How do I use a Burndown Chart in Scrum?

GoRetro Team
August 22, 2022
Posted on
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What is a Burndown Chart?

A Burndown Chart visualizes how the sprint tasks that were planned at the beginning of the sprint are doing. The sprint tasks are what make up the sprint goal and they would have been estimated and debated during the sprint planning session.

Getting Started with Burndown Charts

To use a burndown chart, first, you need to determine the total amount of work that needs to be completed for the project. This can include both actual work tasks, as well as any time allocated for meetings, planning, and other non-productive activities. This total amount of work is then plotted on the y-axis of the chart.

The x-axis of the chart represents the duration of the project, typically in days or weeks. As the team completes work, the amount of remaining work is plotted on the chart, creating a line that should ideally trend downward over time.

To create a burndown chart, you will need to track the amount of work completed on a daily or weekly basis. This can be done manually, by tracking the amount of work completed and updating the chart accordingly, or it can be done automatically using project management software that allows you to input the amount of work completed each day.

How to read a Burndown Chart

Above ideal on a Burndown Chart means that the team is finding it difficult to complete enough tasks in the allotted time of the sprint so that all committed tasks will be completed. This can be a result of many thing such as:

  • The team committing to too much work during sprint planning, not realizing that they would find it difficult to complete all the work on time
  • The team is facing blockers that stand in the way of task completion. Only once out of the way can the team continue to work on the feature
  • The team was given a lot of ad hoc tasks during the sprint, perhaps a system failure elsewhere or bugs in a other sector of the website required the team’s focus over the sprint

Below ideal on a Burndown Chart means that the team HAS been able to complete the tasks faster than the team planned. This means that the team is creating features that pass the definition of done and also pass acceptance tests faster than they estimated in sprint planning. Ultimately this means the team can take on more user stories (assuming the user stories are done).

Oscillating around an ideal refers to a team that was able to estimate the user stories that they could complete in the sprint with pretty high accuracy.

Benefits of using Burndown Charts

One key benefit of using a burndown chart is that it allows you to quickly identify any potential issues or roadblocks that may be hindering progress. For example, if the line on the chart is not trending downward as expected, it could indicate that the team is not completing as much work as anticipated, or that new work is being added to the project. In either case, the burndown chart can help you identify the problem and take corrective action.

In addition to tracking progress, burndown charts can also be used to predict when a project will be completed. By analyzing the trend of the line on the chart, you can estimate how much work will be completed each day, and use that information to predict when the project will be finished.

Overall, a burndown chart is a powerful tool for helping teams track progress, identify potential issues, and predict project completion. By using a burndown chart, teams can stay on track and deliver projects on time and within budget.

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