When it comes to realising a project, one of the biggest challenges is to realistically estimate the effort required for the individual project tasks. 

The most important basis for being able to estimate effort reliably is to define the task precisely. In addition, the individual willingness to perform of the individual team members is always decisive, as this can vary greatly between the employees. In addition, efforts should always be calculated conservatively, because employees tend to overestimate their own productivity rather than underestimate it. 

If this basis is ensured, the so-called planning poker is an extremely interesting way of making reliable estimates of the effort required for project tasks. The free tool for agile estimates is also a great help in this context. 

The following article explains the details of planning poker and how to proceed. 


Preparing for Planning Poker

In order to be able to use the Planning Poker method, the first step is to create a list in which the desired results of the project are precisely defined – for example, in the form of a requirements list. The goals should be described as precisely as possible so that all participants in the Planning Poker can develop an exact idea of them. 

In order to conduct the Planning Poker, not only the staff members responsible for the realisation of the project are needed, but also a moderator who leads the effort assessment. 


The cards for the Planning Poker

All participants in the Planning Poker receive a set of cards. The cards can be ordinary playing cards or special cards for Planning Poker that are commercially available. 

On the special Planning Poker cards, various numerical values can be found, which usually correspond to the Fibonacci sequence – the intervals between the individual values thus become larger and larger. In addition, special joker and special cards are also included in these sets. 

The values on the playing cards can be interpreted as effort in days as well as in some other ratio that relates to the real effort required for the respective task. 


How the Planning Poker works

The results of the project, which are required of the team, are presented by the facilitator in the first step. If the participants still have questions, they can of course ask them. 

In the next step, the team members estimate the effort required. For this, each game chooses the card which, in his or her opinion, reflects the effort required for the respective task. This card is then placed face down on the table. After all participants have selected a card, the moderator of Planning Poker gives an appropriate command, after which the cards are turned over. In this way, all participants can read the assessments of their fellow players. 

The players who have made the highest and lowest estimates then justify and explain their motives for their choice to their fellow players. This ideally leads to a constructive discussion in the group. However, the moderator can limit the discussion time. 

Until a consensus is established between the players regarding the current effort estimate, this process can be repeated several times, taking into account the new information gained in the discussion. However, should it come to the point that no agreement on an effort can be reached by the players, it is also possible to postpone the estimation of this task and repeat it at a later time.

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