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September 15, 2021
5 min read

The Gamification of Effort Estimation: How Can Planning Poker Benefit Your Agile Development Team?

Effort estimation is an important activity for any project because it aids in reaching the desired results by completing the work on time.
Anton Versal
Anton Versal
Planning Poker is a popular strategy for effort estimation.

Estimation, however, is tough, according to product managers, project managers, and software developers. Indeed, many software developers consider it to be one of the most difficult aspects of their jobs.

The good news is that there are various estimation approaches to choose from in agile project management. Today, Planning Poker is a popular strategy.

This article will go through the basics of Planning Poker, including what it is, the benefits of adopting it, and why it works so well.

Planning Poker: Explained

Planning Poker, also known as Estimation Poker, is a useful method for estimating relative probabilities in complex empirical engineering or software development tasks.

After a particularly slow meeting, James Grenning invented Planning Poker. While only two team members debated an estimate, the team was bored and had nothing to do. They finally stuck to the same estimation they had made 20 minutes earlier when they went down the rabbit hole.

As a result, Planning Poker was born as a quick and easy approach to gathering the information needed to make a plan. The game, also known as Scrum Poker or Pointing Poker, assigns a numerical score to a product feature or deliverable, such as one specified by a "user story." This score depends on the amount of "story points" — a measure of relative complexity or risk that you can use in planning and forecasting.

The Benefits of Planning Poker

Different projects may have their compelling reasons for employing Planning Poker. However, you can observe the following advantages in general:

  • Easy, Fast, and Accurate: When the entire team with various roles is authorized to estimate, you can achieve tremendous accuracy rapidly. Estimation accuracy saves a lot of time and surprises when it comes to meeting project objectives.
  • Encourages Communication: Introverts and reserved people receive equal time to talk during these sessions, enabling them to open up. Quiet people may have better ideas, and when they submit an "outlier" estimate, they receive the full attention of the entire team.
  • Everyone is kept Busy and Occupied: The beauty of this kind of estimation is that each person must have their reasoning for why their estimates are correct. To defend their assessment, participants must consider all components of the implementation/testing efforts.
  • Everyone is Part of the Process and Has a Voice: This planning strategy encourages participants to generate and present their estimates rather than accepting others' ideas at face value. During these sessions, new team members, in particular, can swiftly understand various parts of the projects.
  • Fosters Team Ownership: Because the entire team debated and agreed on a story estimate, they are now responsible for completing the work within the anticipated time frame. This method instills a sense of ownership in the team because the members became involved at the start.
  • Fun and Productive: Who would not want to play poker in their workplace? When work and play get integrated, people are more likely to participate and provide the best results.
  • Generates New Ideas: With the entire team present, you should expect a wide range of estimates depending on how they approach the problem. Out-of-the-box thinkers may be able to supply you with a more optimized and better solution at a lesser cost.
  • Promotes Common Understanding: Because the entire team participates in the estimation process, each team member has complete awareness of the user story expectations. Although different team people choose the stories, the remainder of the team has a strong knowledge of what everyone is doing, which helps create a better answer and solution.
  • Stimulates a Feedback Loop: When the participants' estimates get presented, they must discuss why precise estimates are high or low. This conversation may lead to inquiries about the requirement and its implementation, a good feedback loop for identifying gaps.
  • Facilitates Better Collaboration: The planning session brings everyone together and pushes them to connect. Thus it also serves as a team-building exercise. People that know one other well can work together effectively to attain their objectives collaboratively.

Why Planning Poker Works so Well

Planning Poker brings together numerous expert viewpoints

At first, it may seem strange to plan a software project using a card game like poker. But, by requiring team members to reveal their scores simultaneously with their peers, this gamification pushes them to think independently.

As a result, Teams that estimate with Planning Poker consistently claim that their estimates are more accurate than any other traditional estimation methods they have tried before. But why?

First, because it brings together numerous expert viewpoints, Planning Poker leads to improved estimations. These professionals are better suited to the estimating work than anybody else because they form a cross-functional team from all disciplines on a software project.

Second, there is a spirited discussion during poker planning, and their peers challenge estimators to justify their estimates. Researchers have discovered that this approach enhances estimate accuracy, particularly on items with a high degree of uncertainty, such as most software projects.

Furthermore, asking people to defend their estimations has been proven to produce estimates that better compensate for missing data and information. This option is highly critical on an agile project because the estimated user stories are frequently purposely ambiguous.

Finally, research has demonstrated that individuals averaging estimates during agile estimating and planning, and group discussions of assessments produce more accurate estimates. These are not only quick, superior estimation results.


The agile estimation process does not have to be difficult nor time-consuming. On the contrary, the effort estimation process can be a pleasant and collaborative activity for remote and distributed teams if you have the correct tools and strategies in your toolbox.

Consider Async Poker for your next Planning Poker project in this regard. For collocated, distributed, or remote Agile teams, Async Poker is a tool for estimating product backlog work in Jira in an asynchronous manner. With Async Poker , you can rest assured that your estimates will be not only quick but also accurate.

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