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Burn-down Chart Vs Burn-up Chart

Introduction

There’s no doubt that both the Burn-up as well as the Burn-down charts are considered to be the two main types of charts that are widely utilized by Scrum Teams, especially when it comes to the tracking of product progress. Product Managers tend to use these charts to not only track but also communicate the overall progress of the products that they’re working on. It should be known that each of these charts is used differently and serves a specific set of requirements. For instance, a Burn-down chart is used to learn about the work that is left to be done, while the Burn-up chart is used to show the work that has been already completed along with the total amount of work. 

Therefore, when it comes to measuring the progress of a product, both burn up, as well as Burn-down charts, are utilized, even though the Scrum framework doesn’t prescribe Burn-up & Burn-down charts explicitly. But, which one tends to be more significant when it comes to actual real-world usage? Let’s find out. 

 

What is a Burn-up chart?

A Burn-up chart is defined as a tool that is used in Scrum & Agile-based products that helps in the visual representation of a Scrum Team’s overall progress of the work that they’re doing. The chart will help in showcasing the total scope of the product along with the work that has been completed so far. 

It should also be known that tracking can also be carried out at Release & Sprint levels. Developers use Sprint Burn-up & Burn-down charts, while Product Owners use release Burn-up & Burn-down charts.

 

Benefits of a Burn-up chart

  • Easy to comprehend and simple for controlling projects/releases
  • Shows the inclusion of any changes to the product life cycle
  • An overview of the amount of work that has already been done
  • Know whether the product is on schedule for completion
  • Helps in communicating with stakeholders
  • Assists in forecasting the product timeline including the conclusion

 

What is a Burn-down chart?

A Burn-down chart is defined as a visualisation tool, also used in Scrum & Agile-based products, that helps in determining how much work is left to be done and the time remaining for the same. The graphical representation helps in predicting the method that the Scrum Team plans to undertake in completing the product within the current allotted time. 

 

Benefits of a Burn-down chart

  • Comprehensible & simple way for controlling Sprints
  • An overview of the amount of work that is still yet to be completed
  • Helps in recognising risks via daily updates
  • Assists in knowing the speed & ability of the Scrum Team
  • Helps in learning whether the Scrum Team is on schedule for product completion
  • Acts as a means of communication with the stakeholders

 

How does a Burn-down chart work?

Burn-down charts tend to be very effective, as visual tools, when it comes to demonstrating the amount of work that is to be done before the completion of a project. These charts help the viewer to obtain a close summary of the progress of any product, at any moment. They are very easy to use and understand, which makes them a great tool to communicate with the stakeholders & product teams, regarding the overall status of the product. 

With the help of Burn-down charts, you’ll be able to understand the relationship between two crucial pieces of information. When represented in a graphical format, the vertical axis shows the work that is to be completed. The work description will depend on the industry in which the chart is represented. For instance, in the software & technology industry, the work description will be in story points. In other industries, the work description can be based on several specific tasks. Alternatively, the horizontal axis will represent the amount of time it will take for the product team to complete the defined tasks. The measuring unit that’s used is days. 

In a Burn-down chart, a line is plotted down the vertical axis, showing the actual burnout rate of the Scrum Team, at which the tasks are being completed. In addition to that, a secondary line is plotted, which shows the ideal burnout rate that is expected from the Scrum Team. Thus, a Burn-down chart shows the remaining amount of work that is left for the Scrum Team to be completed. 

 

How does a Burn-up chart work?

Essentially, a Burn-up chart seems to be an inverted Burn-down chart. However, a Burn-up chart offers a piece of very crucial information that a Burn-down chart doesn’t offer, which we will shortly get to that in a moment. 

Both the axes in a Burn-up & Burn-down chart are the same. The only difference is that – the Burn-up chart showcases the amount of work that is completed along the way, instead of showing the remaining amount of work. The main focus of a Burn-up chart is to show how much work the team has completed throughout the product life cycle. 

