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Choosing the Best Planning Poker App for Your Agile Team

Choosing the Best Planning Poker App for Your Agile Team

Anyone who has sat down for a round of poker knows that no matter how stony your poker face or how good your hand is, you’re always gambling, and losing is always possible. On the other hand, planning poker is a sure thing, especially for agile teams, because it eliminates meetings, eases velocity estimation, and accelerates sprint planning.

If you’ve ever gone to Las Vegas, you’ve probably seen all kinds of poker tables. Some are just a folding table and a couple of plastic chairs. Others look like they’d cost more than your car.

Planning poker apps are the same—they’re different, and different apps will suit different teams. Many were built with particular functionality and audiences in mind. Some are integrated with particular project management tools; others are standalone. Integration often makes for a more seamless experience, but standalone tools are highly flexible. Of course, that flexibility comes at the cost of constant context switching, leaving developers stranded in tool sprawl.

We’re not going to be wishy-washy about this. Zenhub’s planning poker tool is, in our humble opinion, great for teams who want a seamless, integrated experience that keeps planning poker as close to the code as possible. But you need to decide for yourself, so before we get to Zenhub, here’s a look at the pros and cons of other options.

Planning Poker Online by weagileyou

If you have an in-house software development team looking to make pretty light use of planning poker, this easy-to-use tool might work well. The ability to import or paste tickets directly into the planning poker session makes using Planning Poker Online pretty straightforward.

But the real-time requirements for sessions make scheduling a headache, especially if anyone on the team is working remotely or in another time zone. And while importing or copy-pasting issues eliminates human error, it creates busywork. Busy work is boring and costs you precious time that you could be spending on more important things like your product roadmap.

Planning Poker by Gorazdo Studio

The first thing worth mentioning is that this is a standalone tool, which means you can use it with any project management tool, including Zenhub.

It’s also nicely gamified: Its drag-and-drop features and unveiling functions let you benefit from the poker aspect of planning poker. And the hidden values mean junior developers aren’t deferring to the estimates of more senior developers, eliminating bias.

But while lack of integration with any particular project management tool makes this tool pretty flexible, it also makes planning poker trickier to integrate into regular processes.

This tool might not be a bad option if your team uses multiple project management tools. You’ll just want to be sure you’re fully leveraging the flexibility of this one.

Planning Poker by ScrumPoker-online.org

In terms of lightweight planning poker tools, this one takes the cake. It’s not an app but a website. So, it’s super easy to pick up and start using. Planning poker sessions are equally easy. They’re created ad-hoc as needed, making them fully self-contained.

But lightness comes with tradeoffs. First off, synchronization. Because sessions are always pick-up-and-play, they need to be scheduled, which means everyone needs to be lined up. That’s not easy when everyone’s working in-house, let alone when half your team is remote. And with no integration potential whatsoever, it’s probably the easiest tool to just accidentally forget.

If your team is going to use this tool, you’ve got to be sure you’re maximizing the benefits of how lightweight it is. It’s a good choice if you’re just trying out planning poker to get a feel for it, you have a tiny (and easy to coordinate) team, or if you don’t plan on using planning poker very much.

Planning Poker by Mountain Goat Software

Maybe it’s in the name, but the team making this planning poker tool set their sights pretty high. It’s fully integrated with popular project management platforms, provides full customization and anonymous voting, and allows for the import and export of stories and issues.

But it integrates planning poker sessions with meetings. That cuts out what we believe is one of the greatest strengths of planning poker online: its ability to eliminate and shorten meetings.

This tool works best for a team that’s all in one office, using one project management tool.

Planning Poker by Zenhub: the cream of the crop for how to do planning poker online

All of the tools we talked about above have various advantages and tradeoffs. But for an agile team working in GitHub, Zenhub covers all of your bases in a lightweight, easy-to-use package.

First off, planning poker is fully integrated into Zenhub (insert humblebrag about Zenhub here). And Zenhub is integrated directly into GitHub (the largest source code hub in the world), making it super simple and seamless to run a planning poker session.

Our planning poker tool lets your team members vote asynchronously. That makes things much easier for remote teams, and it means planning poker tasks aren’t interrupting anyone’s workflow: each person can simply vote during a natural lull in their day.

Plus, if you need to vote, Zenhub notifies you, making it much easier to remember. You can also filter your board view for issues that require estimation. And because Zenhub automatically tabulates votes, it can eliminate the need for meetings to discuss issues when everyone agrees, or at least eliminate the need to discuss some issues, so meetings are faster, shorter, and more effective.

The only reason not to use Zenhub and its planning poker feature is if you don’t need a project management tool at all. If you’re still trying to decide, give Zenhub a try for free. And if you’re still curious about just how great our planning poker tool is, you can find out more here.

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