Estimating the cost of performing an operation or a function is, without a doubt, one of the most complex tasks in project management. It requires the confrontation and collaboration of technical and functional experts, notably depending on the experience of the personnel involved in the estimation and their understanding of the client and its technical environment. The Scrum agile method provides an effective tool for the development team to estimate the workload: Scrum Poker.

Principles of Scrum Poker

The Scrum Poker will gather a project team around the Scrum Master, who will promote various exchanges between the participants around the studied function. The interest of Scrum Poker is that everyone can freely express what they think is appropriate so that they can cross-reference different sources of information and different opinions. Everyone can contribute, based on their experience, expertise, and feelings. Providing a wide range of information and taking it into account will only merge the estimates that will be made, as the full complexity of the function requested will be highlighted and known to all.

The technical experts can bring several points of view and several solutions to the realization of a function. The function experts will encourage the participants to evaluate the key points or shadows that may be considered in the function's realization.

The workload estimate will be linked to a set of features that exist in the product backlog and will be identified by the product owner as a priority and included in the next sprint. Therefore, plan poker before the sprint starts to determine the cost of each feature and the actual cost that can be achieved. Note, however, that it is by no means a question of planning the achievements of the upcoming sprint in order to determine a schedule, but only to get an estimate of each function defined as a priority.

Described in this way, the planning poker is like any project meeting to estimate the workload. The advantage of the Scrum agile method is that it brings an interesting twist to the estimation process.

The value on the card does not represent the load in terms of man-days, so it does not directly represent the duration of the completion. These values are the point where the duration of the task is taken into consideration, but the most important thing is its complexity and also related to the other requested functions. These are just a few points.
A value of 0 means that a function is already in place or that no special effort is required. Values of 0.5 and 1 can be used for particularly simple tasks, and 3 and 5 are used for somewhat more complex tasks. In addition, implementation requires more substantial or complex work.
A value of 100 means very complicated and a lot of work time. It may be necessary to divide features that receive this score into smaller batches, which can be spread over several consecutive sprints.
A card with the symbol "∞" (infinity) represents any task with a value greater than 100, so it is a particularly long or complex task that needs attention. Features that receive this score rarely have a chance of being included in the next sprint.

Progress of the Scrum Poker project

It is important to plan the poker well so that all stakeholders can sit quietly around a table without being disturbed long enough.

At the beginning of the meeting, each participant will receive a pack of special cards for scrum planning. Then, each participant can take turns using one of their cards to give their estimates while studying a feature.

When everyone is ready, the scrum master starts going through all the features that need to be evaluated. Then he brings them in one by one to study them in detail. For each feature on the list, the scrum master will read its description out loud. A discussion follows, during which everyone can ask questions to get more detailed information about the request and the solution being considered. The aim is to allow everyone to express themselves freely and to remove any ambiguities that may exist in the request.

Once everyone has a clear understanding of the function being discussed, each person chooses the card from their deck that best matches their estimation of the complexity and difficulty of its implementation. Then place the card face down on the table so as not to interfere with participants who have not yet made up their minds and choices. When everyone has spoken and finally puts the card of their choice on the table, it is time to check the results. All cards are turned over at the same time.

If the estimates are close enough, then everyone can easily agree.

However, if you can see that there is a big difference between the estimated values, choose the people or those with extreme values, i.e, the highest and lowest values, to express yourself. This way, each person can explain to the others the reasons for his or her choice and possibly persuade his or her employees. Repeat this process for participants who choose extreme values until everyone can explain their point of view.

When all points are presented and understood, everyone has the opportunity to change their assessment and choose a different card.

The scrum master scores the feature evaluation, then moves on to the next one until the entire list has been addressed.

Advantages of Scrum Plan Poker

Everyone can express themselves freely and bring their own life, experiences, and opinions. In estimation, no one is more important than another. The authors with the highest and lowest scores can explain their choice. Freedom of expression is what makes the final estimate very reliable. There can be several solutions, and finally, the one with the most votes is selected.

Moreover, it is the technical team that estimates what they should do. Therefore, they are very interested in being rigorous and not making mistakes. No external constraint (commercial, cost, etc.) can affect the estimate of achievement.