Burndown and Burnup charts

Track team’s progress: Burndown and Burnup charts

The idea behind the burnup and burndown charts is to show progress completed, or work remaining, over a defined period (Sprint).

Burndown charts

Burndown charts are a great visual way to track the remaining work on a Scrum project. You can track story points completed to get an indication of how your velocity (a measure of the amount of work a Team can tackle during a single Sprint) is performing.

Practically, the burndown chart is a chart that horizontally tracks progress. At the beginning you have all user story points to be completed in the Sprint. So you start at the top left corner (at the top of the y-axis). When one day has gone by, you move one day to the right on the x-axis, and drop down on the y-axis to show how many points remain. You continue to do this during the Sprint. The objective is to have an incremental progress over the Sprint, and, at the end, not have user story points left.

The burndown chart helps to track what happens during the Sprint, so the team can analyze it during Sprint retrospective.

Here are some examples:

  • If the burndown goes up, it means that more work has been added to the Sprint.
  • If the burndown is flat, it means that the user story is big.

Burnup charts

Burnup charts are similar to burndown charts. The burnup chart displays the scope of a project and the work completed. This helps to determine how much work remains in the project.

The horizontal axis represents time (days) while the vertical axis represents the amount of work (story points or hours). You start at the bottom left corner, where the x and y axis meet. You then begin to track time on the x-axis and track progress on the y axis, moving in an upward diagonal direction as you complete user story points. When the two lines meet, the team has met its goal.

A team can determine the amount of work remaining on the project, by evaluating the distance between the team effort line and the total effort line.

Keep in mind

Both burndown and burnup charts are great ways for the team to track their progress. In a burndown chart, the line goes from top to bottom, whereas in a burnup chart the line goes from the bottom upwards. Both charts use the same axis. In addition, a burnup chart, gives more details, because it shows both total work achieved and work done in the previous increments.

Francesco Pecoraro

Francesco has extensive experience as a project, program and portfolio manager, project management officer (PMO), digital transformation and strategic consultant. He is also considered a communication, public speaking and leadership expert.

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