The Burn-up chart also shows the ideal Burn-up rate, similar to the Burn-down chart. But, there’s one vital piece of data that the Burn-down chart doesn’t show and the Burn-up chart does show, i.e. Burn-up charts show a scope line that simply tracks the time at which tasks are removed or added.

Thus, Burn-up charts tend to be advantageous for products which tend to add additional tasks during their lifecycle. 

 

Similarities between a Burn-up & Burn-down chart

 

Utilization Both Burn-up & Burn-down charts are commonly utilized in Scrum & Agile-based product development efforts
Remaining work measurement Both charts are capable of measuring the amount of remaining work needed to be done in a product, based on the respective completion timeframe
Understandability Both charts are simple & easy to understand. 
Creation Both Burn-up & Burn-down charts can either be created manually using pen & paper, without any hassles. Or these charts can be created using any spreadsheet program such as Microsoft Excel.

 

Differences between a Burn-up & Burn-down chart

 

  Burn-down Burn-up
Scope If a certain product tends to have a fixed scope, then it’s always a better choice to use Burn-down charts, to keep things less complicated for the viewer.  However, if the scope of a product is ever-changing and there’s a need to showcase progress at every step to the stakeholders, then it’s better to go ahead with a Burn-up chart. Burn-up charts allow showcasing progress at every step while also having the option to add more work along the way.
Information transparency Sometimes, the simplicity of Burn-down charts can also be their downside. When it comes to transparency regarding the changes of product scope, Burn-down charts are not good at showcasing the same. This is because these charts hide any information that shows any change in the timeline.  On the other hand, Burn-up charts are great at showcasing transparency regarding any changes in product scope across the entire timeline. 
Proper communication The primary goal of a Burn-down chart is for communication purposes – regarding a product’s progress to the stakeholders. However, the aforementioned notion holds only when the product timeline remains simple & straightforward. When additional tasks, requests or features are added to the product, Burn-down charts cannot measure the efficiency of the team.  Even though the main goal of a Burn-up chart is also acting as a communication tool for a product’s progress to the stakeholders, it still showcases the product scope & completed work, even when the product timeline is complicated. Thus, even when extra features or tasks are added to the product, the chart can still measure the efficiency of the team.

 

Burn-up vs Burn-down: Which is the best for your use case scenario?

When it comes to measuring the efficiency of a Scrum Team, Product Managers tend to have a lot of tools available at their disposal. Even though both of these charts are great for tracking the progress of the Scrum Team and also communicating the same to the stakeholders, deciding between the two comes down to the following two factors:

  • The target audiences

Since the Burn-down chart tends to be more basic than Burn-up charts, it’s highly appropriate for audiences who just want to know about the Product progress (at any given time) and nothing else. 

But, on the other hand, the Burn-up chart is a great tool for those audiences who want to take an in-depth look at how the Product Manager managed the entire product throughout the timeline. 

  • The product changes

Burn-down charts are usable for products which contain little to no changes in the overall number of tasks or features which are already assigned. 

Alternatively, if a product is subjected to multiple features or tasks alteration, then Burn-up charts make more sense. 

Conclusion

At the end, once you finally decide which of these charts can be advantageous for you the most, you can then start working towards integrating the same into your product lifecycle. Each of these charts will help you to update your team regularly so that you can have the team members working towards a common goal. Putting a definite number on the tasks to be completed versus the available days can indeed prove to be very motivational for your team members.

Furthermore, you must remember that both Burn-up and Burn-down charts are highly flexible, which means that they can be easily used alongside any Agile framework. Additionally, although they offer valuable data alongside a global view of the total project, these charts tend to be very easy & simple to understand. 

References

https://www.projectmanagement.com/blog-post/40731/Burndown-vs-Burnup-Chart
http://www.clariostechnology.com/productivity/blog/burnupvsburndownchart
https://www.modernanalyst.com/Careers/InterviewQuestions/tabid/128/ID/3433/What-is-a-Burn-Up-Chart-and-how-does-it-differ-from-a-Burn-Down-Chart.aspx

 

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