planning poker agile scrum

Discover 7 Agile Estimation Techniques That Outshine Scrum Planning Poker

Agile teams often rely on planning poker for their agile estimation. However, planning poker may not always be the most effective method. The estimation features might be too large, the team might lack the motivation to estimate hundreds of stories, or there might be insufficient detailed information available on the items to be estimated. Sometimes, there simply isn’t enough time to accurately estimate the entire backlog.

The key principles of agile estimation include using a relative estimation, fostering discussion to gather more information about the items, creating mutual understanding and respect for the solutions, building team commitment to the agreed-upon work, and strengthening team relationships through collaboration. All estimations are done in relative units, typically story points.

Explore 7 Agile Estimation Techniques Beyond Planning Poker

1. Planning Poker

In planning poker, all participants use numbered playing cards to estimate the items. Voting is anonymous and discussion ensues when there are significant differences. Voting continues until the team reaches a consensus on the accurate estimation. Planning poker is effective when estimating a small number of items (up to 10) in a small team (5-8 people).  Maximize the highest card to 13 points. More on planning poker via this link. 

2. T-Shirt Sizes Estimation

T-shirt sizes estimation is ideal for estimating a large backlog of relatively large items, especially when multiple scrum teams are working on the same product. Items are estimated into t-shirt sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL. The size decision is based on an open and collaborative discussion. This method is an informal and quick way to get a rough feeling about the total size of your backlog. More about T-shirt size estimation is here.

3. Dot Voting Estimation

When you are faced with a relatively small set of items and in need of a super simple and effective technique to estimate you can use Dot Voting. This method has originated from decision making and you can use it for estimating. Each person gets a small number of small stickers and can choose to vote for the individual items. The more dots is an indicator of a bigger size. Works well in both small and large groups. You have to limit the number of estimated items.  More on dot voting here.

4. The Bucket System

Much faster than planning poker is the Bucket System. This system is a good alternative when estimating a large number of items with a large group of participants. Create several buckets in the sequence of planning poker. The group estimates the items by placing them in these “buckets”. Buckets are usually different sheets of brown paper where you can place the sticky note with the item. But you can also use actual baskets to limit discussion about already processed items.  More on the bucket method here.

5. Large/Uncertain/Small agile estimation

A very fast method of rough estimating is the Large/Uncertain/Small method. The team is being asked to place the items in one of these categories. The first step is to categorize the obvious items into two extreme categories. Next, the group can discuss the more complex items. This is a simplification of the bucket system. The system is especially good to use in smaller groups with comparable items. Next, you can assign sizes to these 3 categories.

6. Affinity Mapping estimation

This method is based on finding similarities in the estimated items. The team is asked to group them. The best way is to execute this visually and order them from small groups to large. It works best with a small group of people and a relatively small number of items. You can assign estimation numbers to the different groups. More information about Affinity Mapping.

7. Ordering estimation method

This is an exercise where you get an accurate image of the relative size of items. This works best in a small group of experts. All items are placed in random order on a scale label ranging from low to high. Every participant is being asked to move one item on the scale. Each move is just one spot lower or one spot higher, or leave it like in this position. This continues till no team member wants to move items and passes their turn. The ordering protocol is a method of getting fine-grained size estimates. Works best with a relatively small group of people and a large number of items.

These are different methods you can use to make the agile estimation more efficient and an inspiring team effort. Please share your experiences with this below in the comments section. 


  1. Smrati Tiwari April 19, 2018