Thursday, July 12, 2007

My first game of planning poker

Yesterday I took part in the first sprint planning meeting of my life. We have started up a new development project and we decided to use Scrum as the process. The project is actually quite small, so we have just two developers (myself included) and a product owner for it.

The product owner had prepared nicely and had a quite extensive product backlog. He had even filled in a "how to demo" field for a lot of the stories, which I'm not sure he's supposed to do before the sprint planning. At least it wasn't very handy to have the "how to demo" in place, as it makes it harder to discuss alternative solutions for the same functionality.

After the product owner had explained each story, we were to come up with an estimate of how much work (in ideal man days/story points) it would be to implement the story. I have done many of these estimation sessions before, but this time we decided to play a game of planning poker. Being the good scrum master that I am, I had brought two packs of (rather improvised) planning poker cards.

The other developer and I talked through the story, determining what it would take. We were basically already breaking the story down in tasks, which was a nice head start for the actual breaking down we planned to do later. After agreeing on the tasks, we would go into our poker deck and select the card matching our estimate. When we both had selected a card, we'd pull it out of the deck at the same time - revealing our estimate.

Now I must admit that I wasn't too impressed with the transparency that this estimating method brought. I guess -just as with real poker- you shouldn't play with just two players. There was actually only one story where we seemed to have a big difference in estimate: 8 vs 13 points. But as it turns out, our decks just didn't have any numbers in between 8 and 13. We had both wanted to select a 10, but since that wasn't there we just had to pick something slightly higher or lower. Being the planning pessimist that I am, I of course picked the 13. :-)

So there you have it: I played the game of planning poker. It wasn't anything special or extremely different from the ways I've done estimations before. But I guess that contrary to popular belief, being extremely different is not what Scrum is about. What is it about then, you ask? I'll let you know when I find out. Because if I answered that question now, I'd just be repeating the Scrum/Schwaber mantra.

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