Street mapping apps tell us how long it will take to reach our destinations under current traffic conditions. Online articles show how many minutes we’ll spend reading them. Call centers report how long we can expect to be on hold if we stay on the line. In many ways, technology has time-boxed modern life successfully to make our activities easy to estimate.
Similarly, businesses in many industries use collected data to estimate how much work goes into a specific task or project. But in software development, every project involves a unique set of moving parts. This means estimation in Agile development isn’t always that straightforward.
This is where the Planning Poker template can help. Planning Poker allows Agile development teams to determine the approximate effort needed to complete an epic, project, or the next Sprint’s user stories. Many Agile teams find that this collaborative estimation exercise is the best way to get accurate results.
Whiteboards’ native Jira integration makes Planning Poker easy for Jira Agile teams. Import Jira issues to Whiteboards, use the Planning Poker template to estimate them, then update these issues right on the digital canvas. All updates sync in Jira, and your next project or Sprint is ready to go.
Try Whiteboards Pro for free today, and read on to learn more about Agile poker in Jira and how to do your Planning Poker work on the Whiteboards app.
Planning Poker overview
What is Planning Poker?
Planning Poker is a collaborative Agile technique used for backlog refinement and Sprint planning. Agile development teams hold Planning Poker sessions to estimate the complexity of user stories. This allows them to more accurately decide how many stories they can expect to finish in the next Sprint.
In a Planning Poker meeting, the facilitator presents the team with upcoming user stories, one story at a time. Each team member decides silently on their estimate, then all members submit their votes at the same time. In an in-person session of Planning Poker, the team does this with physical cards.
Whiteboards’ Planning Poker template recreates this process with virtual poker cards.
After all votes are submitted, the team examines the votes and discusses any discrepancies. The team members with the lowest and highest votes explain why they gave those estimates. The team might reach consensus through discussion, or vote a second time. The estimation process continues until all stories have been assigned a value.
How do Agile teams make estimates?
Agile poker teams use a variety of story estimation methods. Here are some of the most common:
- Story points: For a Scrum poker event, assigning story points is the most straightforward type of estimation. Jira teams then enter estimated story points directly into their Jira issues.
- Time: Some teams prefer to estimate stories in terms of hours or days to completion.
- T-shirt sizes: This method ranks user stories by relative complexity: small, medium, large, and extra large. T-shirt sizing can be useful for rough preliminary estimates – for instance, estimating epics before breaking them down into user stories. It can also provide a simpler option for new Agile teams who are not yet comfortable using story points.
Does Planning Poker work to produce effective estimates?
The theory behind Planning Poker is that those who do the work know best how much effort goes into the work. The Planning Poker process combines the expert opinions of the whole development team to achieve realistic estimates. Agile teams have found that collaborative estimation yields highly accurate results, especially as the team becomes more experienced at Planning Poker.
That said, less experienced developers tend to overestimate how much work they can accomplish in a Sprint. Don’t be surprised if your team’s first estimation attempts are too ambitious. Let the results of your initial poker sessions guide you to become better estimators.
How do I use the Planning Poker template with Jira?
To run an Agile Planning Poker session, hold a development team meeting on your virtual whiteboard. Smaller teams should have the entire team participate in order to support the accuracy of the process. Larger teams should be sure to have a representative sampling of team members at the Planning Poker meeting.
Here’s how to use the Planning Poker template with your team to plan your next Sprint:
1. Set up for the Planning Poker session.
2. Import Jira issues to the Whiteboards app.
If your team uses Jira, import the Jira issues to the “To be estimated” field. Use the menu on the right to search your Jira backlog, and then drag the issues you want to the template from the backlog. Or, add an import zone to pull in the issues you’ll be working with to the before-mentioned field. You can also use sticky notes to create new Jira issues directly on the whiteboard.
For teams that don’t use Jira, simply add your issues to sticky notes and place these notes in the left column.
3. Have users adjust their settings.
Ask each team member to change their user settings to hide other users’ cursors. This way, nobody can see each other’s estimates until all the votes are in.
4. Play Agile poker.
Move the first user story into the “Estimating” column. Set a timer, if that’s helpful. All team members copy and paste a card from the card deck. When everyone is ready, each person moves their vote to the space below their name.
5. Discuss the results.
If the estimates are the same or nearly the same, great! You can likely reach consensus quickly. If the estimates vary a lot, invite team members to share the reasoning behind their votes. Find consensus verbally, or repeat the voting process to see if you come closer. When consensus is reached, move the issue to the right column, with the winning estimation card next to it.
6. Update Jira issues and finish planning your Sprint.
After you’ve estimated everything, decide which user stories will be part of your next Sprint. If you’re using Jira issues and estimating with story points, add those story points to your issues. All your updates appear instantly in Jira.
You can also add an update zone to batch-update issues on the whiteboard. When all your issues are updated, you’re ready to create your next Sprint in Jira.
Be more Agile with the Whiteboards app
Try Whiteboards Pro today to get the Planning Poker template, over 100 other templates, and a palette of powerful diagramming tools. Hold video chats, deliver presentations, and create unlimited individual and company boards for all your organizational needs.
However you use Whiteboards, deep two-way Jira integration streamlines your team’s process from planning to development to release. Curious what this looks like in action? Watch our short demo to learn how Whiteboards-Jira sync can support your team to succeed.