At Four Kitchens, we give our web chefs a lot of flexibility about when and where they work. Team members often work from home or call in to meetings from the road. We’ve also had the occasion to work with web chefs living abroad. In addition to the regular communication issues, this can be an issue when scheduling scrum rituals, but this blog post isn’t about that. A challenge unique to distributed scrum teams is how to play planning poker when team members are working remotely.
There are a number of online solutions available. JIRA plug-ins, Pivotal Tracker plug-ins, and this online planning poker game from Mountain Goat Software. The latter gives distributed teams a free tool for playing planning poker. But, each of these was a bit of overkill for our purposes. Our solution? A shared Google Spreadsheet.
How we play Planning Poker with a Google Spreadsheet
Everyone involved in the planning meeting opens the spreadsheet, a simple spreadsheet with each web chef’s name and an empty cell below it. After we discuss each story, everyone enters their story point vote, but doesn’t press Enter right away. The scrum master can see that everyone has entered a value when their respective box is highlighted grey. Once everyone has made a choice, the scrum master calls “3, 2, 1: Go” and everyone hits Enter. All values appear on everyone’s screen and the planning poker game continues as normal.
To add a visual difference for the different values, we used conditional formatting on our Google Spreadsheet. Each story point value is assigned a different color under Formatting > Conditional Formatting. This helps us quickly see that we have differing values on the board.
We’ve found this solution to be a simple way to deal with having our teams working in different places. Let us know what works for you.
Planning poker deck image credit: Joel Bez. Used under Creative Commons license.