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All About Release Burndown Chart

In the current day & age, Scrum has been implemented in most organizations around the world because it's one of the easiest frameworks to learn & understand. And with the increasing usage of Scrum nowadays, it has become extremely essential for most Developers practicing Scrum to understand the various types of Burndown charts. In case you're not aware, Burndown charts are tracking tools used by the Scrum team to not only develop but also efficiently deliver the intended results. 

Scrum teams generally use the Release Burndown chart to not only communicate but also track their overall progress throughout the Release lifetime. It's a must-have tool especially for Scrum teams to quickly monitor the overall scope of the product while also maintaining a schedule for their release progress (although the Scrum Framework doesn't specify explicit use of Burndown charts). Furthermore, it also helps teams to compare the planned work versus the obtained work in a measurable format. 

What is the Release Burndown chart?

Usually, a Burndown chart of any kind helps in representing a proper measurement between the actual performance versus the planned performance, in a measurable format. 

In this case, a Release Burndown chart can be defined as a tracking tool that focuses on measuring the release efforts of the Scrum team across every release cycle. Therefore, in simple words, the Release Burndown chart tracks all the team progress carried out during the product release or development. 

The chart is measured graphically where the y-axis will show the story hours or points versus the x-axis which will show the time used by the Scrum team members, i.e. the number of Sprints. 

By using a Release Burndown report, you'll be able to learn about the following aspects:
  • Know & see how quickly your team is working through the entire backlog of the Release
  • Know & see how much work is added as well as removed during the Sprint, which will affect the overall progress of your release
  • Finally, predict the number of Sprints (or time) that your team will require to complete the product for a Release (based on the changes made during the Sprints and also on the past Sprints made by the team).
Why use release Burndown charts?

Release Burndown charts are crucial because it helps the Scrum team to instantaneously track the overall progress of the tasks that are being worked on in that particular release. 

As these charts are updated frequently by Product Owners, they can be used to quickly predict whether the Scrum team will be able to attain the product release goal that they have agreed to complete. 

What information is shown in the Release Burndown chart?
  • Ideal Work

It shows the actual (or estimated) amount of effort which is remaining for the team to Burndown. Denoted by a straight line from the top of the y-axis to the x-axis. 

  • Real Work

It shows the amount of remaining effort differing on an everyday basis. The line shows a downward spike when a task is completed (or less work to be done) and an upward spike when a task is added (more work to be done). 

How to read a Release Burndown chart?

From the above image, it can be easily seen that the Release Burndown chart has multiple points of interest. The y-axis shows the story points, which tell the amount of work that is to be completed in the project. On the other hand, the x-axis will show the Sprints, which shows the amount of time to be taken by the team to complete the Release. 

The point at the farthest left denotes the starting point of the project while the point at the farthest right denotes the ending point of the project.

Ideal work line

This is a straight line that connects the y-axis to the x-axis and denotes the total amount of work that is needed to complete the Scrum project. This ideal effort line is purely based on theoretical estimations and therefore is not accurate at all times. 

Real work line

This is a hazard line that shows the real remaining work required to complete the project. In the beginning, both the real effort and ideal effort line remain the same. But, as the projects start to take off, the real effort tends to fluctuate - either above or below the ideal effort. 

If the real effort line is above the ideal effort line, it means that there's more work left to be done than it was originally thought to be, during the ideal effort estimation process. But, if the real effort line goes below the ideal effort line, then it means that less work is left to be done and the Release is ahead of the schedule. 

The upward spike in the real effort line also denotes any changes made to the project time frame or solving any product related issues, which will easily take up more time than what was estimated earlier. 

What are the Merits of using a Release Burndown chart:

One of the obvious advantages of using a Burndown chart is that - it helps in providing an updated status report on the overall progress of the Release. Since the Release Burndown chart is all about showing the data in terms of visual representation, the chart helps in keeping everyone on the same page. 

Moreover, since the chart is available for anyone on the team to see, it helps in keeping the team members encouraged and involved at the same time - so that they deal with any issues before they become massive problems affecting the progression of the product. The bigger the chart, the better it will be for the team to extract all the information. The chart should always act as the focal point of the workplace so that any team conversation should be redirected towards the product as well as its progress. 

Additionally, the Release Burndown chart is highly helpful, especially because of its overall simplicity. The chart will show the overall velocity of the project (velocity in agile refers to the estimated total effort versus the real effort completed during an iteration).

So, to summarise, the gains of the Release Burndown chart are as follows:
  • Shows the overall progress of the Release based on the involved Sprints.
  • Easy visualization of the product progress
  • Motivates the Scrum team to work better
  • Shows any issues discovered during the product and the actions are taken on them for solving
  • Allows the team to focus on the correct pathway
What are the demerits of the Release Burndown chart?

The primary limitation of a Release Burndown chart is that - it doesn't reveal everything that's taking place throughout the product lifecycle. For instance, any change in the Release Burndown chart doesn't reveal the reason for the same. Such a limiting factor can prevent the overall transparency of the work. 

Moreover, the Release Burndown chart doesn't reveal whether the Scrum team is working on the correct thing. The chart only shows the trend of the progress. But, tracking progress will not suggest whether time & effort are spent appropriately. 

Lastly, Release Burndown charts always rely on good estimations. The ideal effort line is based on assumptions and whether the real effort line goes below or under the ideal work line depends on the accuracy estimations undertaken when creating the ideal effort line. That means, if the estimates are inaccurate, then the chart will show grave misappropriation based on the ideal vs real effort comparison. 


At the end of the heyday, it can be easily seen that a Release Burndown chart for any organisation out there would be advantageous in maintaining a smart & steady approach in getting the job done and obtaining the product goal. Progress can be identified easily and any obstacles can be solved beforehand so that those obstacles don't become a hindrance to the overall procedure. 

Presently, the entire IT industry is brimming with multiple resources that help in the implementation of Burndown charts on any number of open-ended projects. Thus, there's no excuse for not utilising the benefits of Release Burndown charts available at your disposal. 

Usefull Links:

How To Organize Agile Teams?Advanced CSPO Course Training OmahaAdvanced Scrum Master Certification HobartA-CSPO Certification Training PerthSAFe Agilist Course Training HamburgAdvanced Certified Product Owner Online Training WashingtonSAFe Agilist Online Certification MadisonDay In The Life Of A Product OwnerLeading SAFe Online Course CincinnatiCSM Vs PMI ACP



Is a passionate learner and blogger on Agile, Scrum and Scaling areas. She has been following and practicing these areas for several years and now converting those experiences into useful articles for your continuous learning.