Is your Burn Down Chart burning correctly?


“How is your project going?” This is the basic question that people generally ask. How can you have the basic idea of the well being of a project without deep diving into further details? Some people have an urgency if the project will be done on time. Some have a fixed scope and want to get it done asap. Some people look for an early sign to assess the risk. But ultimately it’s the reassurance that they seek for what they want.

Burn Down Chart is one of the most important metrics to assess the health of an agile scrum project.

As per Wiki, A burn down chart is a graphical representation of work left to do versus time. The outstanding work (or backlog) is often on the vertical axis, with time along the horizontal. That is, it is a Run chart of outstanding work. It is useful for predicting when all of the work will be completed.

To read a burn down chart:

  • Imagine an “ideal” line running diagonally from the top left to the bottom right corner.
  • Some burndown charts actually have this line indicated on the chart.
  • The ideal line represents the required burndown to reach the goal.
  • The actual burndown line can be compared against this line to provide a simple measure of the progress of the project.
  • If the actual line is above the ideal line the project is behind schedule.
  • If the actual line is below the ideal line the project is ahead of schedule.

Think of a Burndown chart as a plane landing on the ground which has a straight analogy with the ideal burndown chart. There are 4 factors that are responsible for a successful landing:

  1. Velocity of the plane
  2. Quality or the health of the plane
  3. Sustainable pace
  4. Direction

Let us focus on each point one by one.

  1. When we have all the items listed under product back- log , the speed with which the team finishes off the task helps in determining the end date correctly. If not, then it will delay the project. Similarly if there is an issue with plane’s velocity, then it will not a perfect landing.
  2. Quality of a deliverable is directly related to Customer Satisfaction. Similarly, if the plane has faulty parts, the landing might be jerky or it might land but can result in an explosion. The passengers might not safe and satisfied even after a successful landing.
  3. If the Team overworks for certain weeks then it has an impact on the following weeks. You cannot expect the same productivity from a person who slogs week on week. Hard work doesn’t mean good work. On the same grounds, a plane has to maintain a sustainable pace , it cannot just increase or decrease its pace whenever required.
  4. A plane should land in a specific direction. Similarly a correct direction is required to execute a project properly. In the absence of which the project will go haywire.

All the above factors impact the ideal Burndown chart and should be monitored and controlled properly. Only then we can be sure that the Burn-Down is burning properly.


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