How to conduct planning poker for remote teams
In a Scrum environment, planning meetings are an important part of the team process. Planning poker is a de facto scrum planning and estimation technique, where the team hops into a meeting room and every participant estimates the complexity of task and decides on the story points or time they believe is needed to complete the task.
With organizations moving into remote working environments, agile teams are trying to make online Planning Poker work well for them. And the teams are adopting the following most common ways to hold the meeting.
Coordinated free form discussion in a group chat
Video discussion with relevant members of scrum team
Even the most experienced agile teams can encounter limitations in these methods. For example, the former process can get a little biased by the fact that the participants can see the inputs of others. The latter can seem almost as effective as physical meetings, but it’s not easy for distributed teams. And it requires a person dedicated to coordinating the meeting and follow up actions post sessions.
Agile teams are now trying to incorporate some best practices to make Planning Poker work well for them. This includes:
1. Ensuring all the right people participate
It is important that all people who understand enough about the tasks participate. For distributed teams, finding a suitable time for everyone that doesn’t interrupt with the sleep schedule is a key challenge. And so most teams are now moving to asynchronous mode of meetings where the participants respond at their comfortable timings. Even co-located teams benefit from the uninterrupted nature of async meetings and defaulting to async meetings, keeps your team processes remote friendly and future ready.
2. Ensure the meeting format is comfortable for everyone
Psychological comfort and safety are key to effective meetings. Synchronous meetings work well when all the participants are comfortable to speak their minds and contribute to the estimation process. However it is likely for some team members to feel more comfortable to write something down, rather than having to express their thoughts in a meeting room. Creating a level playing field for all team members is important to get the best out of your teams. In case of a planning poker session asynchronous mode comes with the added benefit of revealing the responses together after all submissions.
3. Automate the routine aspects of the meetings
The typical meetings involve a person dedicated to arrange the meetings, taking notes and following up on actions post the meetings. This is not the best use of your time and is also prone to errors. It makes sense for teams to switch to tools that automate meeting logistics and reporting.
How we automated our Planning Poker meetings
We leveraged Slack, our team communication platform where all our team members are available and set up Troopr to configure and send the Planning Poker questions to the participants at say 11.00 am in their own local time-zone.
Troopr provides a proven template to build upon that sets clear encouragement for everyone in the team to fairly contribute to the estimation process.
Everyone can cast their votes at a comfortable time during their day. If someone fails to remember to cast their votes, Troopr sends out an actionable reminder encouraging them to contribute.
The team responses are aggregated into a beautiful web report and shared it on common Slack channel and web portal. We also made the Slack reports actionable to update the final estimates to the Jira issues in a single click of a button in Slack.
Troopr also provides a history of team estimates, so that we can catch up on that anytime when required. Troopr engagement reports and analytics also helps managers see how the team members are contributing over time.
As long as Planning Poker sessions actually gets done and is effective, the how is up to you. You can do it the traditional way or take a new approach of doing it. So suppose you are trying to automate your online Planning Poker check-ins, check out Troopr.
Read more at www.troopr.ai/planning-poker-online