Should the Product Owner participate in Planning Poker?

Submitted by Peter Beck on 04/29/2013

"Regarding Planning Poker, in the material you provided to us, it says "Planning Poker works ... mostly because the people who estimate are those who will do the work." That's all I could find in the documentation about the participants and estimators in the planning poker session. The question at hand is if the Product Owner estimates?..."

To me, the statement above is consistent with literature I've found on the web that the Product Owner may participate (to provide clarification of the user stories) but does not estimate.

The reasoning I've read is that it is not desired that the Product Owner ends up influencing the story points selected by the team doing the work. There could be other reasons as well, like the Product Owner would not have a detailed enough background to know the technical complexity of what is being implemented.

There is a project manager on my current project who is saying the Product Owner should participate and that's how she's done it on all her previous projects.

I was wondering if you have any opinion on this topic?"

Both statements are right. Follow the rule (the Product Owner participates but doesn't estimate) until everyone, the team and the Product Owner, knows the technique better. Then - and only in mature teams - the Product Owner also estimates. He knows that he should not influence the developer. He knows when he tries to get something cheeper, he has to pay for it later. He knows the team and understands the complexity of what will be done. And it would be odd, if the estimation of the Product Owner were 4 times higher as of the developer. Most probably this is a story they have to talk about. The greatest value of using planning poker is the possibility of finding out the unknown and talking about it.

Peter Beck

About the author

Peter Beck

Peter has set himself the task of creating companies that deliver value for their customers and employees. That was also the motivation behind his decision to found DasScrumTeam. Peter is a passionate Scrum Trainer (Certified Scrum Trainer, CST) and consultant with a solid background in engineering. Since 2007, he has trained and advised a wide range of development teams, specialist departments, project managers and those in leadership positions, helping them to apply the Scrum framework, agile planning methods and software engineering practices. Peter is a graduate engineer (Dipl.-Ing, TU) specialising in electrical engineering and information technology.

  • Experience with Scrum since 2004 as Team member, Scrum Master, Product Owner, Coach and Trainer.
  • Served as ScrumMaster in internationally distributed Scrum Teams
  • Co-founder and Product Owner at DasScrumTeam AG
  • Key interests: Agile companies and Scrum beyond Software
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