26 September 2021

Agile Progress : Burn-Down Chart

Burn-Down Chart definition

  • Burndown Charts are an important visual informational tool used by effective Agile Teams for tracking progress.
  • Burn-Down Chart is a chart showing the evolution of remaining effort against time.
    • A Burn-Down Chart is a graphical representation of work left to do versus time.
    • A Burn-Down Chart is a plot of work remaining to reach a given goal on the vertical axis, and time on the horizontal axis.
    • Each point on the chart shows how much work was left to do at the end of that day (or week, month or other time period).
    • Burn-Down Charts are particularly common in the agile and scrum project management methodology, where they are often used to understand and track the progress of a development sprint or release.

Burn-Down Chart purpose

  • Burn-Down Chart makes progress more transparent.
    • Regular review of progress charts such as Burn-Down Charts or Burn-Up Charts for the project you are managing can immediately identify problems and allow you to control them early.
    • Identifying problems early and highlighting corrective action you have taken will impress your clients and gain you their confidence and trust.

Why use a Burn-Down chart ?

  • The popularity of Burn-Down charts stems from their simplicity.
    • It is a simple concept to see that the number of tasks must reach zero by a defined date.
    • The human visual system also makes it very easy to extrapolate a trend from the data and see whether the goal will be reached in time or not.
  • Thus Burn-Down Charts are useful aids to explain and demonstrate the progress of a project to anyone, regardless of whether they match your level of experience in project management.
    • Therefore it is often a good idea to creating a Burn-Down Chart for use in presentations and demonstrations to clients and non-technical management.
    • Some managers also consider burndown charts to have a motivational value.
    • Seeing the line creep ever closer to zero will encourage and motivate project participants, and clearly demonstrate that progress is being made.
    • In summary, consider making a burndown chart if simplicity is your most important communication goal, and simplicity overrides the problems with a burndown chart.
  • Personally, I believe that other charts of project progress such as Burn-Up Charts have the same motivational power, and so motivation should not be used as a reason for choosing a Burn-Down Chart over a different progress chart.

Sprint Progress with Burn-Down Chart

  • To read a Burn-Down Chart imagine an « ideal » line running diagonally from the top left to the bottom right corner.
    • Some Burn-Down Chart may actually have this line indicated on the chart.
    • The ideal line represents the required burndown to reach the goal, or the ideal position to be in at the end of each day.
    • The actual burndown line can be compared against this line to provide a simple measure of the progress of the project.
    • If the actual line is above the ideal line the project is behind schedule.
    • If the actual line is below the ideal line the project is ahead of schedule.
    • The distance above or below the line shows how much the project is ahead or behind.
    • The amount of work remaining in a burndown chart is typically estimated by the number of tasks remaining to be completed.
    • This is due to simplicity and the smaller amount of volatility in the numbers compared to time estimates associated with the tasks.

Burn-Down Chart practice

  • Burn-Down Chart is not mandatory but optional in the Scrum framework.
  • Sprint Burn-Down Chart indicates the remaining work of each day during the Sprint.
    • Burn-Down Chart y-axis shows total remaining work and x-axis shows time
    • Burn-Down Chart Y-axis usually shows total remaining work and X-axis shows a type of time, i.e. Sprint days in Sprint burn-down chart and Sprint numbers in Project Burn-Down Chart.
    • Its Y-axis shows total remaining work and X-axis shows Sprint days.
    • That is, it is a run chart of outstanding work (X-axison the Burn-down chart shows he project/iteration timeline, Y-axison the Burn-down chart the work that needs to be completed for the project, the Lines on the Graph show the Actual Task Remaining Vs the Ideal Task Remaining).
    • If you draw a trend line from the Sprint beginning remaining work to the last day of the Sprint on the X-axis, you will have the plan trend line and you can compare actual and plan progress daily in order to resolve deviation as soon as possible if needed.
    • Increasing to the remaining work during the Sprint is natural because new tasks could emerge when the Developers learns more about the work.
  • A project burndown chart is an often used information radiator to show iteration progress. It charts two series: the actual work remaining and ideal/estimated work remaining. The vertical axis is the work unit (often story points or hours) and the horizontal axis is iteration duration (typically in number of days). The ideal/estimated work series is a straight, downward sloping line originating on the vertical axis at the value of work to be completed (e.g., 20 story points) and extending to the horizontal axis (i.e., 0 story points) on the last day of the iteration. The actual series is dependent upon the agile team’s productivity and the task complexity and is updated daily. The actual series is typically volatile and is not a straight line but ebbs and flows as the project team tackles the development process. [Agile Estimating and Planning. Mike Cohn.]

How to create a Burn-Down Chart ?

  • Burn-Down Charts are easy to create manually using pen and paper, or they can be created by entering the data into a spreadsheet program such as excel or another tool.
    • Alternatively software tools such as Intelligent Reports make it trivially easy to create a Burn-Down Chart for your project by using data already contained in your project management system.
    • There is no excuse for not making a Burn-Down Chart on a regular basis to review the progress of your project.

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