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The 3 Best Online Planning Poker Tools (Plus 18 More We Looked At)

December 31, 2023 by Brad Simantel

Planning poker is a great way to get your team involved in planning upcoming work, ensuring that everyone has a chance to weigh in on the effort required for each task.

With more teams working remotely, though, how do you effectively conduct planning poker online? Some teams try to do it over video calls or chat votes, but that’s not anonymous, so you don’t get everyone’s independent assessment.

To get around this, we recommend using an online planning poker tool. At Teaminal, we’ve helped companies like Medium and Workday improve their planning poker process for distributed teams, and today we’ll be sharing 3 tools that can help you do the same.

What is planning poker?

Planning poker, also known as agile poker or scrum poker, is a process that forestimating the effort or relative size of user stories or tasks in software development. It’s popular in agile software development, especially Scrum and Extreme Programming.

Here’s how planning poker traditiionally works:

  1. The team is given a set of user stories or tasks that need to be estimated - generally planning poker is used during sprint planning, so these would be the tasks being considered for the upcoming sprint.

  2. Each member of the team has a set of cards with numbers on them. These numbers typically represent story points, days, or other units of estimating.

  3. For each user story or task, team members select the card that represents their estimate for the effort required. If you’re using fibonacci numbers for story points, for instance, the cards would be 1, 2, 3, 5, etc.

  4. All team members simultaneously reveal their cards. If there’s a large difference in the estimates, the folks who submitted outlier votes present their case, sharing why they voted the way they did (often sharing something the rest of the team didn’t know or didn’t consider).

The basic idea is that it encourages team members to discuss the tasks in detail, share their understanding and assumptions, and build a consensus within the team about the effort required for each task.

Why should you use an online planning poker tool?

Using an online planning poker tool offers several advantages, the most important of which is anonymity and being able to reveal everyone’s votes simultaneously, so teammates can’t influence one another. It’s fundamental to planning poker, and you just can’t do that over video or chat!

There are actually a few other reasons as well though:

  1. Recording and analyzing conversations and past estimates. This historical data can be valuable for future planning and understanding team velocity and estimation trends.

  2. Integrations with popular project management software, allowing for seamless transition from estimation to task assignment and tracking.

  3. Some tools allow for asynchronous comments and voting, allowing distributed teams to participate on their own schedule.

So online planning poker tools are not only a necessity for anonymous voting, but also enable some really cool workflows you can’t do without them.

Criteria for choosing planning poker tools

Real-time vs. asynchronous

Some planning poker tools are designed for real-time collaboration, while others are designed for asynchronous collaboration. Real-time tools are great for teams that are all in the same room, while asynchronous tools are great for teams that are distributed across multiple locations.

Integrations

Integrations with your chat app, either to create and join a room (for a real-time tool) or to vote on tickets (for an asynchronous tool), can make your planning poker process much smoother.

Cost

There are lots of completely free tools out there, often built as a side project by a developer. These tools are great, but they can be risky to use for your team. If the developer decides to stop working on the tool, you could be left without a way to do planning poker.

Ease of use

Lastly, we considered the design and usability of each tool. Many have a somewhat outdated design, or are difficult to use. We wanted to find tools that were easy to use, and that looked good.

The 3 best planning poker tools

Ultimately, we identified the best in class in three categories: async, real-time, and the best free option.

1. Teaminal: The best async planning poker tool

Teaminal is the best option for asynchronous planning poker (and is our pick for best overall).

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Jenn Miller · 3:56pm

The API is already done, so this is just the front-end piece.

Reply

With a Jira integration that lets you link tickets to planning pokers tasks, a Slack integration that lets your team vote and update the Jira ticket right there in the channel, and commenting that captures the team’s conversation about the task (also synced to Jira), it’s the most feature-rich option.

Teaminal also bundles several other agile tools, letting you conduct standup, backlog refinement, and retro in one place.

2. Planning Poker Online: The best real-time tool

Planning Poker Online is great if you want to get your team on a call and do planning poker together that way. It helps facilitate your meeting and advance through issues, has a Jira integration for pulling in issues, and has a great design and user experience.

It’d be nice if it let you update the Jira ticket from the tool, or had a Slack integration to create and share the room, but it’s still pretty great, and has a generous free plan.

3. Pointing Poker: The best free option

Pointing Poker is the our pick for the best free option.

There are a lot of free tools out there (we list all the ones we found below), but many of them were created as side projects, so we worry about their longevity. Pointing Poker on the other hand has been around since 2012, and isn’t going anywhere.

It’s maybe not the nicest to look at, but it’s simple to use and does exactly what it says on the tin, all for free.

18 more planning poker tools we looked at

It’s actually pretty hard to find a good list of planning poker tools, and we spent a lot of time searching for them, so we thought it would be helpful to share the ones that didn’t make the top 3 in case you’re still looking. In alphabetical order:

Conclusion

Planning poker is just one part of sprint planning, but can often take up the bulk of your meeting time. Optimizing that workflow, and capturing the conversation and the outcomes in your project management software, is a great investment.

At Teaminal, async planning poker couldn’t be easier, and integrates with your tools seamlessly. As an all-in-one tool for agile meetings, it’s the obvious choice. Try it for free.

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