Sprint Burndown Chart in Scrum: Example & Overview

Instructor: Olga Bugajenko

Olga is a registered PRINCE2 Practitioner and has a master's degree in project management.

Every project management method needs a tool for monitoring performance. One of the most popular tools for monitoring project progress and tracking team performance in Scrum is a burndown chart. Explore the Sprint Burndown Chart to learn how work is tracked in Scrum.

Burndown Chart

One of the most popular tools for monitoring project progress and tracking team performance in Scrum is a burndown chart. In this lesson, we will take a closer look at a Sprint Burndown Chart, which tracks task completion and work remaining within each sprint. In Scrum, a sprint is a two to four weeks long software development process.

Let's take a look at a Scrum team at Pear, Inc. developing a new smartphone application, Kittens Of The Internet, that will display a random photo of a kitten on a user's smartphone screen every day.

During a sprint planning meeting, a sprint backlog is created, listing all project features that have to be completed within a given sprint. For each feature, a user story (or a few of those) is created, describing user experience with a new feature: what a user will see on the screen, what will happen if he clicks on a button, etc. Each story is then broken down further into tasks. All tasks to be completed during a sprint are listed in a task breakdown. The task breakdown lists a task description, its owner, its status and estimated effort i.e. how long a task is expected to take. As the sprint progresses, each team member will update the task breakdown with the status and remaining effort of all tasks he has been working on that day. Remaining effort is the time actually required to complete a task. The information in the task breakdown is then used to create the Sprint Burndown Chart.

The Sprint Burndown Chart plots the planned, or ideal, effort against the remaining effort for all unfinished tasks of the sprint. The ideal effort assumes uniform progress throughout the duration of the sprint. The x-axis of the chart shows the sprint days, while the y-axis shows the remaining effort, measured in hours, tasks or points.

Sprint Burndown Chart Example

For the creation of the Kittens Of The Internet application, the Scrum team will utilize a Sprint Burndown Chart.

First, let's calculate the total effort the team will produce during a sprint. A sprint in Pear, Inc. is always two weeks long, which means 10 working days. There are five people in this team. It is recommended to estimate a daily effort of each team member as six hours when doing the planning. This is because even though a traditional working day is usually longer, a portion of it is spent on meetings, e-mails and other urgent organizational commitments, leaving around 6 hours of effort for completing the project tasks. With five people working six hours every day during 10 days, the total effort of the sprint is 5 x 6 x 10 = 300 hours. The estimated effort of all tasks in the task breakdown for the sprint should thus add up to 300 hours.

The blue dotted line on the chart plots the ideal effort, which assumes that all tasks will be completed by the end of the sprint. This is how a Sprint Burndown Chart will look like before the start of the sprint, on day zero (0).

Sprint burndown chart

Once the sprint starts, each developer will pick a task and work on it during the first day. At the end of the day, everyone has to update the task breakdown. From the task breakdown below, we can see that Bill managed to finish creating an application icon in six hours, just as planned. John has started creating the kitten photo database, which was originally planned to take him two days (equal to 12 hours). However, although he has already spent six hours on a task, he estimates that it will require him eight more hours to finish the task , so 14 hours altogether, instead of 12. Because he is still busy with creating the database, he hasn't started creating a home page yet.

Sprint task breakdown

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