Agile PM Process Grid-3.15 Burn Charts


In John Stenbeck’s book “PMI-ACP and Certified Scrum Professional Exam Prep and Desk Reference”, he creates an “agile project management process grid” which describes 87 processes used in agile project management.   These processes are divided into five process groups (Initiate, Plan, Iterate, Control, and Close), which are analogous to the five process groups in traditional project management, and seven knowledge areas which can be mapped, more or less, onto the ten knowledge areas in traditional project management.

I am now covering a group of agile processes that support the “adaptive planning” knowledge area that are completed during each iteration of the project.

There are two types of burn charts used in agile:   burn-down charts show the amount of work remaining in the project or release.   Burn-down charts usually reflect the results of the team’s daily meeting.

Burn-Down Chart

Look at the example of a burn-down chart given above.   The blue line represents the  number of stories that should be remaining on any given day of the iteration.   Pretend that the y-axis says “work remaining” which can be measured in stories or features, rather than the “days remaining” that is on the example now.

The red line represents the actual progress on the project.   Let’s say that at the beginning of the project there are technical challenges experienced which cause the project to be behind schedule.    This is shown visually on the chart by the red actual line being above the blue ideal line.    If those challenges are surmounted, and the project gets ahead of schedule starting on about day 7, then this is shown visually on the chart by the red actual line being below the blue ideal line.

These trend lines that emerge become a powerful visual communicator of the team’s progress, or lack thereof, towards the iteration goal.   The burn-down chart can be used, for example, to forecast the probability of completing the entire scope by the end of the iteration.

The use of burn charts like the one described in this post imply the existence of a Task Board, which is the topic of the next post.

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