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How to Make Time Estimations Using Planning Poker Cards

Would you prefer to spend time on estimations or have fun… or both?

How to make a software development team enjoy their daily routine? Make them play poker… but by using planning poker cards. It is not only fun but also useful when it is time to work on software time estimations.

I have already talked about time estimations. I have also spoken about the importance of planning. Now I'll look in detail at the combination of time estimation and planning. Moreover I’ll add fun to this at the same time. These three lines mixed in a single software development process will lead to outstanding success.

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Why? Because it is good to not always take life and work too seriously and enjoy it. Only in this way you can feel relaxed and relieved in the hectic world we live in today, especially in the software development branch.

I can give you a hint on how to do this in a software development company.

Time estimation is a game of poker aimed at happy clients

In a software development business you need happy clients and a good image that will bring you more clients. There are three important prerequisites to ensure client satisfaction:

  • Deliver the software product on time
  • Ensure high quality of the software product delivered
  • Offer a software product price that pleases both parties - your software development company and the client.

In a software development process ‘’the poker game’’ where you, as a PM or a company owner, need to ensure and provide to the client high quality work in the short-term at a reasonable price, the work tension should not be underestimated. You always need to have your Jokers aimed at relieving the pressure off developers which will make them more productive. Do not underestimate the significance of precise schedule planning and accurate time estimations to keep up the image of the whole software development company.

While you are fully responsible for the project budget and pricing, the other two prerequisites of the implementation depends on the software development team.

Happy developers are equate to a higher motivation to work and a better organization. In a healthy environment you may expect developers to have heightened concentration and efficiency which will lead to identifying code errors through code reviews and fix them on time, thus you have ensured high quality work.

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To have a software product completed on time the developers need to make precise estimations. How difficult could this be? Sometimes the predictable turns out to be unpredictable and surprises follow. A good Joker would be the use of planning poker cards by developers while… they drink coffee and have a rest. How come? Well, they will turn their work into a game because the planning poker cards are making this possible.

Play the planning poker cards and estimate precisely

This is a good exercise, if you succeed to implement it in the software development team work, especially for bigger projects.

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In short the developers that will do the time estimations in a Scrum team need to hear a user story or a description of the feature that needs to be estimated. Each of them have cards of different values that represent the number of story points – these are numerical values which developers use to make estimations (days, hours). After the description is given there is a small discussion among estimators and then each of them privately selects one poker card through which they give their own estimation.

The whole process in detail is interesting, funny and easy for developers. They work while they have a rest. They have the opportunity to compare their personal estimations at team level and further discuss them and converge positions, especially the estimators that gave the highest and lowest time estimations. On the other hand the estimator that gave the highest estimation, if he convinces the others that he is right, he may save the software development team from unexpected delays and thus guarantee a software product delivery on time.

Hurray, the happy client is not a mirage- they have a product of high quality on time.


This approach works for many software development companies because developers in a Scrum team have the opportunity to compare and discuss time estimations which ensures accuracy at a higher level. And this is very important for the client.

Nevertheless you need to have your little secrets to avoid conflicts with clients when it is about delivery in time and the software development team misses the deadline.

Can you consider the advantages of estimations through a game approach?

Can you share with us some disadvantages of using planning poker cards for time estimations, if you have already implemented it in your company?

How do you benefit from this approach?

If you are curious to test it out in your team ask us for a free planing poker card set by entering your address and we will mail it to you by post.