Track Your Agile Project: Burndown Chart, Devil in the Details

February 19, 2014

burndown-336x336 Track Your Agile Project: Burndown Chart, Devil in the Details agile

The Agile Manifesto was introduced in 2001 and since then Agile software development, or let’s call it the “Agile Movement” has received a lot of attention, growing year on year. According to the 7th Annual State of Agile Development Survey, more than 84% of the companies surveyed had adopted Agile for software development. One of the biggest challenges and questions for many organizations is how to measure the success or failure of an Agile approach.

There are many ways to measure Agile performance including:

  • Burndown charts
  • Velocity over time charts
  • Current velocity
  • Remaining time and
  • The overall break down of the iteration.

Burndown Chart in a nutshell

Burndown chart is one of the most well-know charts. It was developed by Ken Schwaber to provide Scrum community with a tool to plan their work. Burndown chart is a very effective planning tool if you know how to interpret the metrics. Let’s look into the basics quickly:

  • Burndown chart is a graphical representation of work left to complete over time.
  • It shows effort /cost spent and schedule on a daily basis that helps to lower potential risk which are key requirements of traditional project management.
  • It is a great communication tool while customers and stakeholders can follow project progress on a daily basis.
  • The remaining task hours can be misleading while it can mean different scenarios – i.e. 30 hours not completed or 10hours completed and 20 hours not completed work hours. You should look into the details to interpret the information correctly.
  • If you look at the graph you will see if Sprint commitments were met and how smoothly. You can see if your team stretched at the end of the Sprint to meet commitment as well as if the team’s performance was consistent or not; – with other words you can see if your team in trouble, ahead of schedule, or on track.

Burndown Chart: Scenarios to Consider

While nothing is black and white there are scenarios they can cause your burndown chart to be misleading:

  • If to complete a tasks takes longer than 12 hours it can be difficult to track. Encourage team members to create tasks shorter than 12 hours.
  • Teams usually update the effort column on a daily basis but they need to re-estimate how much effort they will need to complete the task. If they don’t, “effort remaining” and “effort spent” graphs won’t be consistent and can be easily misunderstood.
  • Team members should understand that they need to update “effort remaining” on a daily basis to have a burndown chart that shows accurate, daily status.

Burndown chart is the most popular tracking tool for organization implementing Agile due to its effectiveness and simplicity. However, use it with the aim to enable your team to produce potentially shippable and working increments.

codeBeamer ALM (Application Lifecycle Management) solution provides your team with different modules to manage software development lifecycle as well as diverse charts to measure Agile performance.

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Eva Johnson

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Eva is an Economist (MSc) and also holds an MBA in Marketing Communications. She has over 10 years of experience in journalism, digital media communication and project management working with several multinational companies and governmental institutions. You will find her blogs posts on a variety of subjects from Agile-Waterfall Hybrid, Scrum to DevOps.

Eva Johnson has written 131 posts for Intland Software.

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