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How To Estimate Issues Asynchronously In Remote Teams In Jira

Agnieszka Józwiak
Agnieszka Józwiak
Mar 31st, 2020

Agile Poker for Jira is a well-known tool for quick and convenient estimations. It was inspired by three industry-standard estimation methodologies: Planning Poker®, Wideband Delphi andMagic Estimation (also known as Silent Grouping, Affinity Estimation, Swimlanes Sizing or Relative Estimations). The product provides three types of estimation sessions:

  1. Relative Session that is based on Magic Estimation Game. It’s perfect for making quick and pretty rough estimations of many issues, as well as a small number of issues with detailed discussion.
  2. Standard/Interactive Session is based on online Planning Poker® and works best, if your team is located within the same time zone. This is important since the sessions are interactive and require attention. Team members can all participate and discuss the estimations. What’s convenient here, is that it doesn’t matter, whether a team is remote or gathering in one place.
  3. Asynchronous Session based on Wideband Delphi. It can be used by teams that want to estimate asynchronously. It’s efficient and results in consultation based estimations.

For the purpose of this article, we would like to focus on the Standard Asynchronous Session as it is designed for teams that can't or don't want to estimate simultaneously, but also it is widely used by teams who want all members to check out estimation scope and put questions before the joint team estimation.

Estimate as a team to avoid biases

Humans are subject to multiple cognitive biases and there is a growing body of evidence that even when people are aware of a given bias, they cannot detect it, let alone mitigate it. The ‘illusion of skill’ described by Daniel Kahneman and his colleagues, or Dunning-Kruger effect, is sufficient to illustrate what we're dealing with herewith. If, by the end of your project, you want to feel good about your planning skills, you should be aware of consensus-based, collaborative estimating techniques.

Save the golden time for stand-ups

Many agile teams are not sharing office space, not even the time zone. Some teams, due to unplanned circumstances, are forced to turn into remote teams and adjust the way they work to the new layout. Some are located so far apart that shared office time, sometimes referred to as 'golden time', is just one hour. The precious slot is usually used for stand-ups and updating each other about current issues.

When it comes to online planning and story point estimation, there is not enough time or possibility for live estimating sessions. In remote teams users may now try collaborative asynchronous estimating sessions. They are suitable for those who want to estimate as a team, but do not have the comfort of working with face-to-face or even live communication.

Learn more from the process

While the interactive mode is about instant exchange of opinions and reaching agreement as quickly and efficiently as possible, the asynchronous mode is all about saving the comments and estimates for future analysis. Here, every participant should solely estimate all provided issues optionally writing down comments backing up the vote.

async estimation in jira for remote teams pic 3

Asynchronous estimating in progress. The participant goes through the list, selects votes from a customizable scale.

When all the participants have submitted their votes or when the time comes and even if not all votes finished, a moderator has to review the votes and comments from the voting section or finish the asynchronous mode.

Estimate remotely and asynchronously

Standard Async sessions are designed for teams that can't or don't want to estimate simultaneously, but also it is widely used by teams who want all members to check out estimation scope and put questions before the joint team estimation. The flow for asynchronous sessions is based on the Wideband Delphi estimation method:

  1. The session moderator selects issues to estimate and people that will participate in the session.
  2. The session link is shared with all the participants.
  3. Participants estimate issues in the scope of the estimation session whenever they find it convenient, optionally putting down their comments, questions and concerns to support the estimation.
  4. Moderator closes the session.
  5. Session moderator saves estimates for issues in scope based on the estimation result or proceeds with further discussion interactively.

Interactive and asynchronous sessions compared

The table below is a summary of differences between standard synchronous and asynchronous sessions in Agile Poker for Jira functionalities. Interactive sessions do not save results apart from the final estimate. Interactive sessions require all team members to participate at the same time, it doesn’t matter if the team is remote or sit together. It facilitates discussion and results in estimations based on consensus.

Asynchronous sessions on the other hand save the votes and comments from all estimating rounds, but may require more time spent on reviewing the votes by the person in charge of estimating. It is very efficient and results in consultation based estimations.

During the asynchronous estimating session on the other hand, comments left in the edit field are as important as the votes. After the session is closed, they can be reviewed by all team members, but final estimations can be saved by the team leader only.

asynchronous session in Jira is closed and results are ready for review for remote team.

The team lead view after the asynchronous session is closed and results are ready for review.

In the screenshot above, the team lead can now decide on the final estimate based on votes and comments. All the comments are available for view. All the saved individual votes might be removed or saved. The moderator should use Save or ‘Save & next’ options to save the final estimation and proceed further. Once all the issues are estimated, the process is completed!

In interactive mode however, the differences in votes would trigger a discussion where people explain their reasons, discuss them and come to a conclusion. In asynchronous mode, participants can only explain their reasons, the lead is supposed to read them, draw conclusions and make the decision. If asynchronous votes are too distributed, the team may be asked to re-estimate the issue, after reading each other's comments.

Over to you

Support in planning and estimation for different teams is a hot topic these days. You may want to check out our other article on performing in distributed teams here.

And what’s your favourite and most efficient method adopted by your team?

Agile Poker for Jira will help you optimize your work and save hundreds of precious working hours. Are you ready to put it into play? Go to the Atlassian marketplace today and try Agile Poker for Jira for your team.

Asynchronous sessions are currently available for the Cloud, Server and Data Center instances of Agile Poker for Jira.