Burndown chart in agile — Some good things to do with it

Naveen Kumar Singh
Published in
6 min readFeb 8, 2022
Burndown Chart

Remember when you wished you had enough time to complete all your project, release, or sprint work within the working hours? We all make plans to achieve a specific goal on time but struggle to keep track of our goals over the period. It is where burndown charts come into the picture. In Scrum, each sprint is a project with a clear sprint goal.

In this fast-paced business, teams try to learn the outcome of their forecasted work as fast as possible to help the organization stay on top. In addition, teams must remain productive throughout. And to do this, they require transparent information about the work progress and remaining work. Burndown charts help to do this without much hassle.

A burndown chart recognizes completed work in the agile or Scrum framework by measuring the work completion. Teams can use the burndown chart in the stand-up/daily Scrum meetings to understand how they work in the current sprint. Teams can also use this chart to record their velocity and predict their performance. So, without further ado, let’s get started with the burndown chart’s what and how.

What is the Burndown Chart: The Definition

A Burndown Chart visualizes a graph that assesses how much work a scrum team has done and work remaining at any given point in time. It is a tool for developers in Scrum to facilitate discussion. It is managed by developers to inspect and adapt the progress daily. Because of its appealing visual format, team members can understand this chart easily. In addition, it uses to summarize a thorough description of a feature from an end-user perspective. That’s why you can update the chart only after completing a user story or associated sub-tasks.

A burndown chart contains the vertical Y-axis and the horizontal X-axis. With the vertical axes, you can show the amount of work that needs to be done by your team. And the horizontal axis implies the available time in the sprint/ release/ project completion.

In many burndown charts, you’ll witness a colored or dotted line representing the remaining work. This line estimates the team members’ performance by measuring their past performance. One of the essential features of this line is its constant slope. The burndown chart is available for everyone to visualize the forecast. It ensures that everyone related to the project is on the same page about its progress. You can update this chart regularly to avoid any unnecessary obstruction.

Now that you know all the basic definitions of a burndown chart, let’s move on to the next point– variations of the burndown chart.

What are the Variations of the Burndown Chart?

The burndown chart comes with three different variations. These are Sprint Burndown, Release Burndown, and Product burndown. Let’s discuss these two variations in detail below:

  • Sprint Burndown Chart: The sprint burndown charts depict how many tasks are completed and how many remain in the ongoing sprints. The sprint burndown chart displays user stories selected by the team in the sprint planning session.
Sprint Burndown in Jira
  • Product Burndown Chart: Product burndown charts can visualize the entire product; in short, it looks at the big picture. It shows how much work remains for your team to match the product goals. The vertical axis displays the product backlog items in the burndown chart, while the horizontal axis implies the sprint numbers.
  • Release Burndown Chart: This burndown chart is responsible for tracking all the progress made by your scrum team during the product development to track releases. The vertical axis of the chart depicts the hours or story points. On the other hand, the horizontal axis represents the number of sprints.

In most cases, teams use both the product/release and sprint burndown to measure their team’s performance. In agile teams, one of the primary reasons to use burndown charts is that it represents a product team’s work velocity with clarity.

Here’s a pro tip: You can easily calculate your team’s velocity. Just divide the completed amount of work (story points) by the number of sprints. If you want to enhance your team member’s work velocity, encourage them to discuss impediments as frequently. Impediments are the biggest blocker for team productivity, and removing them helps the team stay productive.

How Can You Read a Burndown Chart?

Reading a burndown chart should be your top priority if you care about the Scrum team’s productivity. This habit will help you track your team’s activity and improve their productivity. Here’s how you can read a burndown chart:

  • First, look at the X (the current iteration of the project timeline) and Y-axis(remaining work for the entire project) in your burndown chart.
  • Now identify whether you have tasks, work hours, or story points represented in the Y-axis or not. Similarly, identify if you have weeks, days, or months represented in the X-axis.
  • You have to identify the ideal line, a projected slope. This line works as a guide to let you know what the team’s work progress would look like in an ideal world.
  • With this line, you can gauge your team’s performance. This will help you know whether your team is working ahead of the deadline or moving behind.

If your team is perfectly organized and completes the entire project on time, the chart will illustrate a perfect scenario. Remember chasing the perfect scenario and pushing for it may lead to too many dysfunctions within the Scrum Team. Your team will require no adjustments in this case. In another scenario, if your agile team starts their work slowly but manages to complete the sprint on time, it will illustrate a decent scenario. In this case, your team can make a few adjustments during their sprint meetings so that they can complete the entire task on time.

What Benefits You can get from a Burndown Chart?

Burndown chart is one of the most effective tools for an agile team. However, this tool comes with many advantages and a few disadvantages. Here, we’ll start discussing the benefits first:

  1. One of the essential benefits of using a burndown chart is its simplicity. Your team can easily understand the chart to keep an eye on the team members’ work progress. With burndown charts, don’t have to scratch their heads in confusion while looking at the math-driven, complex scrum diagrams.
  2. As the developers regularly update the chart, they can easily identify the obstacles and prevent them from occurring beforehand. If the scrum master identifies an impediment, they can address it to develop a powerful solution in the scrum meetings.
  3. Burndown charts are not only easy to understand, but also they are easy to create. With the chart, you can effortlessly monitor the project history, velocity, and trajectory of the whole project.
  4. Burndown charts can work excellently as your team’s motivator. When the team witnesses their daily progress in the chart, they can improve their performance. Thus, you don’t have to worry about your projects’ success and performance reports.

Burndown charts have multiple benefits to offer for your scrum team. But, that doesn’t mean this chart is free from any flaws. For instance, burndown charts will represent all the completed story points in the iteration or project but won’t represent the changes that happened during the completion of story points.

Another limitation of the burndown chart is its high dependency on better sprint planning. If you have poor planning, then the chart will give the wrong measurements. That means if you’ve overestimated the time requirements, your team will feel they are way ahead of their actual schedule. Similarly, underestimated time requirements will leave your team behind the project deadline.

How Can You Create a Burndown Chart?

You can create the burndown chart during the sprint planning and after the task breakdown. You can use the Excel Spreadsheet with two axes- X and Y to craft a burndown chart. Also, you can take help from agile tools and software to create burndown charts without much hassle. Here are some tools you can use to craft the burndown chart:

Key Takeaways

Burndown charts are extremely convenient tools for your scrum team. When it comes to tracking a team’s work progress, you can easily rely on this chart. From improving your project to keeping your clients in the loop, burndown charts can work like a charm in everything!

In recent times, every company has efficiently used burndown charts on their projects. However, if you are one of those organizations that haven’t implemented a burndown chart for your work or projects, then it’s time to give it a shot. And don’t forget to share your experience of using burndown charts in the comments below.



Naveen Kumar Singh

Agile Coach and Professional Scrum Trainer (PST) @Agilemania, Servant leader @Agile 30 and Developer @GitHub, Ranting @LinkedIn & an Artist @YouTube