Practical Application: Burn Up & Burndown Charts in Scrum

Instructor: Scott Tuning

Scott has been a faculty member in higher education for over 10 years. He holds an MBA in Management, an MA in counseling, and an M.Div. in Academic Biblical Studies.

When Scrum methodology is being used during complex project development, communicating the status of work is of paramount importance. This scenario will give you the opportunity to create a burnup and a burndown chart that will facilitate this communication.

Scrum, Sprint, Burnup, and Burndown Charts

If you are familiar with the complex product development model known as Scrum, you'll probably also remember the terms ''sprint'' and ''burnup/burndown.'' (If you want to refresh your knowledge with regard to these terms, you can visit the lesson entitled Burn Up Chart vs Burndown Chart in Scrum.)

Reviewing Scrum Terminology

Since Scrum terminology can be a little tricky, we've included a limited list of terms in the table below in case you need a quick review.

Term Meaning
Sprint A 30-day block of work containing a collection of smaller tasks
Sprint goal The end product of the sprint
Sprint backlog The collection of smaller tasks that represent the work required (As per the development team)
Burnup chart The backlog items that still need to be done
Burndown chart The backlog items that are complete and no longer in the backlog
Product backlog The sum of all the tasks (create, build, sustain, etc.) required by the product (As per the owner)

The Function of Burnup and Burndown Charts

Burnup and burndown charts are one of the ways that a Scrum methodology uses to covey important information about work. (Specifically, tasks having to do with the current sprint.) Despite the complex-sounding terminology, burnup and burndown charts are basically variations of a simple line graph that show progress, trends, and modifications to the quantity of work.

Let's look at a scenario in which you'll have an opportunity to build your own burnup and burndown charts.

Standing-Up a New Electronic Medical Record System

For this scenario, imagine that you are working with a small team on a very narrowly-scoped but complex sprint. The larger project is to stand up an electronic medical record system (EMR) in a medium-sized hospital system, but your team is working specifically on interfaces. There are more than 16 applications of varying sizes and uses that must all be integrated with the new EMR, and your current sprint goal is to design, build, and implement an interface for one of these 16 applications. For maximum applicability, let's build both the burnup and burndown charts with the assumption that you are 15 days into your 30 day sprint.

  • From this position in the sprint, will you be creating a burnup chart, a burndown chart, or both?
  • How do you know this already despite the fact that your scenario has minimal information in it at this point?

If you answered that you'll be building both charts, you're right! You know this for a fact because we've noted that you're 15 days into a 30 day sprint. Since a burnup chart shows work remaining and a burndown chart shows work completed, the 15th day of the sprint will have 15 days of burndown and 15 days of burnup to document in your chart.

Raw Data for the Sprint

The table below contains raw, not-yet-organized information that you'll need in order to build your charts.

Remaining Backlog Items Pts Completed Backlog Items Pts
Phase 1 Testing 3 System diagrams 7
Technical documentation 5 Creation of build environment 11
Acceptance testing 9 Creation of test environment 11
Quality control testing 6 Integration analysis 7
Database optimization 3 Database creation 19
End-of-sprint tasks 1 Beginning of sprint tasks 1
Go-Live 11 Creation of production environment 11

This table contains the estimated historical points for the burnup chart and the remaining person hours for the burndown.

Burnup Data

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