Burndown Charts

Burndown Charts 2017-04-23T23:02:14-07:00

The progression of stories and their assigned points, as they move incrementally from Backlog to Done, can be expressed in a burndown chart.

burndown chartBurndown charts, like storyboards, can vary in appearance and have a number of tracked values, but they all have these things in common:

  • Express a vector from the maximum anticipated story points to zero — the red line. This vector is the perfect function of points completed or “burned” per day.
  • Show a plot of of actual points complete for each day that passes. If you finish a 5 point story, 5 points are burned.
  • Show the number of points planned. This number can go up or down if the team adds a “stretch story” or a story is removed because it’s blocked by external circumstances
  • Sometimes (as pictured above) there is a burn-up line, useful for predicting team patterns to find the “break even” point.

Every team has a maximum point value that they can take on. New teams tend to underperform and experienced teams tend to burn hot. It takes a few sprints to dial in on the team’s point maximum.

During a demo, it is best to create a burndown chart as a big, visible wall chart. With the completion of each demo, add up the estimates of all passed stories and immediately add it to the burndown chart. Executives and other observers generally love the burndown chart, as it easily quantifies the amount of work being accomplished.