A burndown chart is an illustrated projection of ideal software development time against the actual progress made by developers.
Software development takes a lot of time. A team of software developers will spend many cumulative hours sitting on their desks and coding just to finish a single project. If they don’t manage their time wisely, it could lead to the software release being delayed or overworking to meet the deadline. With agile software development, time management becomes easier thanks to an array of tools and methodologies. One of these tools is the burndown chart.
In this article, we’ll discuss what is a burndown chart, its pros and cons, and how to create a burndown chart in Excel.
What is a Burndown Chart?
A burndown chart is a chart that displays the work done versus the amount of time left in a project. Burndown charts see use in agile software development methodologies. Overall, it’s a useful tool in predicting whether a piece of software will be completed in time for release.
To better understand a burndown chart, we first need to define agile software development.
Agile Software Development
Agile refers to the ability to effectively respond to change. When applied to software development, it becomes a framework and set of practices designed to better respond to unforeseen circumstances—such as timeline delays, unexpected bugs, etc. In essence, the idea of agile software development is to promote a flexible work environment.
Some practices of agile software development include:
- Scrum – A framework of development that promotes an agile mindset. This is done through constant team collaboration and planning.
- Continuous Integration (CI) – the practice of merging each developer’s work into a single build in regular intervals.
- Behavior Driven Development (BDD) – In agile software development, BDD is a process that encourages participation from every member of the development process. BDD practices get input from software developers, testers, to even project managers to create a consensus on how the software will behave and perform.
Agile software development promotes a flexible and collaborative development cycle, and a burndown chart is a tool that helps facilitate agile practices.
To give you a better idea of how a burndown chart works, let’s elaborate on the components of the chart:
- Dates – The x-axis represents the timeline for software development. It starts on the 1st of March and ends on the 11th.
- Tasks – The y-axis represents the number of tasks left.
- Planned – The blue line represents the planned timeline for tasks. There are 10 tasks remaining on the 1st. Tasks are completed one-a-day and are finished on the 11th.
- Actual – The red line shows the actual number of tasks completed by developers. They are ahead of schedule on the 2nd but fall behind during the 4th til the 6th.
With the help of a burndown chart, you can predict whether your team will complete development within the allotted timeframe.
Pros and Cons of Using Burndown Charts
Burndown charts have a variety of advantages that make them powerful allies in ensuring timely delivery. Of course, they also have their downsides, too. Knowing both can help you use burndown charts where they’re most effective.
A burndown chart can help keep your team on schedule. Through the adoption of the burndown chart, your team gets benefits like:
- It gives you an easy to understand diagram of team progress
- The chart can alert you of potential delays due to lack of progress in certain areas
- It can be a motivational tool showing completion percent versus remaining work
With that said, it’s not free of downsides.
A burndown chart is a useful tool for keeping track of team progress. However, it has certain limitations, including:
- It only shows completed work and doesn’t show the status of in-progress tasks
- The chart can lead to overblown expectations due to planned progress
- It doesn’t account for more difficult tasks that take longer to complete
If you keep these limitations in mind and compensate for them with other tools, a burndown chart can still be a great tool to track development progress.
How to Create A Burndown Chart In Excel
Now, let’s learn how to put one together. With the help of tools like Excel, Google Sheets, or other programs, it’s a simple task. Here are the steps for making a burndown chart:
Step 1: Input the Data
The first step to making a chart is to input the necessary data. You need to input all the labels and variables. The sheet needs to contain:
- The labels – tasks, dates, month, day, etc
- The projected effort – Your ideal timeline of work
- The actual effort – What your team actually accomplished
Your data input should look something like this:
Once you’ve jotted the data, you can move on to the next step.
Step 2: Create the Table
Once the data is transcribed to the program, the difficult portion is over. All you need to do now is execute the following in order:
- Highlight the relevant data – in this case, from cell B2 to D13
- Click the Insert tab
- Go to the chart section and select line charts
- Select the first line chart
After following these steps, a burndown chart will be created within the program.
Burndown Chart: Facilitating Agile Software Development
Software development is a process that takes a lot of effort and time. By transitioning your team to agile software development methods, you can facilitate the procedure. With the help of a burndown chart, you and your team can quickly start adjusting to an agile framework.