Burn Down Charts, Scope Creep and Forecasts

Traditional burn down chart is a famous report in agile community. Indeed, it shows progress very well and reliably (I almost forgot the days when I used Gantt charts in my projects 🙂 However, burn down charts got attacked this year. The author complaint that the chart does not show scope creep, bottlenecks in development and budget burning. Well, I don’t think there should be one report for all needs, but changes in scope is a natural metric for burn down charts.

Mike Cohn introduced the concept of the new burn down chart. It shows scope changes nicely. The problem is that it is hard to draw such complex burn down charts manually.

Obviously, agile project management tools should draw enhanced burn down. If chart provides more valuable information showing scope creep (this is an important metric!) it should exist.

Let’s take a look at the chart below. In the first day of the iteration (or release) we had original baseline and about 50 pts to complete. Looking at this chart we may retrieve some interesting information about iteration progress:

  • We’ve made some progress and on Oct-21 someone added more work to the iteration. 
  • Next day someone added even more work, so we’ve got a clear indicator of the scope creep.
  • Then someone removed quite many effort from the iteration  
  • The current day is Oct-27 and we see that some effort already burned (green bar) and some effort added (red bar)
  • We see the forecast based on our progress and remaining effort (grey bars) and it seems the iteration may be completed on Nov-16
  • Ideal line shows that the iteration should be finished Oct-31 and we’re two weeks behind (gosh!)

The history of the burn down is expressive and we can clearly say whether scope creep affected our iteration/release development or not.

The following example shows that we removed some effort from iteration, but are still unable to complete it on time (most likely some more user stories should be removed to meet the deadline).

I think such a burn down chart is much more valuable than traditional one. It will appear in TargetProcess v.2.12 (this month 😉

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