Estimating in Jira for better sprint management

Saving estimates and comments in Agile Poker Enterprise for Jira lets us share meaningful feedback with the offshore team. Our communication has improved drastically.

Matthieu Beimert, Delivery Manager at OmPrompt, shares his insights about collaborative estimating across time zones.

About OmPrompt

OmPrompt is a UK-based managed service provider helping global manufacturers achieve a completely digitised operational supply chain. Through automation solutions and cognitive business monitoring they allow their clients to automate their data entry, control their supply chain processes and monitor the entire order-to-cash / procure-to-pay process.

Matthieu Beimert is a Delivery Manager at OmPrompt. Together with his team, they work on cognitive process automation — specifically on the Teach & Learn solution. Their product is the world’s first rules-based and self-learning extraction solution.

Implementing Jira Software

With the development team’s growth at OmPrompt, new environments and evolving workflows were a must. The management team championed the implementation of Jira Software for in-house and off-shore development teams. Jira, with its customized workflows and visibility, improved both collaboration and management insight in and across all projects.

Estimating user stories with planning poker methodology

Before Jira, Matthieu had asked the Teach & Learn development team to estimate in work hours. After their successful transition to Jira, the incentive was too great for the team not to follow the built-in process — thus they started their new estimation journey using Story Points. After learning about the Planning Poker® methodology they decided to give our Agile Poker planning and estimation app for Jira app a trial run.

The team responded well to the use of Story Points. They allowed for better leverage of existing knowledge and the team started to get better insights into the sprint scope.

Asynchronous story estimating

The time zone difference with the off-shore team in particular required a disciplined communication process to keep everyone in the loop. Planning meetings and estimating sessions had always been a challenge before Jira.

The discovery and usage of asynchronous sessions in Agile Poker sealed the deal as it allowed the remote team to submit their estimates in their own time after a Backlog Refinement session, while still keeping the final discussion and decision for a later meeting including the OmPrompt team members in the UK (Delivery Manager / Scrum Master, Product Owner, QA Manager, etc.).

When working with a remote team as a contractor, it can be difficult to adjust the initial barrier of the client-supplier relationship to integrate the external team members into a trusted environment — where all thoughts can be shared in confidence.

The asynchronous mode created a favourable atmosphere where the remote team could retain a certain privacy for their internal dealings, while still ensuring that the — sometimes wide — range of views on a User Story would be revealed “Live” in a session that involved everyone

Matthieu is a great believer that team discussion is as important as the final decision in the estimation process — as it gives great insights into the maturity and dynamics of the team which helps in return to anticipate and address the risks of any misunderstandings or future impediments.

How to benefit from the asynchronous mode

Upon the selection of the User Stories ready to be estimated, a notification is sent to the team members for their pending vote. Once all have submitted their estimates and comments, the session lead closes the session and then results become visible to everyone.

Based on the results, the session lead can drive the discussion and save final estimates in Jira. The individual estimates and comments will still be visible for the team to recapitulate and adjust for future sprints.

It only took a few iterations for the team to start seeing the benefits of this process. Saving estimates and comments in Agile Poker allowed for more meaningful interactions with the team.

Estimating stories this way is now a regular practice for the team and has resulted in better accuracy in sprint planning. Subsequently, stress levels of the development team are also reduced as they have a consistent forecast of deliverables for themselves, and key stakeholders.

How to start your process improvements?

Reaching this level of predictability and consistency took a few steps and required changing the entire toolset and process. Yet, this is what leadership is about in Agile, giving the means to teams to take ownership in consideration of their own context.

It was inspiring for us to learn about the team’s journey and thought process behind the solutions offered by OmPrompt. If you’d like to find out more, I recommend reading the post on leadership by Matthieu Beimert.

If you are interested to learn more about process automation, these articles from OmPrompt’s blog are full of insights: Why RPA Can't Work in Isolation and Is Process Automation Really that Confusing?