Pointing Poker

As you have to know if you are using Scrum for a while in each Sprint Planing you have to estimate what is the size of each user story. You can use T-Shirt or story points to give an estimation per user story.

One of the common activities is to do a planning poker where each team member choose a number to decide the size of user stories. To do that you can use cards with the different sizes but if you have to deal with distributed team members you need to use a virtual planning poker tool such as Pointing Poker.

What is Pointing Poker?

Pointing poker is a online implementation of Planning Poker (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planning_poker). This is a “game” that is used to determine complexity points for teams using the Agile project management methodology. This tool fosters better collaboration and adherence to the core principles associated with planning poker. It is intended to be usable without reading through this documentation, but if you want the details, it’s all here.

Advantages

Widely used
5,836,750 total votes cast.
No download required
This application is 100% web based requiring no installs.
No signup required
This is a spam free zone!
Easy to use
There’s no need to enter your stories, just get connected to your teammates in whatever way you’re used to (phone, skype, etc.) and share the link.
Scalable
Have multiple agile teams that might be interested? No problem, pointing poker can handle any number of teams simultaneously!
Desktop, tablet, and mobile ready
There’s no need for the people on your team to compromise on their preferred platform. The pointing poker tool works in all environments.

 

How does it work?

The original and continuing goal of this application is to have a simple and focused implementation of planning poker. To that end, the UI has been kept extremely simplistic.

Starting a session

A session must be started before pointing can begin. All players from an agile team join the same session, but before players can join, the session must be started. This is accomplished by one of those players going to the Home page and clicking on the Start Session button. That’s all it takes to get going.

There are a number of options that can be set when starting a new session.

  • Settings
    The only option here is to reset all of the settings back to their original values.
  • General Options
    This area allows for the configuration of which items are shown on the screen during a pointing session.
  • Point Values
    Many agile teams do not use the point values that are available by default. If your team uses different values, then you can customize the available points in this area.

Joining a session

Whether you’re the one who started the session or a player joining an existing session the first thing you must do is enter your name so other players can see who you are. Once you enter your name you choose to participate in one of two different ways:

  • Player
    This option should generally be used by business analysts, testers, developers, etc. Only players are allowed to vote.
  • Observer
    Observers are only able to see the votes cast by other players and cannot vote themselves. This option should generally be used by the facilitator (Scrum Master) or others who want to view the voting results, but do not have input into the decision.

Inviting other users

Pointing is a team activity so having only one person wouldn’t be much fun. To invite other’s to your pointing session, simply copy the URL at the bottom of the screen or from your address bar. Send that to everyone that you want to participate. This can be done via e-mail, IM, SMS, or whatever communication mechanism you prefer. For your convenience, you may enter email addresses in the input box provided which will send invite emails to everyone listed there. Be assured that this information is not used for any other purpose.

Participating

The goal of a planning poker session is to assign complexity points to stories. This tool uses a realtime communication system to connect players to one another. In general, a meeting faciliatator will introduce the story the team is going to point. The story is described in detail by the business owner who understands the business needs involved. Players then secretly cast their votes for their estimation of the effort. Although votes are hidden from the players, it is obvious who has or has not voted.

When everyone has voted, the results are shown to everyone on the team. Users can continue to submit votes after all votes have been shown until a consensus is acheived. When the team has finished pointing a particular story someone should press the Clear Votes button to clear all points and hide them again. If a user becomes unresponsive the Show Votes button can be used to show all of the current votes without waiting for everyone to cast their votes.

The tool is intended to be very flexible during the pointing session and teams should feel free to use the tool in the manner that best suits the team dynamics. For example, some teams might use it to get an intial feel for where participants are leaning to start a discussion. Other teams might feel that continuing to submit votes until a consensus is reached is more appropriate. The point is, there is no right or wrong way to use it.

Note: Different Agile teams define points in different ways. The planning poker application tries to use the most standard point values, but if your team has other point values, you are encouraged to reconfigure the points to values that are more meaningful to you and your team. This can be accomplished by the person who starts the pointing session.

Statistics

The statistics area shows several pieces of information that might help your team improve.

  • Time Spent:
    This shows the amount of time that was spent determining the current point value or values. The time starts from the moment the Clear Votes button is pressed and ends when the last vote is cast. The time is also updated after each vote even after all votes have been cast.
  • Point Votes:
    This shows the number of votes assigned to each point value. If all votes are the same, then “Consensus” is shown instead of the point values.

Finishing

When your pointing session is over, you can simply close your web browser or navigate away from the page which will automatically remove you from the session. When all players and observers have left, the session is automatically destroyed.

To conclude, this application can help you and your Scrum team in case you have to work with remote team members. Try it and let me know what was your experience!!

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Mario Lucero

Mario Lucero

I am all about helping companies to adopt agile as methodology in Chile. Why? I believe many organizations think that agile is not for Chilean companies because of Chilean culture is totally different from i.e. USA culture but I worked with Chilean professionals who after using agile realized it is feasible to implement it. Agile works in small and large projects and there are many evidences which demonstrate this.

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