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Burndown charts – a easy and powerful way to depict progress in the Scrum environment

So what is a Burndown chart ? Seems a slightly weird name as compared to other documents whose names are more descriptive. Well, you will find that this name is also fairly descriptive. The burndown chart is a way to show the progress in a Sprint cycle, and differs radically from the milestone based progress tracking used in other methodologies. So what is a burn down chart ?
Well, a burn down chart tries to display progress in term of what’s remaining versus the time left in the Sprint cycle. At the start of the Sprint cycle, the team would have committed to a certain number of tasks in the current Sprint with the Story Points for each task defined (and thus you know the total amount of points available as well). As time progresses, the team would start completing the tasks, and the number of Story points remaining to be done would keep on decreasing. The amount of remaining Story points to be done by the end of the Sprint is captured in a Burn down chart. The advantage of doing the representation graphically is that it is very quick to make a deduction fro the graph as to whether the team is on track or not; and if the team can view them Burn Down chart on a regular basis, they will also be able to make the same calculation easily. The graph is a plot between the effort and time required, with the effort on the Y-axis, and the time on the X-axis.
In the Burn Down chart, there will be 2 plots, one showing the ideal decrease in Story points over the time period, with the reduction coming to 0 at the exact end point, and the other plot shows how the team is doing for the same time period. Minor variations can be fine, but if it becomes clear that the plot varies distinctly from the idea line, then some effort and planning needs to happen. Given that the Burn Down chart is updated at regular intervals, any deviation from the proposed number of features can be quickly caught and then action taken. However, one needs to be careful of the temptation to measure team performance linked to these charts, since there can be many factors that determines whether the team can meet the ideal curve (for example, if it were determined that the effort for a particular task was under-estimated because of any number of reasons; then the effort available for the total number of tasks will reduce).
Burn down charts provide an excellent way to portray the status of the team in terms of the number of tasks that they can do in the given Sprint, and the same can be used to depict the status on an almost day by day level (in our place, we calculate the burn down chart once every 2 days, and then show the graph at strategic locations around the office so that the current status is pretty clear to everyone).

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