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Denis Gobo

Agile: Planning Poker and Scrum

Who said you can’t gamble at work and what is Scrum anyway? Scrum is an agile process for developing software. With Scrum, projects progress via a series of iterations called sprints. A sprint can be 2 weeks, 3 weeks or a month. The sprint is a deliverable, after the completion of the sprint you are supposed to have delivered working piece of code. This might be a subset of a product. The reason to deliver frequently is so that the client can comment on the product. Instead of waiting 3 months before the client sees the product only to say that this is not what the envisioned they will see it earlier and give you feedback. This will save you a lot of time, trust me on this one! If you want to learn more about scrum then download this excellent 90 page book in pdf format by Henrik Kniberg  (Scrum and XP from the Trenches)


Planning Poker

Have you ever been in a meeting where the question was asked how long it would take to do a certain task? What usually happens is this: the first person will say 16 hours and the next 3 people will pick something close or even the same value. With planning poker you don’t know what the other people said until every person decided. This is how it works: everyone has a bunch of cards which are numbered between 0.5 and 48 (with gaps), a need more info card and a need coffee break card. These cards can be used for days or hours, it depends how big the task is. So it the same question is asked then everyone puts a card down with the number facing down. Then all the people turn the cards and the group looks at the numbers. At this point you will see strange things every now and then, some people have 2 hours some people have 32 hours for the same task. The reason for this is because some of the people didn’t completely understand what is involved and might need more information. You go around the room and everyone explains how they picked their number. This is where you will find out that some people didn’t understand the task and need more info. Sometimes you will find out that a task needs to be split up, a task should not take longer than 1 ideal day to complete. After you have completed the whole process a couple of times you will find out that your team is much better at estimating the time it will take to complete a task.


There is a website where you can do planning poker online, the URL is


We made our own, we all picked a different picture for the back of the cards and everyone has the same numbers for the front.



To learn more about Scrum visit these URLs


If you want to read books about scrum then I recommend these two

Agile Project Management with Scrum

Agile Software Development with SCRUM


And never ever call a certified Scrum Master Scrumbag ;-)

Published Tuesday, August 7, 2007 4:09 PM by Denis Gobo
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Adam Machanic said:

The planning poker is an interesting idea.  I personally find time estimation to be by far the most difficult thing I'm asked to do on a regular basis.  This is especially hard on consulting engagements, when I'm sometimes asked to estimate time to build or fix a feature in software I haven't yet seen...

August 8, 2007 9:39 AM

Denis Gobo said:

What planning poker does is it makes the person really think about how long a task will take, if it needs to be split up and also make the person realize if he does or does not understand the requirement.

If you go around the room and I say 3 hours then the next person (especially if the first person is the most senior developer) does not want to sound like an idiot and will pick something very close to that number.

It is a very interesting concept and you should try it out with a group of developers, you will be surprised at the big range of values that people choose

August 8, 2007 9:50 AM
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About Denis Gobo

I was born in Croatia in 1970, when I was one I moved to Amsterdam (and yes Ajax is THE team in Holland) and finally in 1993 I came to the US. I have lived in New York City for a bunch of years and currently live in Princeton, New Jersey with my wife and 3 kids. I work for Dow Jones as a Database architect in the indexes department, one drawback: since our data goes back all the way to May 1896 I cannot use smalldates ;-( I have been working with SQL server since version 6.5 and compared to all the other bloggers here I am a n00b. Some of you might know me from or even from some of the newsgroups where I go by the name Denis the SQL Menace If you are a Tek-Tips user then you might know me by the name SQLDenis, I am one of the guys answering SQL Questions in the SQL Programming forum.

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