What are the benefits of Burn-down Charts?

Essentially, burndown charts are project management tools that allow you to visualize how quickly the project team is performing alongside the user stories of the customers. It is a valuable agile tool that relies upon the end-user perspective to describe a feature and then demonstrate the aggregate effort with respect to the work done against each iteration, or the agile sprint.

Defining a Burndown Chart

Based on the brief explanation above, we can define a burndown chart as a graphical visualization of the remaining work for a particular project, along with the remaining time for completion. The visual is widely used in agile project management and software management teams.

Agile Projects and Burndown Charts

When we talk about agile projects, time is a significant constraint considering the time-sensitive nature of the industry on the whole. A burndown chart is particularly useful in this regard since the teams can track and record the activities that have been completed, the ones which are still pending, and the remaining time for completion. For agile project management, the chart further serves as a list and an outline for work completion.

What makes a Burndown chart?

A burndown chart comprises a number of components, which may be in the form of a bar chart or a line plot. A bar chart is used to denote different days of work. A line plot’s slope depicts the general work progress.

a) Story-Points

Most agile teams use ‘story-points’ (a type of metric) to set out the terms of the horizontal, i-e x-axis, and vertical, i-e (y-axis). These story points provide information about the remaining time for project completion and the tasks needed to ensure completion. For instance, story points would tell you that there are 20 tasks to be completed for a project, which has 10 days until its deadline.

b) The y-axis

Also known as the vertical axis, the y-axis is used to track the remaining amount of work and tasks to complete the project. It makes use of a variety of measurements according to the type of activity being tracked and the nature of the project.

c) The x-axis

Also known as the horizontal axis, the x-axis is used to track how much time is left for the project’s predefined deadline.

d) Ideal work remaining

This is typically illustrated using a diagonal line having a negative slope and demonstrates the amount of work still left. With the regular updates in the burndown chart, the project management team can compare and contrast between the ideal work remaining and the actual work remaining. This provides a thorough estimate of whether they are headed on the right track.

e) Actual work remaining

The actual work remaining tends to be updated in real-time with the gradual signs of progress of the project. Contrary to the ideal work remaining component of the burndown chart, this does not follow a linear pattern. Rather, it is typically above or below the diagonal for ideal work remaining.

burndown chart

The Advantages of using a Burndown Charts

Burndown charts are helpful in ways where the project management team can visualize its cumulative effort on one side, along with the team’s velocity on the other. These tools provide us insights into the following:

  • project work completed during each iteration
  • project tasks remaining
  • project tasks completed so far
  • The estimated or expected deadlines

Compare and Contrast: Burn up and Burn Down Charts

There are multiple similarities between burnup and burndown charts. In terms of their purpose, usage in an agile project management function, and components: they are pretty much the same. However, the key difference is that the burndown chart helps the users track their remaining tasks and time for completion by eliminating user stories from the y-axis with subsequent completion. On the other side, a burnup chart keeps on adding user stories to the y-axis with their subsequent completion.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What are the benefits of a Burndown chart?

The burndown chart provides an easy and convenient tool for picturing the remaining milestones of the project, as it compares with the ideal remaining work. It gives you an indication of how close the team is to the schedule. It also gives a head-up to get back on track. A burndown chart could be shared and communicated with stakeholders and the agile project management team.

2. What are the limitations of a Burndown chart?

A burndown chart is essentially a high-level summary, which does not take into account the varying difficulty levels of all tasks in the project. For instance, a burndown chart may show how a team might only have completed two or three tasks over a week, as compared to the previous week, where it has completed five to six tasks. The requirements and the challenge level may be completely different.

You could say that a burndown chart is the most effective for tasks of a very similar nature. When you’re partaking in a complex project with differing priorities and hurdles, the tool might not give you a true and fair picture.

3. How do Burndown charts work?

These work by assessing the number of tasks that need to be accomplished, and by mapping them against the estimated time taken to fulfill the entire project.