Planning Poker is an agile technique typically used to estimate the effort of a specific project. When you are thinking about your first sprint and what product backlog items to include, planning poker is a great way to ensure everyone is on the same page. The end goal of the game is to associate each item with a relative measure of how much effort it will take to complete, and then plan out your sprint according to how much can be accomplished in the given time frame.
Download the Planning Poker Guide to help kickoff your next Agile Sprint.
Setting up the Game
There are many different ways to measure effort when setting up your sprint. You can use different types of sequences to accomplish the same goal for planning poker- some examples include a Fibonacci sequence, T-shirt sizes, power of 2, etc. For this example, we are going to use a modified Fibonacci sequence of numbers for our cards including: 0, ½, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 20, 40, 100, ?, Pass, Break.
Once you have a sequence in place and a list of Product Backlog Items (PBIs) to cover, you are ready to play. It is best to include all relevant parties in this planning session so you can have accurate estimates on how much effort will go into this sprint. Anyone from product owners, programmers, analysts, designers, and testers can be included if they will be involved with this project sprint.
To start the game off, you have to pick one user story that everyone can agree is equivalent to a 2. This will be the base block that every other user story is compared to as you go through the game. If it is a harder task then the base, the estimate should be greater than a 2. If it is easier than the base, it should be less than a 2, and if it is the same effort it should equal 2.
As you go through the planning poker game, the product owner or project manager will read the first user story to the group. If needed, the estimators can ask the product owners any clarifying questions before casting their vote. Once the first story is read and understood, all estimators cast their votes and all votes are revealed simultaneously.
If all estimators pick the same value for the user story then that becomes the final estimate. If there are discrepancies between estimates, each member gets a chance to discuss their pick until all parties can agree. It is best to start with the outliers in this situation and have them start by explaining to the group why they picked the number they did.
As they are explaining, it starts a discussion with the group and people can change their estimate as more concerns are voiced. Everyone gets a turn to discuss their pick until everyone is on the same page. Planning poker doesn't work with majority rules- everyone must agree on each item as they go along.
Ending the Game
Once you have gotten through all of the PBIs, you will have a total estimate of effort for that part of the project. You can then prioritize the list of PBIs and figure out exactly what can be included in this sprint of your project.