Agile Software Development

Scrum Poker: Here’s Your How-To Guide

Effective estimation is one of the toughest challenges for software development teams. Regardless of the team size, leaders must estimate and distribute work. Good estimation helps leaders set the right expectations about the project outcome. Additionally, it gives product owners new insight into the effort level for each work item. So how do you achieve successful project estimation? In this article at MUO, Emma Garofalo explains how scrum masters can use ‘Planning Pokers’ to estimate project requirements.

What Is a Scrum Poker?

Scrum Poker or Planning Poker is a gamified way to build consensus by allowing Scrum team members to participate in the estimation process. Scrum masters or project leaders can use physical or digital poker cards to facilitate collaborative planning sessions.

How to Use ‘Planning Poker’

  • The product owner reads an Agile user story or describes a feature to estimators.
  • The team then estimates by playing numbered cards (1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 20, 40, 100) placed face down on the table to prevent revealing their estimates.
  • Then, the cards are simultaneously displayed.
  • The team members then explain the reasons behind high and low estimates.
  • Product owners and estimators can repeat the process until estimates converge.

When to Engage in ‘Planning Poker’

Often, teams hold a ‘Planning Poker’ session once they face an initial product backlog. Since the product backlog continuously piles up, most teams find it helpful to conduct subsequent Agile estimating sessions once per iteration.

Benefits of the Scrum Poker

Similar to Agile estimating and planning techniques, ‘Planning Poker’ has its advantages too.

  • The technique provides every team member a voice during the estimation process. As each estimator presents their perspective on a user story, the group can better understand how they arrived at their conclusion.
  • Many product owners believe that ‘Planning Poker’ is a more accurate way to estimate project requirements than a single person providing all the estimates. With each round of ‘Planning Poker’, the team’s estimates are more likely to converge.

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