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Collaborative estimation & prioritization with Agile Cards for Jira 4.1

Agnieszka Józwiak
Agnieszka Józwiak
Feb 2nd, 2017

Agile Cards for Jira allow you to use paper cards with printed tasks to visually organize and manage Jira issues. The most recent release of our add-on enters a new level of flexibility in applying best practices related to physical and digital boards.

In addition to having a status board (configured around the status field), now you can also create any number of parallel boards where columns represent the value of any single-select custom field in Jira.

Using Agile Cards for Jira, you can now collaboratively run magic estimations, work prioritisation, timeline planning, team assignments and more.  Here are just two examples of how you can use Agile Cards 4.1.0 features.

Fast and engaging backlog prioritisation

A clean, addressable and properly prioritised backlog is one of the signs of a healthy agile team. One of the trickiest things to do during backlog grooming is to perform proper task prioritisation and effectively engage only on those elements which are of top priority. An incorrectly prioritised backlog opens the flood gates of chaos, criminal time loss, scope creep and team members demotivation.

In our case task prioritisation involves a combination of four factors: urgency, impact, risk and difficulty. Urgency and impact have a positive effect on the resulting priority: the higher they are the more important it is to work on a given task. Risk and difficulty have the negative effect: the higher they are the less likely we will want to work on a given idea.

Each of these four metrics can take one of the six integer values, ranging from 0 to 5. The resulting priority is calculated as:

priority = (impact + urgency) / (risk + difficulty + 1)

The question you will probably ask at this stage is how does it relate to Agile Cards? The answer is simple. We use Agile Cards for the consensus based assessment of urgency, impact, risk and difficulty. Every week we gather in a room with the stakeholders' representatives from product management, development, marketing, UX design and business owners. The product manager comes with a set of pre-printed cards for each of the new ideas and hypotheses we are about to prioritise. Each card is printed in four copies. We then lay the cards on the table divided into four sections and discuss each of the cards in four categories: urgency, impact, risk and difficulty. Each column on a table section represents one value from 0 to 5. We use a dictionary of what each of the values mean so that we have a common reference points regardless of how many prioritisation exercises we perform over time.

Once the discussions are complete and we reach a consensus, all of the cards are sitting in their respective columns for all four categories. At this stage the product manager makes a photo of each four sections of the table, one for each of the prioritisation category, and synchronises the results with Jira using the Agile Cards synchronisation feature.

The whole process is effective, engaging and can be time boxed to 90 minutes per week. Doing the same in Jira alone probably would take hours of commenting and most likely lead to half-guessing some of the answers to the important questions we should discuss in the process.

Magic estimations on paper, instant update in Jira

In addition to having quite a long list of new ideas and product improvements pretty much every development team struggles with the technical tasks as well. In this category we will find bug fixes, library updates, support for the latest versions of the associated platforms, but also technical debt payoff and all other kinds of engineering health activities.

With mature products this list is usually longer than one would hope for to see (anyone reading this who has NOT seen at least one such backlogs with 200+ items?) and the trick is to know how much would it cost to resolve these tasks. The problem is that the estimations degrade over time, because there are multiple factors which change constantly. So the product owner needs a method which can be used on recurring basis, is consensus based and most importantly provides rough estimations fast. And then rerun this method every few weeks or so.

The method which was invented to help in such cases is called Magic Estimations and you can read about it in many external articles like this one or this one.

Now, Agile Cards come in handy here as well. The add-on’s newest release allows users to prepare a Magic Estimations Board in Agile Cards configured around custom fields with discrete values of Fibonacci sequence constructed using a single-select custom field in Jira.

At the end of the Magic Estimation session the product owner can simply take a single photo of the the cards laid out on the table and use the Agile Cards synchronisation feature to make sure that the estimation in Jira is instantly updated accordingly. Because why should anyone spend an hour or more on updating 200 issues in Jira while the same can be done in a matter of a minute or two?

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