What are Burndown Charts and How to Use Them?

Updated Dec 5, 2022.

There are hardly enough hours in the day to accomplish all the tasks you want to do. As a project manager, time is a constraint you have to factor in when managing projects.

With clearer and better data readily available to you, you can easily follow your project schedule and deliver project deliverables on time and within your budget limits.

If you want to effectively manage your projects, you need to use data visualization tools such as statistics, graphical illustrations, and burndown charts to efficiently visualize your project data.

These data visualization tools encourage easy and clear communication and collaboration between every project stakeholder and the project team.

In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about using burndown charts.

Let’s get started.

What are Burndown Charts?

A burndown chart is a graphical representation of the amount of time and work completed and left undone in a project. In project management, time management is a key element that every project manager is very keen on.

Burndown charts are simply outstanding work charts that show how far the team has gone in achieving its goal. There are two variants of burndown charts.

  • The Sprint Burndown Chart: An illustration of the work remaining in a phase
  • The Product Burndown Chart: A visual explanation of the entire project.

These burndown charts are very useful tools that can be used to predict when a project can be completed. You can use productivity tools to burndown charts.

Burndown charts can serve as a check through which organizations can see their weaknesses and strengths. They also provide accountability and give recognition to hardworking team members. These charts show the rise, the highs, and lows of the project team’s efforts and updates on any changes made on the project.

When the chart shows a peak in the project, this can help detect and celebrate milestones achieved. Also, when the chart shows a drop, this will help the project team to quickly make adjustments to correct the drop.

Project Burndown chart
Source: Metal Toad

How to Use Burndown Charts in an Agile Project

You need to have foundational knowledge on how to read a burndown chart to extract the information it gives. A burndown chart provides the total amount of time required for a project, the time left in every phase of the project, the task achieved, and the effort of the team.

There are several ways you can use the burndown chart in agile project management.

1. Set Your Team’s Estimation Statistic

Estimation statistic is the speed at which a team works towards their goal. This is very useful as a team’s particular speed for a project can be used to determine or predict how much work they can take on.

To set your team’s estimation statistic, you can make use of story points to understand and estimate work in a time format.

This will help the project team to know how much work to bring into the sprint. You can do this by splitting product backlog items into small tasks and estimating them during sprint planning.

Sequence of Activities During the Spring Planning
Source: Scrum.org

2. Estimate Your Issues

An estimate is a rough sketch, calculation, or an idea of the process of achieving a project. This also refers to predictions given to a client about the project. To estimate your issues, you have to measure the size of the team’s backlog and individual work as well.

Every project manager has to have an estimate of every part of the project, from the estimated time to the estimated budget to the estimated result of the project.

There are different techniques you can use to estimate your issues.

  • Time
  • Cost
  • Scope
  • Risk and resources

3. Track Team Progress with Burndown Charts

To manage projects successfully, project managers need to track the progress of every sector. The importance of this is to carry everyone along and not go off track on the project.

Tracking of progress is very essential in every project. Doing this leaves room for corrections and quick management of errors. This can be used to track the work left in the sprint and to illustrate the chances of achieving the sprint goals.

Many project teams do not meet their goals or estimation. By tracking the progress of the team, you can quickly put necessary actions in place to stay on track. You can use project tracking tools such as Monday.com, ClickUp, Wrike, Teamwork, and Zoho Project to track your project progress.

Tracking your team’s progress with burndown charts will show how your team is progressing, how they react to scope creep, and how it has affected their progress. It will also predict how many sprints it will take to complete tasks based on past sprints and changes made during the sprints.

Components of a Burndown Chart

A burndown chart has many components which give an overview of progress while completing a project.

  • Time is a very important component of a burndown chart. This chart shows the relationship between time and the amount of work left.
  • Work left to complete is the total number of task estimates that the project team is yet to start or finish.
  • The start point, which is also known as the estimated work, is the sum of a task in a project within the estimated time.
  • The finish point is the calculated time you will finish or complete the task.
  • Estimated tasks remaining is the sum of the average task needed per day or that can be achieved.
  • The actual tasks remaining are a visual representation of what your team should be updated on to examine their progress against estimation.
  • Ahead of schedule is when your team has completed more work than the estimated task result and is way ahead of schedule.
  • Behind schedule is when the team has completed less work than estimated and is behind schedule.

Benefits of Using Burndown Charts

  • Provides Project Status Reports: The most important benefit of a burndown chart is that it gives a status report on the progress of a project. This is significant because it gives a visual representation that provides a clear understanding of the whole project. Burndown charts provide a lot of information on the project and create a comparison between what has been achieved and what is left.
  • Keeps Everyone On the Same Page: Burndown charts help to ensure that every member of the project team is on the same page on the project’s progress. It also provides a guideline that keeps everyone focused and organized towards attaining the goal(s) of the project.
  • Source of Encouragement: These charts can serve as a source of encouragement to the project team. It encourages them to be productive as they can clearly see the results of their work efforts. This can be a form of motivation for the team.
  • Foster Team Collaboration: Breakdown charts help unite the project team and serve as a source of communication and interaction between team members.

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Anastasia Belyh

Editor at FounderJar

Anastasia has been a professional blogger and researcher since 2014. She loves to perform in-depth software reviews to help software buyers make informed decisions when choosing project management software, CRM tools, website builders, and everything around growing a startup business.

Anastasia worked in management consulting and tech startups, so she has lots of experience in helping professionals choosing the right business software.