If you’re into marketing or product development, you might’ve been a part of the scrum or sprint process. The one where the team leaders assign specific tasks to be achieved in a certain time frame and measure project progress side-by-side.
Oftentimes, tracking the progress becomes a daunting task. You’ve eyes spread everywhere, but not enough to foresee individual tasks’ performance or repercussions. To solve this problem, burndown charts come into play.
Burndown charts allow project leads to easily track, measure, and evaluate project progress and the team’s performance via visual representations and in a centralized format.
In this blog, we’ll understand what burndown charts are, how they benefit agile teams, and how you can create and analyze one to streamline your daily workload.
What Is a Burndown Chart?
A burndown chart is a graphical representation of the planned ‘burndown’, i.e., completion of tasks against the actual burndown over a predetermined period.
The time period varies from company to company; some use burndown charts to track progress during a sprint (2 weeks), while some prefer to track the overall project status.
In both cases, a burndown chart can help agile teams and project managers determine:
- Total work at each point in time/iteration
- Remaining tasks
- The actual speed of the team
- Estimated speed of the team
The above image is an example of a burndown chart.
But why is the chart sloping downwards?
Generally, in a burndown chart, we plot the remaining work (in story points, tasks, or other relevant units) against the time left to complete the project. As tasks are completed, the line on the chart drops or ‘burns down,’ indicating progress toward the project’s completion.
This might sound too technical, so let’s break down the components of a burndown chart and understand them clearly.
Components of a Burndown Chart
This particular burndown chart has four key components:
The horizontal axis represents the time period of the project, usually measured in days or weeks. It starts with the beginning of the project and ends on the end date of the project.
The vertical axis represents the amount of work remaining, usually measured in story points or hours. It starts with the total amount of work to be done at the beginning of the project and ends with zero when all work is completed.
#3. Ideal Line (Blue line)
This line represents the ideal progress of the project, assuming that the work is being completed at a constant rate. It’s drawn from the starting point to the ending point, connecting the two points with a straight line.
#4. Actual Line (Red line)
This line represents the project’s actual progress based on the amount of work completed over time. It is drawn by connecting the data points that show the remaining work at each time interval.
Benefits of Using a Burndown Chart
#1. Improves Transparency
Agile project development processes often lack transparency. The team is unaware of where they stand in the development cycle or how each individual contributes to the project.
A burndown chart provides a transparent view of the progress of a project, allowing everyone involved to see how much work remains and how well the team is progressing toward its goals.
#2. Enables Comparative Analysis
Having the visuals of the tasks completed and the remaining task under a chart helps you compare your progress over time. This helps teams connect tasks to larger goals and keeps tasks on pace with sprint goals.
#3. Early-Warning Signals
A burndown chart is not a once-and-for-all thing. The trajectory moves over time as you progress with the project. And so it can help identify potential problems early on, such as if the team is falling behind schedule or if there are unexpected roadblocks.
#4. Fosters Communication
By maintaining a daily effort log and utilizing a platform to visualize task requirements, team members can streamline their workflow and improve communication.
This creates a centralized source of information that enables everyone – from stakeholders to team members – to stay connected and up-to-date on the status of ongoing tasks.
#5. Continuous Improvement
Visualizing your project progress with every task completion can also help you identify the bottlenecks.
For example, if your actual work is drastically derailed from the planned work, you can see which tasks hamper the team’s productivity. Or which task needs more resources to keep progress aligned with the goals.
Who Uses a Burndown Chart?
Essentially, a burndown chart can be used by anyone who has a project in hand with multiple tasks to collaborate on.
It’s popular amongst agile development teams, scrum masters, and sprint owners to monitor how close they’re to achieving end goals.
In some cases, managers can even use the burndown chart to keep an eye on scope creep and prevent their projects from getting off track.
However, burndown charts can also be used by other teams or individuals involved in project management to monitor progress and ensure that the project stays on track.
Are you among the scrum masters or project managers looking to create the perfect burndown chart for your team? Then the next section is for you.
How to Create a Burndown Chart
Creating a burndown chart is no rocket science, but it does involve some level of technicality. Here’s how to make a burndown chart in Google Sheets in three simple steps.
Step #1: Estimate Efforts
The first step of creating a burndown chart begins with creating an accurate dataset. And the foremost thing when preparing a dataset is estimating the efforts needed to achieve the goals of the sprint.
You can use this as your ideal burndown line, i.e., the estimated time to complete a sprint. We recommend using SMART criteria to determine your end goals and task velocity.
