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Are Group Estimates More Accurate Than Individual Estimates?

When it comes to estimating Agile projects, even small increases in accuracy make a big difference. So, are group estimates more accurate than individual ones?
February 4 · 4 min read
Learn how to increase the accuracy of estimates.

The estimation process is a common bottleneck in which project managers, product managers, and software developers must predict the degree of effort required to complete a development assignment. Estimation is a two-edged sword: it is extremely useful for breaking down long-term projects into manageable and short-term tasks, but it may also derail long-term project planning if done incorrectly.

Although easier said than done, product development teams regularly get pressed by management to enhance the accuracy of their estimations. These teams must not only work hard to figure out how to estimate, but they must also choose the best time to do it. In this regard, Planning Poker is a strategy that can help in agile estimation.

This article will explore the driving reason behind planning poker, focusing on whether group estimations are more accurate than individual estimates.

Defining Planning Poker

Planning Poker, also called "scrum poker" or "pointing poker," is a gamified strategy used by development teams to estimate the time and effort required to complete project management activities. These estimates are more engaging and accurate than other approaches because they are based on the entire group’s input and consensus. Teams utilize planning poker cards, similar to poker cards, to help measure the number of story points for the required activities.

The goal of Planning Poker is to get the entire team to work together and collaborate. Planning Poker makes it easy to estimate important time and effort so that a team can produce high-quality outputs.

Instead of verbally communicating their estimates, team members utilize a deck of playing cards to do so. Bias is eliminated by drawing cards and placing them face down at the same time. In the estimation process, everyone takes this path, which encourages individual estimations and eliminates peer influence.

A Brief History of Planning Poker

James Grenning developed Planning Poker in 2002. He considered that the predominant estimating method of the time, Wideband Delphi – a technique from the 1950s – took too long and had other drawbacks. For Grenning, planning poker was originally about handling the problem of people in agreement talking too much and dominating the work. Later, Mike Cohn, co-founder of Agile Alliance and Scrum Alliance, popularized the concept in his Agile Estimating and Planning book.

How Planning Poker Works

The entire team assigns each project story points in Planning Poker. Each story point represents the amount of effort required to complete each project.

First and foremost, teams should decide on a method for estimating. Many agile teams, for example, estimate in points, maybe using the Fibonacci numbering sequence. Others employ a numbering system based on T-shirt sizes or some other arbitrary system.

The actual Planning Poker process then entails going over each feature one by one, explaining needs, and asking questions to understand how it might get created.

Every Scrum team will have distinct objectives, but here is what playing Planning Poker looks like in general:

  • Except for the moderator, each team member has a deck of cards.
  • Team members submit questions concerning themes, user stories, story points, product backlogs, agile retrospectives, and whatever else they require for their agile estimating and planning process to the moderator, usually the product owner. The acceptance criteria of the product owner are frequently questioned, such as whether the backlog items are complete and what the best next step is to finish the sprint.
  • After the moderator has responded to the agile team's queries, each team member chooses a card estimate. This timeframe estimates the time it will take them to complete the task.
  • Team members then place their cards face down on the table or utilize a Jira plugin for distributed teams to lay their cards face down. This action avoids anchoring or influencing each other's judgments.
  • The Scrum team's cards are shown by the moderator so that the estimates can get seen.
  • If a team member's estimate is higher or lower than that of other team members, they must explain why. For clarification, the agile team might ask more questions. An egg timer gets used frequently to keep this questioning period to a minimum.
  • The procedure gets repeated until the agile team agrees on an estimate for how long each user story will take to finish.

Who to Include in Planning Poker

The right people should join Planning Poker meetings, or it becomes difficult to reap the optimum benefits. These crucial roles include:

  • Scrum Master: In agile meetings, a Scrum Master acts as a facilitator; thus, they should attend all formal meetings.
  • Scrum Team Members: Members of the scrum team provide items from the product backlog and deliverables list. They will also contribute to the discussion on key story points.
  • Product Owner: The Product Owner will describe all user stories to the team and clarify and provide answers to their questions.

Group Estimation in Planning Poker

According to one study, planning poker estimations are statistically higher than individual estimates. This study also discovered that planning poker estimations were more accurate than individual estimates for similar activities.

The estimating process is critical for team members since it decides how much work will get put into each sprint. You can evaluate the workload by breaking down the product backlog into smaller jobs.

Scrum Masters have a challenging job: They want the product owner's user story to be exceptional at the end of the perfect day. At the same time, Scrum Masters must manage a Scrum team.

Conclusion

Many agile software development teams utilize Planning Poker as an estimating technique. In the best-case scenario, agile teams should estimate together: as a team. Scrum Masters double the experience applied to the problem when they obtain input from several people. The value of doing so gets predicated on the wisdom of crowds: teams get access to the collective intelligence of their peers.

Finally, using Planning Poker apps can help you enhance your estimates. These applications will improve your planning accuracy by refining estimates over time.

In this regard, consider Async Poker. For collocated, distributed, or remote Agile teams, Async Poker is a tool for estimating product backlog work in Jira in an asynchronous manner. Improve the precision of your estimations with Async Poker.

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