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Why Should You Use Async Poker to Estimate a Product Backlog?

Async Poker or Asynchronous Planning Poker is the powerful evolution of the Planning Poker estimation technique that makes estimation straightforward for remote, distributed, and co-located agile teams.
June 24 · 5 min read
Learn how async poker solves common challenges of classical planning poker

In the present globalized corporate system, there are many agile teams that don't share office space, even not the time zone. In fact, some teams are so far from each other that they just get just one hour as the shared office time. That one hour is mostly utilized for stand-ups and other updates around the projects in order to discuss and solve current complications. So, when it comes to product backlog estimation, such teams don't have enough time to do live estimates. However, accurate estimates demand the whole team's collaboration in the estimation session. This is exactly what Async Poker or Asynchronous Planning Poker has to offer. So, let's explore Async Poker in detail in this article and also highlights its key benefits over the traditional Planning Poker technique.

What is Async Poker?

Async Poker, also called Asynchronous Planning Poker, is an evolved version of Planning Poker that unblocks estimation for remote, distributed, co-located, or extremely busy teams. In Async Poker, teams don't sit together to estimate a product backlog. The members receive the stories, which they have to estimate before the deadline. Following are the main stages through which product backlog estimation goes in Async Poker:

  1. The moderator (product owner, scrum master, or any other person) sends the written description of stories that are to be estimated to all the members and also provides them with the deadline by which they have to send back the estimates.
  2. The members read and understand the stories at their own pace when they get the time and finalize their estimates. Afterward, they send the estimates back to the moderator.
  3. Once the deadline is reached, the moderator gathers all the estimates and checks if the team's estimate is reached. If the estimates are close to each other, then the moderator finalizes the team's estimate.

This way, Async Poker helps agile teams to do product backlog estimations collaboratively without disturbing their work schedules. In case, the members provide different estimates, then the moderator can call a quick discussion session (remotely) to let the team quickly discuss the issues and reach a consensus. Usually, these types of estimates are brief because everyone has a prior proper understanding of the stories, so they can directly start the discussion and reach a final team's estimate. In short, Async Poker is elevating the Planning Poker estimation experience, especially for those teams that are struggling with in-house estimation meetings.

Planning Poker Challenges for Agile Teams

Planning Poker is the most common estimation technique used by agile teams. Planning Poker's popularity and wide usage are due to its collaborative, consensus-based estimation that results in accurate estimates. However, not all teams are able to benefit from Planning Poker, especially if they are distributed teams or members have a busy work schedule. A few of the main challenges are as follows:

Presence of All Members

The presence of all team members is mandatory in the Planning Poker technique for accurate estimates. When all members are present, they can have better discussions, pinpoint issues, and then do estimates. However, it also means that the estimation meeting cannot begin until all the members are present. So, if some members reach the meeting place late, then it will result in time wastage of other members too.

Instant Understanding and Estimation

During a Planning Poker meeting, members have to first listen to the user story, understand it, and then give an estimate. But not all members are good at understanding things right away. Many require some extra time to digest the user story and then provide estimates. However, since the process is fast and instant, many members end up providing inaccurate estimates that can later cause trouble for the team.

Long Sessions

Sometimes members can take discussions too deep, which just delays the whole estimation process. It is assumed that deep discussions will result in accurate estimates, but that's not the case mostly. Furthermore, long sessions can bring more tiredness that can compromise the productivity of the members.

Biasness of Senior Members

After the user story is narrated to the members, the next stage is to do discussions around it. Discussions are meant to clear the confusion of members and help them make accurate estimates. However, senior members might unintentionally take control of such discussions and somehow penetrate their thoughts on other junior members. That is opposite to what Planning Poker targets. Members should be given a free, unbiased environment so that they can provide estimates based on their own thinking. So, another challenge with Planning Poker is that it can unintentionally penetrate senior members' biasness into discussions.

How does Async Poker Address Planning Poker Challenges?

The above-listed challenges with Planning Poker can cause trouble for many teams. That's why there was a need for some enhancements to the Planning Poker technique that can address those challenges without compromising the benefits of Planning Poker. Async Poker with its remote estimation capabilities is elevating the estimation experience and resolving many challenges. Some of the key benefits of Async Poker are as follows:

Estimate at your Own Pace

Members receive all the user stories to be estimated via the moderator and also get the deadline by which they have to send the estimates. This means that they can easily go through the stories whenever they get the time. Moreover, they don't have to be in any hurry, as in the case of the in-house Planning Poker. So, newcomers or slow-leaners can have enough time to work on the stories. This results in a better understanding of user stories, eventually leading to accurate estimates.

Written Story Description

Instead of verbal story description in Planning Poker sessions, Async Poker requires written story description. This means that stories will have almost all the information that members need to understand and provide estimates. There will be fewer requests for clarification and everyone will be in a position to provide the estimate easily.

Time Efficiency

With Async Poker, teams don't have to wait for other members to join the meeting and begin the session. Everyone is estimating the stories at their own pace. They just have to deliver the estimates before the deadline. Once the estimates are received by the moderator, there are two possibilities. If members have provided the same estimates, then that is declared the final team's estimate. However, if there is some deviation, then members can quickly join an online session to discuss the deviation and quickly reach the team's consensus.

Unbiased Estimates

Async Poker is more about individual understanding and estimation, which eradicates the biasness concerns with Planning Poker. Junior and senior members are estimating on their own without any pressure or influence, so the estimates are unbiased and a better reflection of personal understanding.

To sum up, Asynchronous Planning Poker or Async Poker is the perfect enhanced version of Planning Poker for those teams who are struggling with some formalities of the technique or want to experience it in their remote or distributed workforce. In fact, Async Poker is even considered the next major evolution of Planning Poker that will soon become a new norm for estimating product backlog in both in-house and remote teams.

Async Poker - Remote Planning&Estimation – The Ideal Async Poker App for Agile Teams

If you are looking to try out Asynchronous Planning Poker for your team, then you need the right tool that can make this whole experience easy and straightforward. One such dedicated and powerful tool is Async Poker - Remote Planning&Estimation. With hundreds of satisfied customers, the tool offers a one-stop toolkit with all the functionalities you need to estimate product backlog in an asynchronous way. So, try out the tool for free and experience its feature-rich offerings yourself.

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