One of our product teams uses something we call the Planning Game to come up with a collective view on what we are likely to get done in the next few iterations; it’s a minor variation on a common agile technique called Planning Poker. Briefly, a business analyst proposes a story card for inclusion in a future release; developers assign a difficulty score; and the business analyst places the card on a matrix with V columns and N rows, where V = velocity and N = number of iterations being planned. We colour in a number of squares proportional to the story’s difficulty, which keeps us from cramming too much into a single iteration. The business analyst can (and does) move the cards around as it becomes clear which ones are hard and which are most valuable.
Our good friend and frequent visitor Antony Marcano suggests we consider another variation called a Story Matrix that he and Kerry Jones have used successfully. The main difference is that the estimation process occurs more visibly, with comparisons between different stories made explicit. And Antony has an even more complex and clever idea involving a matrix with both difficulty and value reflected on it (please blog this Antony!)
Do we need these more refined versions of the Planning Game? Probably not on the small product where we currently use it, but they might help us on the larger product that doesn’t work this way at present. Are you using a Planning Game variant? How well is it working for you?