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How to remotely run an online planning poker

Planning poker is a great tool to use to help your team estimate stories. More importantly, it is an opportunity to get your team together to discuss upcoming stories and evaluate their feasibility.

The COVID pandemic has ensured that more and more teams are now moving to work remotely for the foreseeable future, which means we need to figure out ways to ensure that we can run our agile meetings remotely as effectively as possible. Here is my take on how you can run a planning poker exercise remotely.

Step 1: Groom your product backlog

Analyze the upcoming releases and make a list of features and stories that need to be a part of that release.

Step 2: Select an online planning poker tool.

I like planitpoker because it’s straightforward to use, and displays the points in a self-explanatory flashcard format. However, you can use many other planning poker tools out there.

Step 3: Select an estimation metric.

Most of these tools are pretty easy to set up. All you have to do is create a room for your team and select the type of estimation you would like to do. This could be sizing stories using T-shirt sizes, using Fibonacci numbers, sequential numbers, etc. Stick to the estimation metric that you are comfortable with.

Step 4: Set up the room

Now you can add stories to be discussed to the room and select other options like the ability for people to vote on an estimate or set a time limit to estimate the story etc. I would keep this as simple as possible, and add or change things if needed.

Step 5: Set up the planning poker meeting

In the meeting, invite for the planning poker, send your team a link to the online project board with all the stories to be discussed. Also, post a link to planitpoker. Ask your team members to go through all of the stories in detail before they join the meeting. This is essential, as we want to keep the meeting under 40 minutes. Anything longer than that, and I have noticed people will lose focus on the call.

Step 6: During the meeting

Now that you are set up pick each story talk about it briefly, and answer any questions. A tip here is not to discuss things that will not currently affect the estimate of the story.

For each story, you can start the timer, and ask your team members to add their estimates. Once the timer is up, review the points. Discuss if there are considerable differences in estimate, and then decide on an estimate.

Then move on to the next story.

Step 7: Add all the estimate to the stories

Planitpoker will give you a list of stories and the estimates which you can now add to the story cards on your project management tool, and you are done!

I hope you have found this post useful. Please let me know if you have any questions!

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