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Scrum Burndown Chart | David Tzemach

One of the most popular tools for monitoring project progress and tracking team performance in Agile software development frameworks is the burndown chart. A burndown chart is a relatively simple graphical representation of work left to do over time.

The burndown chart is a popular and useful tool in Scrum because it allows full transparency about the amount of work completed at any given time. Furthermore, it allows the project owner to assess the remaining work in the project and forecast (based on team velocity and current progress) the project's completion date.

Typically, a burndown chart will have a horizontal axis representing time, such as the number of sprints (release burndown) or the number of working days (sprint burndown). The vertical axis represents the remaining work, such as ideal days, story points, or team days, depending on the estimation approach used by the team.

Types of Burndown Charts

There are two types of burndown charts that you can use in the Scrum framework:

  1. Release Burndown Chart - The release burndown was designed to give an overall view of the project. This chart shows how teams are progressing against the work planned for a specific release in a Scrum project. It provides a shared understanding of team progress and planned items for the release.

  2. Sprint Burndown Chart - The sprint burndown chart is used by the Scrum team as part of the daily meeting. It gives them a quick insight into the team's work in the current sprint to meet the sprint goals.

At the start of a sprint, the team estimates the work for all stories they intend to deliver. The sum of the story points or hours estimated is the starting point for the graph. Every day, the team works on tasks. Work remaining is reduced each day based on their progress.

Main Benefits of the Sprint Burndown

  • Burndown charts are simple to use and easy to follow.

  • It can increase team motivation.

  • It helps the team to keep their focus.

  • It helps the team to identify gaps quickly.

  • It helps the team monitor the sprint's progress (originally planned work against the team's progression).

  • Single tracking and planning tool for the team to use daily.

How to Create and Use a Sprint

A sprint burndown chart is a powerful tool if created effectively. To do so, the creation process should start in the planning session, where the team decides which stories they will add to the sprint backlog. Once the team has identified those stories, they can build the burndown chart in the following way:

  • X-axis – The number of days in the sprint.

  • Y-axis – represents the effort (sum of all story points/hours).

  • Ideal effort – an ideal line that visualizes the expected progress of the team throughout the sprint.

  • Actual Progress – Visualization of the actual progress made each day.

Real-Life Samples of Burndown Chart Team Scenarios

The following samples show the team status based on the burndown chart.

The role model team

You can expect to see this typical burndown chart in a high-performing team.

  • The team has all the knowledge and experience to adapt and speed up to get things done when needed.

  • The team has a true understanding of the importance of the sprint goal and is fully committed to achieving it.

  • The team is continuously asking how we will complete the sprint and deliver our commitments.

Although the team started with some gaps, they resolved all issues and completed the sprint on time. In addition, the team can grab different stories from the next sprint as they see that they can.

The ideal team

Three qualities characterize the ideal team:

  1. The team can organize itself.

  2. They know their velocity and boundaries and therefore do not commit to many user stories that will lead to over-commitment or under-commitment.

  3. They can estimate capacity correctly to remove the unnecessary loss of working days.

The Burndown chart of this team will indicate the team has finished all commitments on time and that they are doing a great job. Ideally would want them to continue the same pace/commitment in the upcoming sprints.

The average team

The average team is a team that can complete its commitment and sprint goals. The team can adapt to the delay during the sprint and work harder to finish the remaining work.

The team that completed their commitments too early

This graph represents a team that finishes work earlier than expected but doesn’t commit to new stories, although they had both the capacity and time to do so.

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