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October 5, 2023
6 min read

How Async Poker Estimation Technique can help Remote or Distributed Scrum Teams Estimate Product Backlog?

Async Poker is a modified Planning Poker estimation technique that suits best for remote or distributed teams to do accurate estimates. Continue reading to find out more about the benefits of Async Poker.
Anton Versal
Anton Versal
Let's learn how Async Poker can help Remote or Distributed Scrum Teams

With the advancement in technology and more shifts towards digitalization, workspaces are also undergoing many changes. One such prominent change came with the COVID-19 pandemic when businesses started shifting their workforces to work from home. Fast forward to today, remote working has become an integral part of business operations owing to the benefits it offers to organizations. Most businesses now have employees working remotely or even from places with different time zones.

Remote working offers fruitful results for both workers and the organization, but it also imposes some challenges, especially for Scrum teams. During Scrum-based project planning and development, there is a stage called product backlog estimation that requires the Product Owner, Scrum Master, development team, and key stakeholders to sit together and estimate the product backlog items. Conducting this estimation session is easy for on-site teams, but not so for remote or distributed Scrum teams. That's where Async Poker comes to the rescue, serving as the ideal estimation technique for remote Scrum teams. So, what is Async Poker and why should teams use it? Let's discuss these points in detail in this article.

Async Poker - A Detailed Overview

Async Poker or Asynchronous Planning Poker is the modified Planning Poker estimation technique. So, before we jump into what Async Poker is all about, we should first quickly go through Planning Poker.

Planning Poker is a consensus-based, gamified estimation technique that helps teams do accurate estimates of product backlog items. In this technique, story points are assigned to user stories by the development team through mutual discussion. The team uses poker-style cards to assign story points having values of 0, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 20, 40, and 100. Every member picks a card once a user story is discussed and then they finalize the team's estimate for that story. The process continues until all the user stories are estimated. Overall, Planning Poker is a widely used estimation technique among Scrum teams due to its collaborative, discussion-based, unbiased, and accurate estimates.

The concept behind Async Planning Poker is similar to Planning Poker, just it does not require participants to be physically present for the meeting session. Instead, Async Poker let the teams do estimates remotely by sending participants the user stories and giving them the deadline by when they have to deliver the estimates. This way, they can read and understand the user stories at their own pace and ensure that they deliver their estimates before the deadline. Afterward, the moderator gathers the estimates and reaches a consensus.

4 Steps of Async Poker Estimation Technique

Below are the four general steps involved in executing the Async Poker estimation session:

  1. The moderator picks a set of user stories and members that will participate in the estimation.
  2. The selected user stories are sent to the members along with the deadline by when they have to deliver the estimates.
  3. The members understand the user stories at their own pace whenever they get the right time. Once they are done with estimating all the user stories, they send the estimates to the moderator.
  4. Once the deadline is reached, the moderator gathers all the estimates of all members, reviews all the estimates, and tries to reach a consensus (i.e., the team's collective estimates).

In case the moderator finds it difficult to reach a consensus, then a brief online session can be called to let members join and do re-estimates quickly. Compared to a Planning Poker session, this online session will be brief because everyone understands the user stories beforehand, thereby making it quick to re-estimate and reach a consensus. This way, Async Poker helps remote and distributed teams to carry out estimations using the modified version of Planning Poker.

Why Remote/Distributed Teams sho uld use Async Poker?

Now that we know what Async Poker is all about and how it facilitates remote and distributed teams, it's also important to look at some of the key aspects of Async Poker that make it the best technique to estimate in such working conditions. Therefore, below are the key aspects/benefits of Async Poker:

1. Freedom to Estimate Anytime

One of the best justifications to use Async Poker for remote/distributed teams is the freedom that comes with it. Team members are not bound to participate in an estimation session forcefully and stick to the session until all user stories are estimated. Members have the freedom to read and understand user stories at their own pace. All they have to do is deliver the estimates before the deadline. This is also beneficial for newbies or those members who need some extra time to understand user stories before giving estimates.

2. User Stories in Written Description

In a Planning Poker session, the Product Owner mostly narrates the user stories verbally. However, user stories are provided with a detailed written description in the Async Poker session. The benefit of written user stories is that they are more detailed and easier to understand. Moreover, since team members are going to estimate user stories individually, so the written description contains all the details that members need to estimate. This eventually leads to more accurate estimates.

3. Time Efficient

The development teams are under a lot of pressure already due to growing customer demands and the requirement to have faster product releases. Therefore, it does not seem wise to spend hours in estimation sessions. Async Poker is one of the only techniques that let teams do estimates without spending much time. Each member can send the estimates at his/her own pace. Afterward, the moderator can call a very brief session to reach a consensus. Overall, Async Poker saves significant time compared to the on-site Planning Poker session.

4. Accurate Estimates

Another main attribute of Async Poker is accurate estimates. From detailed written descriptions to the freedom to estimate anytime along with a brief discussion round to reach a consensus, Async Poker incorporates all the elements to have accurate estimates. It first empowers teams to do individual estimates and get together later to re-estimate and do discussion (if there are mismatches in individual estimates). This way, teams can still collaboratively estimate user stories more accurately.

5. Participation by Key Members Only

Planning Poker session involves the Product Owner, Scrum Master, development team, and key stakeholders. However, mostly it's the development team that does the estimates. So, another benefit of Async Poker is that it only involves the participation of key members only. This means that only specific members who should estimate will be informed, while the rest of the concerned people can get a copy of the final estimates of all the user stories.

6. More Unbiased Estimates

Async Poker also eradicates the chances of any biasness. For example, during a discussion round in a Planning Poker session, there is a chance that senior members might unintentionally force their viewpoints on the rest of the team, which might lead to inaccurate estimates. However, this is very well addressed with Async Poker, as members will only be discussing with each other after they have estimated individually. Therefore, the chances of biasness from senior members reduce significantly and they actually help the team reach a consensus.

Wrapping Up - Async Poker Estimation Accuracy relies on the Use of the Right Toolkit

Async Poker is undoubtedly one of the best estimation techniques for remote/distributed Scrum teams. However, it also requires the use of the right toolkit that can streamline the process and result in more accurate estimates. That's exactly what Async Poker For Jira and Async Poker for monday.com tool has to offer. It is a one-stop fully-functional tool to conduct Async Poker estimation sessions from sending user stories and previewing them to adding comments or providing estimates. In addition, it comes integrated into the Jira app, thereby making estimates even possible from the smartphone. Overall, it is an all-in-one and feature-rich Async Poker toolkit.

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