Chpokify is your essential sprint planning kit. I looked specifically at the planning poker® element but the tool does more than that.
Read on to find out how it could help your agile team set effective sprint goals through better planning and estimating.
Cost and plans: Free account gives you 10 users and 1 team, plus limited features. Team, Pro and Enterprise plans allow more users, more teams and extras like video calls and custom integrations. Starts at $11pm for 3 teams/15 users billed annually.
Hosting model: Cloud only
Languages: The interface is available in English and Russian
Have you ever tried to estimate as a team with some of you around a screen, others remote, or using tools where only the Scrum Master can see what’s happening and you’re voting from your mobile phone?
Chpokify makes it easy to share a common experience for sprint estimation.
What is Chpokify?
Chpokify (say it quickly without a pause between the Ch- and -pokify, so it sounds a bit like Spotify) is an online tool for agile estimation, using the planning poker game.
If you aren’t familiar with this way of estimating, scrum poker is a way of creating team-approved estimates for items in the backlog. For each user story, team members select an estimate that best matches their view of how long the work will take or how complicated the work will be. These can then be averaged or discussed to come up with an estimate for planning purposes.
It’s all about facilitating a conversation on workload and estimating the sprint.
At the end, the team should have a good idea of the work involved for each story. And this planning effort is timeboxed (if you want it to be) so you can make sure the team doesn’t get stuck in multiple discussion/planning cycles without ever getting to the actual estimate.
Getting started with planning poker
Chpokify has no set up requirements or configuration. It’s ready to use as soon as you log in (unless you want to integrate it to Jira).
The user interface is clean and simple. Even as someone who hasn’t used poker estimation before, I felt like it was easy and I knew what I had to do.
Simply create a new session, add a title and description, then add the people. Choose which teams will participate in the session – if you need to add a new team, you can do that from within the menu options too. Chpokify will remember the settings you selected from last time, so if you run similar agile meetings with the same group of people, it’s fast to set up a session.
Then, select the members. Invite people to chpokify the tasks together (yes, they use ‘chpokify’ as a verb). Invite anyone you like: they don’t have to have an account as they can join as a guest using a direct one-time link, which I thought was smart.
Choosing card decks
There are a few different card decks. Choose from:
- Modified Fibonacci
- Ideal days
This should give most agile teams enough scales to choose from to suit their needs.
Each deck has a Question Mark card for questions and a Coffee Cup card for pointing out that things are dragging on and you need a break.
You can create custom card decks too (but not on the free plan).
As estimation can be done at every step of the planning process, you can choose different card decks for different points. For example, if you don’t have all the design details, you might go with T-shirt sizing based on gut feel. That can be refined later.
There are some options to consider as you are selecting the cards in the session, such as whether you want to auto reveal the cards after everyone has voted and enable video calling – you don’t need a separate Zoom or MS Teams account as Chpokify has video calls built right in.
That’s it, your session is created!
Next, add your tasks. If you haven’t gone for the Jira import option, then you’ll have to copy/paste or type in the tasks to be estimated.
Let the estimating commence
That’s all the info required to start your planning session. You’ll see the tasks and team members on the screen, along with the estimating outcomes once you get started. Simply hit start task to prompt everyone to begin discussing.
Once the session facilitator is ready for people to begin voting, click the ‘Vote all’ button and the cards appear on the screen. Everyone selects their choice of card.
You have the option to change your card during the voting time.
When the cards are revealed, you can see each person’s estimate (if you have opted for that) plus the aggregated estimate of their team, and then the aggregated estimate of all the teams. If the system can’t take the average (e.g. of a set of results that total 15), it takes the higher number (e.g. 8).
That can prompt another round of discussion and re-voting if necessary. You can also manually change the team score by clicking on it and editing it. You can put in any number in and it changes to green so you can easily see the stories that have been manually changed.
Keeping the team on track
I liked the fact that if I navigated away from the task we were supposed to be looking at, I was brought back to it automatically as soon as voting began. This really helps the facilitator keep the team focused on the story at hand.
Once you’ve started a task discussion, the timer begins to track how long the conversation goes on for. This is helpful for making sure each story gets the same (adequate) amount of time for debate before the voting, and that one story does not dominate the planning session.
Reviewing the session
Once the session is in progress, you can see statistics and results from the voting. You can also reorder the tasks by score, add more teams if you need their input and export the results as a .csv if you need them for another purpose.
There is also an ‘ask to rate’ button which acts as a team check in. That gives people 30 seconds to rate the session, which is useful feedback for the person running the discussion.
What teams take part in scrum poker?
Agile teams that take part in planning poker® could include front web, back web, QA web, DevOps, Dev app and QA app.
Other essentials in the scrum team toolbox
At the moment, the most mature aspect of Chpokify is the planning poker. However, there are other features currently in beta that have promise.
How would I manage without Kanban boards? If you want a simple Kanban board with total flexibility, you can create one. Choose your column names, add tasks and track your work.
At the moment, it doesn’t look like Kanban boards integrate with tasks within the agile estimation section of the tool. You’ll have to duplicate the information in the board if you then want to track the ‘doing’ of the task.
Chpokify also has a retrospective feature.
- Stop, start, continue
- Mad, sad, glad
- Strengths and weakness (what went well and didn’t go well)
Add the teams, click ‘Continue’ and you’re good to go. If you want people to join via video call, they can, or team members can work independently of each other and you’ll see the information on the screen update in real time.
In time, this feature may become a good alternative to other tools like Retrium or Easyretro. Ultimately, the team at Chpokify want to offer guided mode (basically, just clicking ‘Next’ to advance through the retro process) as well as what they currently have: advanced mode (where you manage it all yourself).
That would make it easier to facilitate a retro for a large team, as you wouldn’t have to be experienced with the tool. Instead, you would focus on the discussion and the tool would support the process.
Advantages of Chpokify
The pros I found with Chpokify were:
- It looks really clean, very modern and with a simple interface (and it has Dark mode).
- The ‘how to’ and built-in help is easy to use.
- It’s great at focusing everyone, controlling the conversation and keeping the discussion on track, even in large teams.
- The session admin has the power to click to reveal cards – it’s a very smooth process.
- It works on any internet-enabled device including the small screen of a mobile phone.
For me, the best thing about the tool is that the tech doesn’t interfere with the process. It’s so easy to use, so clean, that you hardly notice it’s there. It’s obviously been designed by agile teams, for agile teams.
Disadvantages of Chpokify
The cons I found in the system were:
- The website has a number of phrases where it is clear the author is not a native English speaker. That would usually put me off.
- You can’t brand the colors. It’s blue, and while it’s not terrible, it would be nice to have it in my corporate colors.
- The free plan requires you to provide your payment details – I asked them about this and it’s a limitation of the card processing software, not something Chpokify can influence which is a shame.
Is Chpokify right for you?
Chpokify is shaping up to be an agile ecosystem that supports scrum and agile teams throughout the ceremonies and processes of getting work done. It’s a product that helps arrange your screen to lead the team.
Whether you are remote, or working in the same office, having a single tool that allows the whole team to see everything and take part in estimating, is a time-saver and also a way of bringing the team together.
Ready to try Chpokify? There’s a free 14-day trial , and a free plan after that which may well be enough for your needs.
Planning Poker® is a registered trademark of Mountain Goat Software, LLC .
This article first appeared at Rebel’s Guide to Project Management