Agile software or product development teams use the scrum methodology of completing the project tasks in sprints. A Sprint Burndown Chart is a visual representation of the tasks that needed to be finished to achieve project delivery success. It helps the stakeholders of the project as well as the project management team to keep track of the progress of the project against the estimated time allotted for its completion. Though sprint burndown charts are used primarily in Scrum, they can be used in any project to measure its progression versus the project schedule.
What is a Sprint Burndown Chart?
A sprint burndown chart is a visual representation of the remaining tasks against the time allotted to complete them. It is usually represented in a graphical format, with the outstanding work represented on the vertical axis and the time required to finish the work on the horizontal axis. This makes the work of the Scrum Master (SM) and Product Owner (PO) easier, as they can keep track of the project progress using this graphical representation of the tasks in the form of a burndown chart.
Daily sprint meetings conducted by the SM along with the PO can help the entire product or software development team to understand the present stage of the project. This will help decide the required pace the agile teams need to be at to complete the project on schedule. The current performance also known as the burndown rate can then be estimated against the sprint goal. Thus, a sprint burndown chart helps make the work transparent for the entire project management team.
Why use a Sprint Burndown Chart?
Agile teams that complete project tasks in short iterations or sprints use the burndown chart. The sprint burndown chart helps them visualize the work needed to be completed against the allocated time. Project managers and product managers can derive the estimated project completion schedule with the help of a sprint burndown chart as it provides a direct comparison of the work needed to be done and the effort needed to achieve it. Scrum meetings and daily sprint meetings become fruitful when there is a visual representation of the information about the sprint goals. Also, a sprint burndown chart is an effective tool to understand the agile team dynamics as it measures the work done by the team to complete the sprints.
Elements of a Sprint Burndown Chart
As discussed above, a sprint burndown chart is a graphical representation of the remaining work needed to be completed versus the time allocated to complete it. However, there are other elements in a sprint burndown chart that helps project managers and product managers predict the estimated project completion schedule.
A sprint burndown chart includes:
The horizontal axis of the graph represents the remaining amount of time to complete the project usually depicted in days.
The vertical axis of the graph represents the effort needed to complete the project.
Actual work line
This represents the actual number of tasks remaining. It might be straight in some cases; however, it often changes due to unforeseen issues in the project or an increase in the number of tasks.
Ideal work remaining line
This represents the estimated task in an ideal scenario.
These are used by agile teams to measure the remaining tasks on both axes.
This is the objective of the sprint and is represented on the graph to measure the progression of the actual work against it.
At the start of a particular sprint, all the estimated tasks are summed up and the hours or days it will take to complete each task are calculated. When all the information is available, the sprint burndown chart can be plotted. Agile teams can update the chart at the end of each day to show the progress. The main objective of the sprint burndown chart is to show the actual progress the agile team is making towards the sprint goal.
It must be noted here that a sprint burndown chart measures the sprint goal success rather than the project delivery success. Although it contributes to the overall success of the project, it should not be used as a tool to measure the trajectory of the project itself. Changes caused because of the backlog items or story points are difficult to represent on the chart. Therefore, product owners often use a product backlog along with the sprint burndown chart and a change control process to effectively track the progression of the project.
Significance of a Sprint Burndown Chart
Visualizing the tasks at hand is a great way of tracking the trajectory of a project. A sprint burndown chart is an excellent example of a visualizing tool that helps agile teams keep track of the tasks and improve their efforts to complete them on time. Apart from this, here are some prime benefits of using a sprint burndown chart:
- It serves as a single planning and tracking tool for the estimated work that the entire agile team can use. Thus, eliminating confusion and misunderstanding in finishing the tasks at hand.
- It provides evidence of the tasks needed to be completed within the time allocated. This transparency helps the project managers and the stakeholders of the project understand the project resource requirement and allocation.
- It proves the productivity level of the agile team through daily progress reports. Any problems can be resolved quickly and will not affect the project delivery success.
Sprint burndown charts are effective tools to track and measure the tasks against the estimated time. It can help prevent scope creep in projects and help organizations achieve project delivery success. Thus, they are regularly used by agile teams as well as scrum teams who work in agile projects. Learning about the significance of a sprint burndown chart and how to plot it graphically will help project managers in effectively attaining the project objectives. Skilled and certified agile practitioners are aware of the benefits of a sprint burndown chart and use it to achieve project delivery success for their organizations.