Planning Poker: Cards Versus Smartphone Apps

My team have been using Planning Poker in our sprint planning for quite a while now. I like Planning Poker because it is quick and it works. I have a couple of card decks I’ve picked up on training and at conferences and even made my own. Recently I decided to run an experiment within the team to utilise smart phone apps rather than cards for our next planning session. I reasoned that perhaps the team, being software developers, may prefer to utilise apps on their flashy phones rather than use boring old cards.

On the face of it the modern smart phone seems ideally suited to Planning Poker. Most people I know have one, they have large bright screens which are usually approximately the same size as a Planning Poker card and, I reasoned, somebody must have written a Planning Poker app for them (and it would probably be free). Quick trips to the Google Play and iTunes stores confirmed that not only had a Planning Poker app been written but that dozens of different apps were available.

Prior to planning I requested that the team go and find a Planning Poker app for their phone for use in the upcoming session. The choice of app was entirely up to them. In the team we have four Android wielding members and one iPhone owner. Here is a list of what app each team member decided to use:

Proof of the sheer number of Planning Poker apps available is that everyone picked something different. Choice is certainly not an issue here. My own selection was the simply named “Planning Poker” by Unboxed Consulting. It appealed to me because it was very simple to use and I could customise the set of available card values easily (we use a restricted fibonacci sequence including the values 1/2, 1, 2, 3, 5 and 8).

All of the apps operate in the same fashion. The user starts the app and a screen appears with a grid of all possible card values, they select one and a representation of a card with the chosen value appears. They can then dismiss the card and return to the grid in preparation for the next round. The advantage of using the apps rather than a deck of cards appeared to me to be slight. However, I wondered if the novelty value and convenience factor of the apps would allow them to usurp the cards. It would be up to the team to decide.

The session went as quickly as usual with no technical malfunctions. Once my phone did not register my making a selection and I initially showed the selection grid as my estimate. That wouldn’t happen with a real card deck but, then again, I was in too much of a hurry. All of the app’s representations of card values were legible although I did find the Bacon Planning Poker’s use of rashers of bacon to make up numbers to be a little bit too weird. Then again I’m not a big fan of bacon.

With the session done I wanted to know whether or not using the apps would be a permanent feature of our planning. I asked the team to dot vote. What was their preference: apps or cards?

The dots went up rapidly with not a hint of hesitation from anyone. The results were unanimous:

Click to enlarge

So cards are here to stay in my team. Smartphone apps are great for many things but are no match for real Planning Poker cards.

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One Comment on “Planning Poker: Cards Versus Smartphone Apps”

  1. Sumeet Singh Says:

    If you use JIRA and have remote teams, try out the plugin “The Agile Poker 2.5” and see what your teams say !!!


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