, of course a given person may not be a subject matter expert for the given story, but he/she can still pay attention and understand the discussion about the user story which will benefit the team in long run by having more product knowledge and also providing their estimates with their understanding. 

Your team can decide whether to consider their number or not for a given sprint. But over a period, everyone in the team will need to be capable of sharing every task. Hence it is important to participate and estimate for all members.

Useful Videos to Watch - Learn with fun
Right Way -
Wrong Way -
Why to use Fibonacci -

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Suresh Juturu, PMP, ACP, CSM®-acp®-csm®

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1 comment:

  1. Good Article on Illustration of Planning Poker Game Usage in Agile.


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