Also called: Burn Rate Chart, Burn Up Chart, Burn Down Graph, Velocity Chart, Task Burndown Chart, Sprint Burndown Chart, and Release Burndown Chart
Relevant metrics: Cycle Time, Lead Time, Throughput, Defect Density, and Velocity
What is Burndown Chart
A burndown chart is a graphical representation of work left to do versus time. It is commonly used in project management to track the progress of tasks and to help teams visualize their progress towards completing a project. The chart typically shows the amount of work remaining on the vertical axis and the time remaining on the horizontal axis. The chart is updated regularly to show the progress of the project and to help the team identify any potential issues or delays.
It is similar to the Burn-up chart in many ways, which although is not popularized in the same way as burn-down charts, have benefits in terms of managing scope creep and working on projects without a fixed deadline.
Where did Burndown Chart come from?
A Burndown Chart is a graphical representation of the amount of work that has been completed on a project over a given period of time. It is a popular tool used in Agile project management to track progress and identify potential issues.
The term was first coined by Mike Cohn in his book, Agile Estimating and Planning, in 2005. The chart was designed to help teams visualize the amount of work that needs to be completed in order to reach a goal.
Emperical process control
Empirical process control is a method of monitoring and controlling software development projects using actual data from the project. This method of control allows product managers and team members to make informed decisions based on the data they have collected rather than assumptions or predictions. By combining burndown charts with empirical process control, product managers and team members can get a more full understanding of a project’s progress and make adjustments as needed to ensure the project stays on track.
Burndown charts are an effective implementation of empirical process control in software development projects. By combining the visual representation of the project’s progress with the use of actual data, project managers and team members can make informed decisions to ensure the project is completed on time and within budget.
Forecasting release dates with burndown charts
While release dates are subject to change, burn-down charts can provide valuable insight into the progress of a project and help teams anticipate potential delays or deviations from the original plan.
Step 1: Determine the scope of the project
The first step in forecasting a release date with a burn-down chart is to determine the total scope of the project. This includes all of the work that needs to be done to meet the project’s objectives and deliverables. Burndown charts assume that you have a clear understanding of the scope so that the burn-down chart accurately reflects the progress of the project.
If you are in a situation where it’s impossible to have a clear understanding of the final scope of your initiative, Burn-up charts might be for you. This could be the case for product teams chasing ambigious goals or who are going to spend more time in product discovery than product delivery.
Step 2: Establish a baseline
The next step is to establish a baseline for the burn-down chart. This involves creating an initial estimate of the amount of work required to complete the project and dividing it into sprints or iterations. This baseline serves as a reference for future progress, allowing teams to track the actual speed and velocity of their work.
Step 3: Track progress and update the chart
As the project progresses, the burn-down chart must be regularly updated to reflect the actual progress of the team. This includes tracking the amount of work completed, the amount of work remaining, and the velocity of the team. By tracking this information, teams can quickly identify any potential delays or deviations from the original plan.
Step 4: Anticipate Delays, faster speed, and unexpected Work
While forecasting release dates, it is important to anticipate potential delays, faster speed, and unexpected work. Delays may occur due to unexpected issues, such as technical difficulties or changes in the project scope. Teams can anticipate these delays by using a burn-down chart to track their progress and identify any deviations from the original plan.
Similarly, faster speed may occur when a team is able to complete work more quickly than expected. Teams can incorporate this faster speed into their release date forecasts by using a burn-down chart to track their velocity and adjust their plans accordingly.
Unexpected work, such as new features or changes in the project scope, can also impact the release date of a project. Teams can use a burn-down chart to track the impact of these changes on the overall project and adjust their plans as needed.
To predict a change in the release date, you can plot the actual progress of the project on the burndown chart and compare it to the ideal progress.
Plotting lines to predict a change in release date
By plotting the actual progress of the project on a burndown chart and comparing it to the ideal progress, you can predict a change in the release date.
If the actual progress of the project is behind the ideal progress, it indicates that the project is taking longer than expected. To predict a change in the release date, you can extrapolate the difference between the actual and ideal progress over time to determine when the project will be completed. If the project continues to be behind the ideal progress, it will result in a longer project timeline and a later release date.
On the other hand, if the actual progress of the project is ahead of the ideal progress, it indicates that the project is progressing faster than expected. In this case, you can adjust the ideal progress line to reflect the faster pace of the project and predict an earlier release date.
Step 5: Communicate with Stakeholders and Customers
By using a burn-down chart to track progress and anticipate delays, faster speed, and unexpected work, teams can provide stakeholders and customers with a realistic and up-to-date understanding of the project’s status and expected completion date.
How do burndown charts compare to gantt charts?
Burndown charts and Gantt charts are both project management tools used to visualize and track progress, but they have some key differences.
A burndown chart is a graphical representation of the amount of work remaining in a project and the rate at which that work is being completed. The chart is plotted over time and shows the amount of work remaining on the vertical axis and the time frame on the horizontal axis. The burndown chart provides a clear visual representation of the progress of the project and allows project managers and team members to quickly see how much work has been completed and how much work remains.
On the other hand, a Gantt chart is a bar chart that provides a visual representation of the tasks, subtasks, and milestones in a project and their relationship to each other. The chart is plotted over time and shows the tasks and their duration on the horizontal axis and the time frame on the vertical axis. The Gantt chart provides a clear visual representation of the project timeline and allows project managers to see which tasks are dependent on others and when each task is scheduled to be completed.
