Why should you use a Burn-Up chart in Agile instead of a Burn-Down chart?

In agile project management, we can use either a Burn-Up chart or a Burn-Down chart to track releases or sprints’ health. These charts help the team and stakeholders understand the progress at any point of the release or sprint.

The Burn-Down chart provides you with the progress based on the remaining hours or story points from top to bottom. You will find two lines in this chart: Expected and Actual remaining. This chart is the most used by teams that work by time boxes. 

On the other hand, the Burn-Up chart shows you the progress from bottom to top. In this report, you will find three lines: Scope, Expected progress, and Actual progress.

The Burn-Up chart has one crucial advantage: It allows you to divide the scope and the progress, whereas the Burn-Down chart doesn’t allow you to visualize and identify scope changes or progress changes.

Therefore, looking at the Burn-Down chart may indicate that the team is not performing well, but the problem could be an increase in the scope of work.  

Scaled agile framework: let’s explore it with an example.

As you can see in the Burn-Down Chart below, the remaining story points for the project in sprint 5 are 226. We progressed 126 story points (from 352 remaining story points at the start to 226 remaining story points).

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In the same information represented in a Burn-Up chart below, the progress is 126 story points, as you can see in the red line. However, in this case, we have one more line which shows us the scope, which is 352 story points.

To continue with the comparison between the Burn-Down chart and the Burn-Up chart, the remaining is the same 226 story points; it is scope (352 story points) – actual (126 story points).

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As you can see, both charts show the same information but from different bonuses.

Agile development: understand the advantage of using a Burn-Up chart

In a Burn-Down chart, as you can see below, you’ll think that the team didn’t make any progress since the remaining story points for sprints five and six are the same, 226 story points. However, the team had the best agile sprint ever; because the scope increased, it didn’t show the actual velocity of the group.

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Using a Burn-Up chart during agile sprint planning lets you see what’s happening. In this case, the team recovered the delay and put the project ahead of the original plan by 26 story points.

You can see this information in the chart since the actual is 246 story points whereas the target was 220. Therefore, despite the scope changes, we can see that the team is doing well.

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The bonus of using Burn-Up Chart

Using the Burn-Up chart and the following table, you can get an estimate for completion (brown line shown in the below graph) and the deviation you have in the project. In this case, that is 94 story points (the same as you can see in the Burn-Down Chart). Ninety-four extra story points are needed from the estimate at completion (378 story points) to achieve the actual scope (472 story points). Also, you can get metrics related to scope and velocity.

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Further, you can see based on the projection that the project will finish by sprint 12, as we need 472 story points.

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Using Burn-Up charts allows for a better understanding of progress, scope change, and expected completion time. It gives a clearer picture and control to all the stakeholders.

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