What is a Burn-Up Chart & How to Read It

burn up chart

If you have decided to implement the agile methodology, the burn-up chart will be one of your best allies. It’s a straightforward insight into the real status of your project.

But wait, there’s more! If you have chosen the Scrum framework and you are sprinting your way through tasks, the burn-up chart will be by your side, showing you exactly how each sprint is going down.

This allows you to decide whether you want to change your approach or stick to it. We have prepared a text for you explaining a burn-up chart, how to create one, and its benefits.

Don’t hesitate, let’s dive in!

What is a Burn-Up Chart?

A burn-up chart is a project management tool that tracks and visualizes progress toward completing a project or achieving specific goals. It is commonly associated with agile methodologies, particularly Scrum.

The burn-up chart visually shows how much work is completed and how much still needs to be done. It helps project teams, especially project managers and other stakeholders, keep track of progress, spot trends, and make choices about the project’s direction and how to use its resources.

The burn-up chart displays two key components:

  • Completed work
  • Total work scope

The completed work is represented by a line on the chart showing the work completed over time. The total work scope is usually represented by a fixed line that indicates the initial estimation of the work required for the project.

Comparing the two lines on the chart—one for work completed and the other for the estimated total work—gives us insights into how the project is progressing.

The burn-up chart is typically created and maintained by the project manager or the Scrum master. They update it regularly based on progress, such as completing user stories or tasks. Therefore, the burn-up chart can be used at various levels, from individual sprints within agile projects to project timelines.

When Should You Use a Burn-Up Chart?

If you are applying Agile methodology, especially the Scrum framework, then the burn-up chart is the right tool for you. As stated, this tool will show where you stand in relation to set goals, and it is up to you and your team to calculate what remains to be done to achieve them.

On the other hand, you can also use the burn-up chart in different environments that rely on working in shorter time intervals to track and analyze project progress effectively.

Burn-Up Chart vs. Burn-Down Chart

Burn-up and burn-down are two sides of the same coin. While the burn-up chart shows the amount of completed work compared to the planned work, the burn-down chart illustrates the remaining work to complete the project.

To clarify, the burn-down chart is represented by a line towards 0, indicating the project’s completion. So, when the line hits 0, that means the project is done.

Burn-Up Chart vs. Burn-Down Chart

What is similar between both charts is that they are used in Agile and Scrum-based projects. Additionally, both tools are easy to use and show how much effort is required to complete the project.

The difference lies in the following aspects:

  • For the fixed project scope, it is better to use the burn-down chart due to its simplicity.
  • If the project scope is subject to changes, tracking progress is easier using the burn-up chart. In this regard, it is evident that the burn-down chart will not be transparent regarding scope changes, while the burn-up chart will be.

How to Read a Burn-Up Chart

As we know, a burn-up chart visually represents the progress of a specific project, providing a clear representation of how effectively the process is advancing. Here is an example of a burn-up chart and a simplified explanation of how to read it and understand the status of your project:

  • Timeline: The line at the bottom represents time, which can be in months, weeks, or sprints. At some point, this line will go vertically upward, representing the end of each sprint (or week and month).
  • Scope line: The vertical line represents the total workload or scope of the project. It actively signifies the planned amount of work that the team needs to complete.
  • Ideal workline: The perfect representation of completed work if everything progresses as planned. The goal is for the actual completed tasks to closely track or exceed this line, indicating that the project is on track.
  • Intersection point: The point where the workload line and timeline intersect represents the amount of work planned for one sprint or a specific time frame, such as one week.
  • Completed tasks (the progress line): The progress line starts at the beginning of the workload line and timeline (where it is zero) and shows the completed work over time. If this line moves upward, it indicates progress.

Compare the completed work line with the workload line. If the completed work line is above the workload line, you achieve better results than planned; if it is below, the opposite is true.

How to Create a Burn-Up Chart

To ensure you are always informed about the progress of completing planned tasks, create a burn-up chart to facilitate tracking your work process. Follow the next steps to create one.

#1. Define the Scope

First and foremost, you need to plan the scope of work that you need to accomplish. For Scrum frameworks, burn-up charts for the scope represent the backlog—a list of tasks created by the product owner.

Therefore, before creating the burn-up chart, prioritize and select the relevant tasks by listing them. Develop a plan consisting of key tasks crucial for project completion, such as milestones or specific features characteristic of the product or service.

#2. Estimate the Timeline

After assessing the scope of work, determine the required time to execute the planned tasks. To create an accurate burn-up chart, be realistic when determining the time duration for task execution.

The right estimation entails objectively planning how many sprints will be needed to complete the intended scope. Consider potential risks and unforeseen circumstances, as they can affect progress and extend the project timeline.

#3. Divide the Tasks

Once you have planned the time duration and scope of work, it’s time to specify the activities by assigning them to the team. To distribute tasks properly, determine the effort required for each task. You can do this by estimating the difficulty and complexity of the tasks concerning the available time.

#4. Create the Burn-Up Chart

Now, you are ready to create the burn-up chart. There are various templates available in tools, like Excel, Jira, or Google Sheets, that allow you to input the necessary data and generate the burn-up chart.

#5. Monitor & Track Changes

Project managers must monitor the burn-up chart, as it enables informed decision-making. By tracking the progress of task completion and reacting to any deviations, effective management, and successful project execution can be achieved.

In addition to tracking progress, a burn-up chart allows you to stay informed about how much has been accomplished within a given timeframe. This information enables you to make further plans, respond promptly when needed, and successfully execute your project.

Benefits of a Burn-Up Chart

Here are three significant benefits of using a burn-up chart:

#1. Keeps Track of Finished Tasks

By tracking the completion of planned activities, the burn-up chart provides real-time visibility into the progress of your project. It allows you to assess whether you are progressing according to plan, providing insights into completed tasks over time.

This information lets you make informed decisions and update project stakeholders about the project status based on concrete results.

#2. Monitors Project’s Progress

Monitoring the project’s progress using burn-up charts allows for an objective assessment of your progress. It helps promptly identify any bottlenecks or obstacles, enabling you to address them proactively.

By staying aware of the project’s status, you can make timely adjustments and keep the project on track.

#3. Provides Predictability

By visualizing completed tasks over time, you gain insights into how much work remains and estimate the time required to complete the project.

Analyzing these data allows you to predict whether you will meet your planned timeline or if adjustments are needed. This information empowers you to develop strategies to improve efficiency and productivity or inform stakeholders on time about potential project delays.

Conclusion

Suppose you have decided to accelerate your business and embrace Agile methodology. In that case, the burn-up chart is one of the tools that will undoubtedly increase the efficiency of your operations.

By visually representing what you have accomplished so far, you can analyze what has been hindering your progress and take necessary actions. On the other hand, you will also see what you have been doing well and which practices to maintain.

One thing is certain—by using the burn-up chart in combination with other tools and software, you are one step closer to success.

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