Planning poker

We had some fun today with planning poker. Wikipedia defines it as

… a consensus-based estimation technique for estimating, mostly used to estimate effort or relative size of tasks in software development. It is a variation of the Wideband Delphi method. It is most commonly used in agile software development, in particular the Extreme Programming methodology.

Our process was a little different than standard: we worked on defining the stories on our Wiki in the days leading up to the planning poker game, so that we didn’t have many discussions prior to estimating each feature. But we did have some very good discussions when we saw big deviations in people’s estimates.

Sometimes people assumed that stuff was included in the story that was actually in a different story, leading to much higher estimates. Sometimes people forgot about tasks, leading to lower estimates. But as a team, we think we have come up with some good estimates. We will see how they hold up in real life 😉

To actually play the planning poker game, you’d normally need a deck of cards with values. However, being a distributed team today (I worked from home), we resorted to planningpoker.com. It’s really simple to use and actually fun. Our discussions took place in IM, and although that’s not optimal, it was good enough. So all in all a good experience.

Update: You can also use this site to reach consensus on a story’s risk. For that, agree on a mapping between the planning poker cards and the allowed values for risk. For instance, if you assign risk a value of low, medium, or high, you could pick 0=low, 5=medium, 100=high.

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