Visualize progress with charts

Visualize progress with charts

A burn-down (or burn-up, or cumulative flow) chart is a graphical representation of outstanding work versus time. The outstanding work is often on the vertical axis, with time along the horizontal. The chart is used in agile software development methodologies like Scrum. With this very simple chart, and in my opinion the only one you need for the team, it is so easy to:

  • predict when all of the work will be completed;
  • see if we are on track;
  • use for early steering;
  • not be surprised at the end of the sprint;
  • stop answering questions about progress;
  • learn for better estimating;
  • start focusing on burning (a.k.a. delivering);
  • create energy in the team.

I also noticed that is very easy to misuse the charts so not the real progress is shown. With that discussion I could fill several other articles. In this article I’ll explain different types of charts with the benefits and concerns of that type, also in this article I will not discuss why measuring progress of work instead of measuring progress of added value.

For now I see three types of charts:

  • Burn-down charts displays the amount of outstanding work;
  • Burn-up chart displays the amount of work done;
  • Cumulative flow chart displays the amount outstanding work and work done (and more).

How to measure outstanding work?

The vertical axis displays often the amount of outstanding work or the work still to do. This can be the

  • time remaining;
  • number of stories still remaining;
  • number of tasks still remaining;
  • amount of user points still remaining.

 

Chart with the time remaining

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This chart shows every day the time remaining of all work in the sprint. For a correct chart the teams needs to update the remaining time for all items and also continuously re estimate the remaining time. When you only calculate the initially estimated hours minus the hours spent minus the chart will not be accurate. It is possible the chart sais 0 hours remaining and the work is still not done!

Benefits

  • If used with the correct estimated time remaining this chart is the most precise chart. Project managers loves these type of charts
  • A lot of project management tools are supporting this type of chart

Concerns

  • How many stories are finished? You can’t answer this important question from the chart. It looks not that bad – but it could be that no story at all will be finished at the end of the sprint.
  • To draw the chart line daily – you need to re estimate all the work remaining each day. This counting is time consuming and I never met developers who like doing things with hours…
  • When the chart say zero hours left it is still possible no story is finished…
  • Counting hours spent is different form re estimating hours every day.
  • Updating this chart is difficult and so it’s almost impossible to embed it in your the daily standup.

 

Chart with the number of stories remaining

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This chart shows every day the number of remaining stories. The chart only drops when the story is done.

Benefits

  • To draw the chart daily it’s very easy by counting the stories not done.
  • The charts show the progress of the items the team committed to.
  • It stimulates the team to completely finish the stories.
  • It stimulates the team to finish the story one by one and to eliminate too much work in progress.
  • It is easy to embed it in your daily standup.

Concerns

  • Differences in sizes of the stories is not shown.
  • Law of large numbers doesn’t apply with small number of stories.
  • When all stories are finished at the end of the sprint the chart doesn’t show progress during the sprint.
  • It stimulates the team to complete the small stories first and ignore the priorities.

Chart with number of tasks remaining

Instead of counting stories it is possible to count the remaining tasks.

Benefits

  • To draw the chart daily it’s very easy to count the tasks not done.
  • Chart is displaying growing and shrinking of amount of work.
  • Law of large numbers applies.
  • You can embed it in your daily standup.

Concerns

  • Tasks needs to be the same size (sort of) for a useful chart. (It’s common to split the tasks to same sizes approx half day work).

Chart with amount of story points remaining

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In my opinion is the chart which is showing the story points remaining my favorite burndown chart. This chart shows the amount of story points remaining for each day.

Benefits

  • To draw the chart daily it’s very easy to count the points not done
  • The charts show the progress of the items the team committed to.
  • Difference in size of the stories is shown.
  • It stimulates the team to completely finish the stories
  • It stimulates the team to finish the story one by one and to eliminate too much work in progress.
  • You can embed it in your daily standup.

Concerns

  • When stories are finished at the end of the sprint the chart doesn’t visualize progress. It’s difficult to see you are on track or predict completion date. With focusing on finishing stories one by one this problem

Over de auteur

Robert administrator