Setting SMART goals means your efforts should be:
- Specific to the project
- Measurable and quantifiable using KPIs
- Achievable by the team in the timeframe
- Relevant to your or your client’s needs
- Time-bound: set a deadline for the completion of your project
For example, let’s say your goal is to complete your sprint in 14 days with 112 hours of work. That boils down to 8 hours of work per day.
We’ve taken hours as a measurement here; you can associate tasks with a different quantifiable workload, expressed in days or story points as well.
In the case of software development, these tasks can take the form of product backlog items, which are features that need to be integrated into the final product.
Step #2: Build a Dataset
Next, let’s put everything under a dataset. In our dataset, we have the following:
- Dates with respect to the days in the sprint
- Ideal workload or burndown
- Actual burndown corresponding to the dates
Step #3: Insert a Burndown Chart
Next, select the entire dataset and click on Insert > Chart.
Google Sheets will generate a default chart for the dataset. But don’t worry; it will also open up a Chart Editor in the right sidebar. To change the default chart to a burndown chart, click on the Chart Type dropdown in the chart editor.
Select Line chart from the chart type, and your burndown chart will appear.
Step #4: Customize Your Burndown Chart
Don’t quit the chart editor yet!
Click on Customize beside the Setup tab to change the look and feel of your chart.
The section has ample customization options. You can make the burndown lines look smoother, change line and background colors, redo fonts and titles, and more.
You’re probably thinking all this is good, but how do we use this chart to the fullest?
How to Use a Burndown Chart?
As we said, a burndown chart is effective only if tracked and monitored regularly.
And so, each day, the scrum master or product manager will review and update the data for the number of tasks completed and remaining in the dataset.
Meanwhile, they can analyze past performance and can add or remove tasks based on events occurring during the development process.
This information and the iterations are then fed into the dataset to give a real-time representation of the progress left to make.
Once you’ve got an up-to-date burndown chart, you can use it further to analyze your project progress. The burndown chart consists of two lines: the blue line and the red line.
The blue line represents the “ideal” burndown, which is the planned rate of completion of tasks, and the red line represents the “actual” burndown, which is the real rate of completion of tasks.
If the red line is above the blue line, it means that the team is progressing slower than planned, and if the red line is below the blue line, it means that the team is progressing faster than planned.
Project owners can use this information to identify the leading and lagging indicators of the sprint.
For example, by looking at the burndown chart, a project manager can foresee the delay in progress due to excessive workload or lower productivity. Hence, they might implement immediate strategies or allocate more resources to fasten the process.
Burndown Chart Templates
Let’s now look at some templates you can use to create a burndown chart for your reference.
The Burndown Chart template from Miro is a visual tool designed to help project managers and teams track progress and manage workloads.
The template provides a clear and concise overview of project progress over time, allowing teams to identify potential bottlenecks or areas for improvement.
Some key features of this template include the ability to:
- Customize the chart based on the needs of your project
- Add annotations or notes to specific points on the chart
- Track progress against specific milestones or goals
The template is easy to use and can be shared with team members or stakeholders, making it an ideal tool for collaborative projects or remote teams.
The Agile burndown chart template from EdrawMax is a comprehensive and customizable organizational chart template. It provides a pre-designed and visually appealing structure for businesses to outline their organization’s hierarchy and departments.
The template’s key features include its versatility and customization options. Moreover, its user-friendly interface makes it easy to add or remove elements from the chart, such as titles, roles, and departments, as well as change the style and layout of the chart.
Besides, it allows you to add photos and contact information for each individual, making it a valuable resource for companies to share with employees and stakeholders.
It’s a powerful template for businesses looking to improve communication and streamline operations by visualizing their organizational structure.
The Sprint Burndown Chart template from Visme is a powerful tool that helps agile teams track progress throughout a project’s sprint cycle. Here’re a few things we liked about the template:
- Fully customizable template allows users to tailor the chart’s design and format to fit their needs.
- Easy to use with drag-and-drop functionality that allows users to input data and visualize progress quickly and efficiently.
- Put-up annotations and notes to provide contexts as well as additional information, such as the total amount of work that needs to be completed, the team’s capacity, or any significant milestones or events that may impact the sprint cycle
Burndown charts have become a common practice in Agile development teams and scrum methodology. Knowing how to utilize a burndown chart to the fullest can eventually help you better manage complex projects.
In this article, we tried covering every aspect of a burndown chart. And by now, you know there’s no one-for-all concept when creating burndown charts.
So, what are you considering when creating a burndown chart – time, workload, or story points? Decide then and then go on to the burndown chart designing phase.