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September 24, 2021
5 min read

Evolution of Planning Poker into Async Poker and Hybrid Poker

Planning Poker holds a never-ending bond with Agile teams, but its evolution into Async Poker and Hybrid Poker is just game-changing.
Anton Versal
Anton Versal
An Advanced Planning Poker Estimation Technique for Remote Team

If we go back in time when the developers and supporters of Agile, Extreme Programming, and Scrum were explaining all the details about their revolutionary framework, they failed to provide instructions about one important aspect, i.e., backlog estimation. Agile teams were aware of the need for estimation but faced difficulty due to the lack of instructions on it. However, estimation started improving with the promotion of Planning Poker by Mike Cohn.

Planning Poker's major evolution began in 2002. It started as a card game, which let IT firms start using card decks to do estimations. Later on, the card game was replaced by chatbots, while many web services started supporting Planning Poker players. Finally, there were dedicated, feature-rich apps for teams to conduct Planning Poker estimations.

Today, Planning Poker is reshaped into Asynchronous Planning Poker (Async Poker) that empowers remote or distributed teams to do estimations effectively.

In this article, we will highlight the evolution of Planning Poker, but more emphasis will be on Hybrid Poker, which is considered the next major evolution of Planning Poker.

Planning Poker & its Strong Bond with Agile Teams

Planning Poker is around 20 years old now, but it's still considered one of the best estimation techniques by agile teams. Some of the leading benefits associated with Planning Poker that makes it shine till today include:

  1. It triggers an environment of unbiased estimation where every member's opinion is valued.
  2. It offers a much faster and efficient way of estimation.
  3. It empowers collaboration and team discussion.
  4. It encourages members to show more commitment to the project and get a clear understanding of every story.
  5. It offers an engaging estimation approach.

Planning Poker gives a gesture of being a fun and group-based estimation technique, but the process is not that easy to practice. It demands significant time and effort from the team at the beginning in order to finalize the way to play the game and get accurate estimates.

Async Poker – An Advanced Planning Poker Estimation Technique for Remote Teams

In the present diversified workforce, many team members are located at different time zones or work under different office hours. So, it is a harder task to make them all participate in the estimation at one specific timeslot. Similarly, the COVID-19 pandemic has also triggered the environment of remote working. Therefore, the traditional Planning Poker approach is no longer effective for remote or distributed teams.

This is why Async or Asynchronous Poker rescues agile teams. In Async Planning Poker, stories are distributed to the team members, and a deadline is provided to them to submit their estimates. So, every member can go through the stories at his/her own pace and preferred time. This lets remote teams provide better personal estimates, while the person responsible for submitting the final estimates gathers the members' estimates after the deadline and finalizes the result.

Async Poker is not the standard way of Planning Poker and misses many benefits that traditional Planning Poker has to offer. For example, during an in-house poker session, the moderator could break a story into two halves or add additional tasks and get the estimate from the team right away. However, the moderator needs to set up a completely new session for such additional tasks in Async Poker.

Hybrid Poker – The Future of Planning Poker

As the name implies, Hybrid Poker includes both traditional Planning Poker and Async Poker. It is gaining popularity among users of Agile Poker who had used Async or Interactive estimation techniques in the past.

The process of Hybrid Poker estimation can be summed up in three simple steps:

  1. The moderator sets up the estimation session many days prior to planning or refinement. Team members are sent invites about the session, including information about the session scope and the deadline until when they have to submit the estimates from their end.
  2. Team members complete the estimate at their own pace and time but submit it before the deadline. The estimate includes highlighting missing details or leaving comments. Until this stage, no discussion takes place among team members.
  3. When the planned estimation session begins, all the team members join the session and discuss the outcomes. If the consensus is not accomplished, they can do the re-voting right away.

This way, a Hybrid Poker process includes the touch of both Planning and Async Poker processes.

Benefits of Hybrid Poker for Planning Poker Teams

The major benefit of Hybrid Poker for teams practicing Planning Poker is the time efficiency. Instead of doing all the estimation activities in one session, the team members have more time and location freedom, while still get a chance to collaborate at the end. Following are some of the other key benefits of Hybrid Poker for Planning Poker teams:

  1. Each team member will have a clear understanding of the stories and come up with a personal estimate before joining the final session.
  2. Unlike traditional Planning Poker sessions, members don't have to wait for other members' estimates. Similarly, new team members can spend more time understanding stories without feeling the pressure of providing quick estimates.
  3. The moderator can go through the comments provided by members, adjust the stories, and add up new information before joining the final session.
  4. The final session will only focus on re-estimation or re-voting to reach consensus, thereby it will be short and more accurate.

Benefits of Hybrid Poker for Async Poker Teams

An Async Poker team when conducts Hybrid Poker will just have to get together for a very brief estimation session. Following are some of the other additional benefits of Hybrid Poker for Async Poker teams:

  1. All the benefits of standard Planning Poker missed out in Async Poker can be utilized with Hybrid Poker.
  2. Personal estimates are done beforehand, so no time wastage during the final estimation session.
  3. Even new tasks or stories can be addressed in the final session and members can provide the estimate right away.
  4. Members can do re-voting to reach a consensus.

In short, Hybrid Poker is a flexible and solution-driven approach to estimate and empowers teams to set the process based on their needs.

Wrapping Up

Planning Poker has evolved greatly over the past two decades. From in-house poker sessions to Async Poker and now Hybrid Poker, agile teams have lots of choices when it comes to picking the poker estimation technique that best suits them. If you want to go beyond traditional Planning Poker and want to give Hybrid Poker a try, then test out Async Poker - Remote Planning & Estimation tool today. It presents a feature-rich and intuitive way of conducting Hybrid Poker estimates that can help your team save significant time and get accurate estimates.

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