Remember when you wished you had enough time to complete all your projects within the working hours? Well, we all make plans to achieve a specific task on time but somehow lack the motivation. This is where burndown charts come to the picture.

In this fast-paced world, your team has to complete their work as fast as possible. This will help to ensure they are remaining productive throughout the whole project. And to do this, you’ll require accurate information about the project completion time and rate. Burndown charts will help you to do this without much hassle.

In the agile or scrum framework, a burndown chart helps to recognize completed work by measuring the project completion rate. You can use the burndown chart in the stand-up meetings to get an idea about how your team is working in the current sprint. You can also use this chart to record your team’s velocity and predict their performance. So, without further ado, let’s get started with the what’s and how’s of the burndown chart.

What is the Burndown Chart: The Definition

Burndown chart is a visual representation of a graph that assesses how much work a development team has done through a user story. Because of its appealing visual format, your team members can understand this chart easily. It is used to summarize a thorough description of a feature from an end-user perspective. That’s why you can update the chart only after the completion of a user story.

Generally, a burndown chart contains two axes- vertical Y-axis and horizontal X-axis. With the vertical axes, you can show the work that needs to be done by your team. And the horizontal axis implies the available time in the sprint. In a burndown chart, the starting point of a project is situated at the leftmost point. The rightmost point in the chart reflects the project end or the end of your sprint. In many burndown charts, you’ll witness a colored or dotted line that represents the remaining work. This line estimates the team members’ performance by measuring their past performance. One of the most important features of this line is its constant slope.

The burndown charts are displayed for everyone on the team. It ensures that everyone related to the project is on the same page about the product’s progress. You can update this chart regularly to avoid any unnecessary obstruction.

Now that you are aware of all the basic definitions of a burndown chart let’s move on to the next point– variations of the burndown chart.

What are the Variations of the Burndown Chart?

The burndown chart comes with two different variations. These are Sprint Burndown and Product burndown. Let’s discuss these two variations in details below:

  • Sprint Burndown Chart: The sprint burndown charts depict how much task is completed and how much remains in the ongoing sprints. Sprint burndown chart displays user stories, which are selected by the team in the sprint planning session.

  • Product Burndown Chart: Product burndown charts can visualize the entire project; in short, it looks at the big picture. It shows how much work is remaining for your team to match the product goals. The vertical axis displays the product backlog items in the product burndown chart, while the horizontal axis implies the sprint numbers.
  • Release Burndown Chart: This burndown chart is responsible for tracking all the progress made by your scrum team during an iteration or product development. The vertical axis of the chart depicts the hours or story points. On the other hand, the horizontal axis represents the time your team members spent.


In most cases, teams use a combination of both the product and sprint burndown to measure their team’s performance. In agile teams, one of the primary reasons to use burndown charts is that it represents a product team’s work velocity with clarity.

Here’s a pro tip: You can easily calculate your team’s velocity. Just divide the completed amount of work by the number of days. If you want to enhance your team members’ work velocity, encourage them to join all the scrum meetings attentively. These meetings will help the members to understand better about the project and be on the same page.

How Can You Read a Burndown Chart?

If you are a manager, then reading a burndown chart should be one of your top skills. This skill will help you to track your team’s activity and improve their productivity. Here’s how you can read a burndown chart:

  • First, look at the X (the current iteration of the project timeline) and Y-axis(remaining work for the entire project) in your burndown chart.
  • Now identify, whether you have tasks, work hours, or story points represented in the Y-axis or not. Similarly, identify if you have weeks, days, or months, represented in the X-axis.
  • Now you have to identify the ideal line, which is a projected slope. This line works as a guide to let you know how the team’s work progress would look like in an ideal world.
  • With this line, you can gauge your team’s performance. This will help you to know whether your team is working ahead of their deadline or moving behind.

If your team is perfectly organized and completes the entire project on time, then the chart will illustrate a perfect scenario. Your team will require no adjustments in this case. In another scenario, if your agile team starts their work slowly, but manages to complete the sprint on time, then it will illustrate a decent scenario. In this case, your team can make a few adjustments during their sprint meetings, so that they can complete the entire task on time.

What Benefits You can get from a Burndown Chart?

Burndown chart is one of the most effective tools for an agile team. However, this tool comes with its own advantages and a few disadvantages. Here, we’ll start discussing the benefits first:

  • One of the essential benefits of using a burndown chart is its simplicity. Your team can easily understand the chart to keep an eye on the team members’ work progress. With burndown charts, they don’t have to scratch their heads in confusion while looking at the math-driven, complex scrum diagrams.
  • As the scrum master regularly updates the chart, they can easily identify the obstacles and prevent them from occurring beforehand. If the scrum master identifies an issue, they can address that issue in the scrum meetings to develop a powerful solution.
  • Burndown charts are not only easy to understand but also they are easy to create. With the chart, you can monitor the project history, velocity, and trajectory of the whole project effortlessly.
  • Burndown charts can work excellently as your team’s motivator. When the team witnesses their daily progress in the chart, they can improve their performance more. Thus, you don’t have to worry about your projects’ success and performance report.

Burndown charts have multiple benefits to offer for your scrum team. But, that doesn’t mean this chart is free from any kind of flaw. For instance, burndown charts will represent all the completed story points in the iteration or project but won’t represent the changes that happened during the completion of story points.

Another limitation of the burndown chart is, it’s a high dependency on accurate sprint planning. If you have inaccurate estimates, then the chart will give wrong measurements. That means, if you’ve overestimated the time requirements, your team will feel they are way ahead of their actual schedule. Similarly, underestimated time requirements will leave your team behind from the project deadline.

How Can You Create a Burndown Chart?

You can create the burndown chart during the sprint planning and after the task breakdown. You can use the Excel Spreadsheet with two axes- X and Y to craft a burndown chart. Also, you can take help from agile tools and software to create burndown charts without much hassle. Here are some tools you can use to craft the burndown chart:

Jira

Jira is one of the most popular cloud-based software for the scrum team. This amazing tool offers features like customizable backlog grooming filters, scrum and kanban boards, scrum project management, burndown chart, velocity reports, and much more.

  • Release burndown charts
  • Risk burndown charts
  • Roadmaps and dashboards
  • Kanban and scrum boards
  • Customizable workflows
  • Mobile-friendly version

Key Takeaways

Burndown charts are extremely convenient tools for your scrum team. When it comes to tracking a team’s work progress, you can easily rely on this chart. From improving your project to keeping your clients in the loop, burndown charts can work like a charm in everything!

In recent times, every company is using burndown charts on their projects efficiently. However, if you are one of those organizations, who haven’t implemented a burndown chart for your work or projects, then it’s time to give it a shot. And don’t forget to share your experience of using burndown charts in the comments below.

Author's Bio
Agilemania

We are a team of Professional Scrum Trainers (PST) and Enterprise Agile coaches actively working as Scrum Trainers, Agile Coaches, Scrum Masters/Product Owners aimed at delivering quality and consistency for our students across the globe.