Posted tagged ‘Planning Poker’

Planning Poker: Cards Versus Smartphone Apps

June 2, 2012

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:

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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.

Make Your Own Planning Poker Deck

August 13, 2011

In a previous post I showed my custom Planning Poker Deck. In this post I am going to describe how you can make your own inexpensive, hard-wearing deck. The original template was created using iWork Pages on a Mac. Only a minority of people are likely to be able to use this format so I’ve converted it to Word. Ideally I would be presenting a PDF format but I had no luck distilling the template down to PDF while retaining the original sizes of the cards. The chosen sizes are very important when it comes to laminating as I’ll explain later.

You can download the Word template from here: planning poker cards template.

I give permission for this template to be used for any purpose short of creating cards for sale. You can also modify the template as you see fit.

You will also need:

  • four sheets of A4 per planning poker suit required
  • a colour printer
  • sharp scissors
  • one 250 micron 60x95mm laminating pouch per card required
  • a laminating machine

Printing the document to a colour printer on A4 will give you four sheets like so:

planning poker template printed

The four sheets provide the face and backing images for one suit of a planning poker deck (14 cards). I’ve used a light blue border for the face cards. You can use Word to change the colours to any you prefer. This will also allow you to use a different colour for each suit you require (different suit colours are very useful when sorting your deck upon gathering it after a planning session).

With your sheets printed in your chosen colours the hard work begins. Cut out all of the cards sticking to the borders as much as possible. This includes the rounded corners. Make sure the scissors you use are sharp or you won’t get good results.

With all the cards cut out then laminating can begin. The cards are designed to print to a size of 54mm x 89mm. This is deliberate as laminating them requires 60mm x 95mm laminating pouches. This gives a 3mm border between the edge of the card and the edge of the pouch ensuring a good seal. I used 250 micron (125 microns to a side) pouches and these worked really well despite each having to contain two sheets of paper. The pouches should be rounded like the card template. This gives the finished product more of a playing card look.

Place a cut out face and backing into each pouch ensuring that they both face outward and are the same way up. Lining up the two pieces exactly can be tricky but the effort is worth the improved result. Once you have a number of pouches loaded fire up your laminator and feed them through. As the cards are laminated check them over and place them on a flat surface under a heavy, flat object to ensure they do not curl while they cool. After a few minutes they will be ready for use.

Simply repeat the process until you have enough suits of cards for your team.

My Planning Poker Deck

August 2, 2011

Last month I found myself with time on my hands with a laminating machine at my disposal. This was the perfect opportunity to solve a (trivial) requirement for my Scrum team. We have recently introduced Planning Poker into our estimation sessions and it has really worked for us. Planning Poker has allowed us to reach consensus on estimates quickly without anchoring each other. It is also great for getting the whole team involved. In addition post-sprint analysis shows our estimates have improved in quality. So Planning Poker is here to stay in our team. However, the paper cards I had printed up for the initial sessions were not going to last long. What we needed was a hard-wearing Planning Poker deck.

There are some great decks for sale at various places including:

I also have a nice deck that SkillsMatter gave away with their training materials. Impressive though these decks are I wanted my own unique set with my specific choice of story point values and the like. To have that I’d have to design a deck and manufacture it myself. Plus I usually have 5-6 estimators which means buying two standard decks (they usually only accomodate up to four estimators each). Making six decks isn’t much more work than making four once you get into the swing of it.

The great thing about designing your own deck is that you can pick any metaphor that you want to represent sizes. I really like the t-shirt size metaphor so decided to go with that. However, this was just to put a picture on the face of the cards. The story point numbers would also be present and were the usual modified fibonacci sequence. Adding in a few extra cards found in many commercial decks I settled on the following:

  • Size 0 – 0 story points, story is done
  • XS – ½ story point
  • S – 1 story point
  • M – 2 story points
  • L – 3 story points
  • XL – 5 story points
  • 2XL – 8 story points
  • 3XL – 13 story points
  • 4XL – 20 story points
  • 5XL – 40 story points
  • 6XL – 100 story points
  • ∞ – too large, break up story
  • ? – don’t know, need more info
  • CB – coffee break required

In our team we currently only make use of a subset of these cards (we estimate from XS – XL only) but its nice to know that we can scale up if required to increase the granularity of our estimates (we did this recently when we went from S, M, L only to our current scheme).

Making the cards involved my Macbook, iWork Pages, a colour Printer, A4 paper, a laminator, 60x95mm 250 micron laminating pouches, sharp scissors and a lot of patience.

I plan to follow up this post with a how-to guide to making your own cards which will include a download for the templates used for my cards.

Included below are images of the finished cards. Click on the images for close-ups.

Here are the finished 6 decks of cards (84 cards in all). Each suit has its own colour (blue, purple, orange, yellow, green and red)…

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All the cards have the same backing…

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Did you know that t-shirt sizes go all the up to 6XL? Wow…

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I’m pretty pleased with the finished results and this week we got to try them out. I can’t say they made any difference to the quality of the planning but it was nice to see them in action.