16 September 2021

Agile Progress : Burn-Up Chart

Burn-Up Chart definition

  • Burn-up Chart is a chart showing the evolution of remaining effort against time.

Burn-Up Chart purpose

  • Burn-Up Chart increases transparency.
    • A Burn-Up chart tracks progress towards a projects completion.

Burn-Up Chart practice

  • Burn-Up Chart is not mandatory but optional in the Scrum framework.
  • In the simplest form of Burn-Up chart there are two lines on the chart :
    • A total work line (the project scope line)
    • A work completed line
    • The vertical axis is amount of work, and is measured in units customized to your own project.
      • Some common units are number of tasks, estimated hours or story points (in agile project management methodologies).
    • The horizontal axis is time, usually measured in days.
    • At each day you can see the amount of work completed and the total amount of work.
    • The distance between the two lines is thus the amount of work remaining.
    • When the two lines meet, the project will be complete.
  • This is a powerful measure of how close you are to completion of the project, similar to a Burn-Down Chart.
  • The advantage of a Burn-Up Chart over a Burn-Down Chart is the inclusion of the scope line.
    • It clearly tracks when work has been added to or removed from the project.
  • It also allows you to visualize a more realistic completion date for the project, by extending a trend line from the scope as well as the completion line.
  • Where the two trend lines meet is the estimated time of completion.
    • The scope line allows you as a manager to easily spot where work is being added which will affect the completion date.
    • Whether this work is being added by the client or the team, it is an important signal that the completion date may need to be moved in response.
    • The scope line also tracks where work is being removed to meet a fixed deadline.
    • Again this is important to know as it may impact the quality or functionality of the project, and is something that needs to be clearly discussed with the client and team.
  • Although a typical Burn-Up Chart only has two lines, other lines are sometimes included.
    • Firstly an ‘ideal’ line may be included.
      • This shows the completion necessary at each day to meet the deadline.
      • You can then tell if the project is ahead of or behind schedule by whether it is above or below the ideal line, and the distance gives you an idea as to how far ahead or behind schedule it is (the ideal line is usually based on the most recent available total scope for simplicity).
    • Another line that is sometimes included is the required Burn-Up line.
      • This line shows how much work must be completed to meet the deadline, given the current scope.
    • Lastly, several Burn-Up Charts can be superimposed on top of one another.
      • This is typically done for multi stage projects, such as release versions or development sprints in a software project.
      • The scope lines are cumulatively stacked, whilst the completed line is either combined for all releases, or only for the next release and previously completed releases on any given day.
      • The advantage of this layout is that it is clear when work is being shifted from one sprint to the next, as opposed to being added to the total project scope.
  • More advanced, but also more complicated to read than a Burn-Up Chart is a Cumulative Flow Diagram (CFD).

Why use a Burn-Up Chart ?

  • The goal of any chart is communication, a burn up chart clearly shows work completed and project scope.
    • It is an effective tool for communicating to the project stakeholders and clients how the extra feature requests they are asking for will affect the deadline, and at the same time for reassuring them that good progress is being made.
    • In a project where clients are adding a lot of work mid-project, a Burn-Down Chart will not be an accurate reflection of the project teams output, and could lead to performance questions from the client.
    • A Burn-Up Chart can quickly make clients re-evaluate whether they really need that extra bell or whistle.
    • Unfortunately Burn-Up Charts are slightly more complex to interpret than Burn-Down Charts, so will often require some short explanation to people not familiar with them.
    • However because of the extra information represented in a Burn-Up Chart, this explanation is usually more than worth the time, with the possible exception of large group situations.

How to create a Burn-Up Chart ?

  • A Burn-Up Chart can be created with many tools, from pen and paper to a spreadsheet program such as excel.
    • The easiest way to create a Burn-Up Chart tracking a particular project is to use a project management tool with a good reporting system, such as Intelligent Reports for JIRA.
    • Using reporting tools, Burn-Up Charts can be instantly or even automatically created using the data already tracked in your project management system.
    • There is no excuse for not regularly reviewing progress charts such as Burn-Up Charts or Burn-Down Charts to check on the progress of your project, and take corrective action if any problems are discovered.

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