Why do we use Planning Poker?

What is Planning Poker?

Planning Poker is a technique to gather estimations from a team and stimulate conversation. Wikipedia already does a pretty good trick when it comes to explaining the topic, but this is the procedure in short:

  1. The Product Owner explains a Product Backlog item
  2. The team asks clarifying questions. Do they know enough to estimate?
  3. The team uses a set of cards with a Fibonacci sequence (or an app equivalent) to estimate the item. They give an estimation in relation to agreed upon reference Backlog items. They estimate complexity. 
  4. The individual estimations are revealed at the same time to prevent anchoring.
  5. If there is a big difference, the lowest and highest estimators explain why they made their estimation (also called soapbox).
  6. The estimation is repeated until the values match more or less.

The advantages of Planning Poker

  • Hidden assumptions between team members are revealed.
  • Conversation is stimulated.
  • If the values match immediately, no further time is needed to elaborate on details.
  • Gathered insights (or acceptance criteria) can be added to the Product Backlog item.
  • The Product Owner can gather input around complexity or previously unknown dependencies in a short timespan. Which allows him or her to manage the Product Backlog.
  • Planning Poker is not to be confused with a thorough technical analysis. The idea is to talk just enough to get an idea and a shared understanding of complexity without going into technical details too much.