Burndown charts are considered superior to Gantt charts in an Agile setting for several reasons:
- Focus on work remaining. Burndown charts focus on the amount of work remaining in a project, whereas Gantt charts focus on the timeline and duration of tasks. In an Agile setting, the focus is on delivering value as quickly as possible, so the amount of work remaining is a more relevant and important metric.
- Real-time progress tracking. Burndown charts are updated regularly and provide real-time information about the progress of a project. This allows teams to quickly identify and address any roadblocks or obstacles that may impact the project timeline. In contrast, Gantt charts only show a static view of the project timeline and do not provide real-time information about progress.
- Flexibility. Burndown charts are flexible and allow teams to quickly adapt to changes in scope, timeline, and priority. This is important in an Agile setting where requirements and priorities can change quickly and frequently. In contrast, Gantt charts are more rigid and do not easily accommodate changes in scope and priority.
- Visualization of velocity. Burndown charts can be used to visualize the velocity of a team, which is the rate at which they complete work. This is important in an Agile setting where the focus is on continuous improvement and finding ways to work more efficiently.
What roles are involved in preparing the burndown chart in Scrum?
In Scrum, the following roles are involved in preparing the burndown chart:
- Development Team. The development team is responsible for estimating the amount of work required to complete each task and updating the burndown chart with the actual amount of work completed.
- Scrum Master. The Scrum Master is responsible for ensuring that the development team is aware of the burndown chart and that it is being updated regularly. They are also responsible for ensuring that the burndown chart is accurate and up-to-date.
- Product Owner. The Product Owner is responsible for reviewing the burndown chart regularly and using it to make decisions about the project’s progress and timeline.
The burndown chart is a collaborative effort between the development team, the Scrum Master, and the Product Owner in Scrum. Each role has a specific responsibility in preparing and maintaining the chart, but the ultimate goal is to provide a clear visual representation of the progress of the project and to make data-driven decisions about the project’s timeline and direction.
Using the metrics of a burndown chart to reflect on and improve team productivity?
A burndown chart provides a visual representation of the progress of a project over time. By analyzing the metrics of a burndown chart, you can reflect on and improve team productivity in several ways:
- Identifying trends. You can identify trends in the data to see if the team is consistently exceeding or falling short of their goals, which can highlight areas for improvement.
- Spotting bottlenecks. If the team is consistently falling short of their goals, a burndown chart can help identify bottlenecks in the workflow that are slowing down productivity.
- Adjusting work hours. If the team is consistently exceeding their goals, you may need to adjust work hours or delegate tasks to prevent burnout.
- Reassessing priorities. If the team is consistently falling short of their goals, you may need to reassess priorities and make changes to the project plan to ensure that the most important tasks are completed first.
- Improving collaboration. If there are gaps in the progress of the project, it may be due to poor collaboration between team members. Improving communication and collaboration can help fill these gaps and increase productivity.
Balancing flexibility and planning
There is a growing concern that burndown charts can hinder the focus on business outcomes and changing requirements. This is because the items in the burndown chart represent a plan that is defined and locked-in from the start of the project.
On one hand, burndown charts help teams to stay on track and focused on delivering value as quickly as possible. On the other hand, burndown charts can also create a sense of rigidity and lock-in, making it difficult for teams to adapt to changing requirements and priorities.
In an Agile setting, requirements and priorities can change quickly and frequently, and the focus is on delivering value as quickly as possible. When the items in the burndown chart are locked-in, it can be difficult to make changes and accommodate new requirements. This can lead to frustration and disappointment as teams are forced to work on items that are no longer relevant or important to the business.
The key is to strike a balance between planning and flexibility. Teams should also be open to making changes and adapting to new requirements and priorities. This requires a culture of collaboration, communication, and continuous improvement.
If burndown charts are getting in the way of the team working the right thing, then you should consider whether burndown charts are really helping the team do better. Perhaps also if team velocity is the best measure of good work.
What is the purpose of the Burndown Chart?
Hint The purpose of the Burndown Chart is to provide a visual representation of the progress of a project over time.
What data will be included in the Burndown Chart?
Hint The data included in the Burndown Chart will typically include the estimated amount of work to be completed, the amount of work completed, and the amount of work remaining.
How often will the Burndown Chart be updated?
Hint The Burndown Chart should be updated regularly, typically at the end of each day or week.
What is the timeline for the project that the Burndown Chart will be tracking?
Hint The timeline for the project that the Burndown Chart will be tracking should be determined before the project begins.
How will the Burndown Chart be used to measure progress?
Hint The Burndown Chart can be used to measure progress by comparing the amount of work completed to the amount of work remaining.
What metrics will be used to measure progress?
Hint The metrics used to measure progress will depend on the project, but typically include the amount of work completed, the amount of work remaining, and the rate of progress.
How will the Burndown Chart be shared with stakeholders?
Hint The Burndown Chart can be shared with stakeholders through various methods, such as email, presentations, or online dashboards.
What are the expected outcomes of using a Burndown Chart?
Hint The expected outcomes of using a Burndown Chart include improved visibility into the progress of the project, better communication between stakeholders, and improved project management.
- Succeeding with Agile: Software Development Using Scrum by Mike Cohn (2010)
- Scrum and XP from the Trenches by Henrik Kniberg (2011)
- Agile Estimating and Planning by Mike Cohn (2006)
- Agile Product Management with Scrum by Roman Pichler (2010)
- User Stories Applied: For Agile Software Development by Mike Cohn (2004)
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