Source: Mountain Goat Software
Source: Mountain Goat Software

Agile Practice

Burndown Chart

Alternative name(s)

Sprint Burndown
Product Burndown
Release Burndown Chart
Burn Chart

Source

Scrum


Description

The Burndown Chart is one of the three Scrum Artifacts, which are: the Product Backlog, the Sprint Backlog and the Burndown Chart (Cohn, n.d.).
According to Schwaber (2004), the Burndown Chart shows effectively the amount of work remaining as well as the progress made by the team. Moreover, it also enables a "what if" approach where teams can add or remove features from the Scope to visualise easily the impact on the release date. Depending on the chosen perspective, the Burndown Chart is used to show the amount of work that is remaining in the current Sprint (the Burndown Chart shows the remaining work in the current Sprint), Release (the Burndown Chart shows the remaining work in the current Release) or for the project (the Burndown Chart shows the remaining work for the entire project). These charts are usually displayed on the walls so everyone in the team can see what is happening and how progress is being made during each iteration.

Discussion


The first advantage of the Burndown Chart is its simplicity. Relating the quantity of work on the vertical-axis and the time (both past and future) on the horizontal-axis, the Burndown Chart only needs the development team Velocity to be effective. Also, it is a very effective way for the team to have clear, visible and resumed information. Another advantage is related to its capacity to raise questions. By putting this in front of everyone involved in the project, it will encourage the team to face issues earlier and to solve them.

Although the Burndown Chart in its classic version works very well for many teams and many projects, it may mask how everything is going on a project if this latter is subjected to many changes (Cohn, n.d.). Indeed, when the progress of a team is way lower than expected, is it because the team was slower or because work has been added? That is something teams need to know. Thus an alternative has been proposed to the classic Burndown Chart, which takes into account the work added to a project by showing it as negative values. In this way, it becomes possible for teams to forecast on progress that includes the rate of changes in the project.

Another disadvantage reported by Poole (2012), is related to the way some teams use the Burndown Chart. Originally designed to count the work remaining as working hours, this approach is stressed as anti-Agile by Poole who compares this as “tracking yardage in an American football game”. Thus, although it is useful, it measures activity and not accomplishment and as the Agile Manifesto states: “Working software is the primary measure of progress”.


Links to other agile principles or practices

Product Backlog: The Product Backlog is related to Burndown Chart because this latter can be used to track the remaining work at the scale of the product, therefore tracking what still needs to be done in the Product Backlog.

Scrum Master: The Scrum Master role is related to Burndown Charts because it is his or her role to update it regularly.

Sprint: Burndown Chart are among the most common sprint tracking mechanism used by Agile teams.

Sprint Backlog: The Sprint Backlog is related to Burndown Chart because this latter can be used to track the remaining work at the scale of the Sprint, therefore tracking what still needs to be done in the Sprint Backlog.

Sustainable pace: Sustainable pace is related to Burndown Chart because this later actually shows teams pace. Also, the baseline that is sometimes visible on Burndown Chart is based on the team velocity if the sustainable pace is maintained.

Links to PMO knowledge areas (KAs)

Team Management: Burndown Chart can be used to represent and observe Agile teams, showing there adaptation to Scope change.

Project Leadership: can be linked to Burndown Chart, a scenario why by the Agile team is working on a Sprint and they are bellow the expected progress, the Scrum Master should implement his/her leadership and coach the team on why it is necessary to track the progress and how to track it on Burndown chart to motivate and increase the work efficiency.

Scope Management: Project Scope Management is related to Burndown Charts due to the fact that it is possible to see quickly if Scope has been added to the Sprint or Product, especially if the alternative Burndown Chart is used.


Examples of use outside to IT domain

Education: Can be implemented in educational systems, like in Agile module. The module leader uses Burndown Chart to represent each teams effort and performance after each iteration deadline.

References

Schwaber, K. (2004) Agile project management with Scrum. O'Reilly Media, Inc.

External links


Agile Alliance - Burndown: http://bit.ly/1BRPoZV
Mountain Goat Software - Release Burndown Chart: http://bit.ly/1wHjFbK
Mountain Goat Software - Alternative Release Burndown Chart: http://bit.ly/1NdLxcv
Damon Poole - Burning Down Hours is Anti-Agile Because Working Software is the Primary Measure of Progress: http://bit.ly/1wVTQPC