Presenters: Jasper Goos & Mark Urban


A well-known Agile practice is estimating user stories in story points instead of hours, as described in Mike Cohn’s book “Agile Estimating and Planning” [ISBN 0-13-147941-5]. This is usually done in a poker planning game. Planning Poker is a consensus-based estimation technique for estimating, mostly used to estimate effort or relative size of tasks in software development ( It might seem obvious at first: pick a reference point and relate all your stories to it. However, new teams will experience that it’s quite difficult.

Intended audience:

All kinds of participants can join this session; everyone who will start working with velocity or already deals with velocity. To actively join the fishbowl discussion it would be nice to have at least a little experience with Agile planning and estimating.


We started using these planning techniques within the R&D organization of Ericsson in the Netherlands more than one year ago (March 2007). After an evaluation, it turned out almost all teams used story points and velocity slightly differently but they all faced the same problems.

Some issues we encountered:
  • People are used to provide hours rather than story points.
  • None of the projects schedules were based on the team’s velocity.
  • The customer expects hours.
  • The organization expects a project schedule based on hours.
  • How to deal with a fluctuating velocity (large deviations)?
You might have encountered these and more problems. Bring your questions and issues you have experienced with estimating, planning and tracking to this session and we will discuss them as well.
Session structure

First, we will explain the theory behind velocity shortly: how to estimate story points and how to use velocity, based on Mike Cohn’s book. Then we will elaborate on how we use velocity within our projects in Rijen.
The major part of the session will be interactive. Using a fishbowl discussion, we would like to discuss a couple of questions, share knowledge and experiences. To make the session valuable for the participants we would like to ask everyone to bring their own planning related questions. Next step is to let everyone vote on the questions they feel should be discussed first so that the different questions are prioritized.
Example questions could be:
-         What benefits have you seen from estimating in story points?
-         How do you report progress and what is the reaction?
Finally, the top 7 questions are discussed in a fishbowl, time-boxed to 5 minutes per question. Afterwards we will conclude with a summary.

Format and length: 60 minute-session. A short presentation followed by a fishbowl discussion.