Planning poker

Planning Poker is a fun and very effective way to assign relative Story Points to functional elements within an agile project. The Sogeti Planning Poker set contains 8 sets of colored (playing) cards with the following denominations: 0, ½, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 20, 40, 100, + card and coffee break card.

Planning sprints or iterations

Story Points represent a relative measure in respect to the quantity of work which is required in order to realize the items of the product backlog. The estimation is not made in terms of time, but in complexity in respect to one another. The client will have to prioritize the items. This can be done separately from the budget. The team will process a number of items per iteration. The number of items which are picked up for processing depends on the speed of the team (expressed in velocity = story points/iteration). The owner of the items will, for the benefit of the project, prepare a global classification relating to the number of agreed upon iterations, depending on the size of the items as well as their respective priorities. The team will decide which items will be picked up before the iteration (together with the owner of the product backlog).

Planning poker is not about obtaining an estimate which is perfectly accurate. The main thing is to make sure that the entire team deliberates thereto in order to achieve mutual consensus. 

Game rules

  1. Each team member (max. 8) gets a set of cards.
  2. One person (preferably the product owner/client) will read (out loud) the budgeting item.
  3. The team (& client) discusses the item.
  4. Each team member will decide for him/herself which card represents the correct budget. If you don’t know, then you select the 0 card. If you think the budget is huge then you select the + card.
  5. Once everyone has made a selection then the cards will be placed on the table simultaneously.
  6. If all the budgets correspond then the Story Point budgeting for that item can be considered complete.
  7. If the Story Point budgets differ, then the differences will be discussed within the group (the discussion will focus on the deviating values).
  8. Repeat this until consensus has been achieved and then move on to the next budgeting item.

If many items require budgeting then you can play the coffee break card to allow people to relax a bit. A coffee break card should always be respected. 

Accelerating the budgeting process

Preparing a Story Point budget can be accelerated by assigning standard Story Point values, in advance, to items with a simple or relatively small scope. Make sure the team agrees with these budgets before the remaining items are budgeted. Planning Poker is only played for those items which are complex and/or large.

Size vs compexity