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Sprint Burndown and Burnup Charts with MS Project Agile

Two frequently and widely used charts in projects using Agile frameworks are the Burndown and Burnup Charts. These can be generated at the Iteration (Sprint) level or Release level. You can even decide your own custom level to generate and analyze such charts.

These charts are important because, in Agile approaches, emphasis is on getting the work done and having working increments in every iteration or a timebox as much as possible. For a flow-based Agile, too, the focus is on delivery (on-demand), though iterations usually don’t exist in such approaches. As I’ve explained in a previous article, flow-based Agile can benefit from cadences.

In this article, I will begin an example scenario and illustrate how to build Burndown and Burnup charts using MS Project Agile. Next, we will customize the data to result in a proper representation of these charts, followed with a demonstration and analysis. In the concluding section, I’ll highlight certain key points with respect to these charts.

Scrum Project Scenario

Our current project is building a stock trading system using the Scrum framework. We have multiple Sprints planned, but detailed planning is only currently available for the first Sprint, i.e., Sprint 1. This is depicted in the below figure.

As shown, the first Sprint has:

  • Three feature items to be delivered within the timebox – Login to the online trading system, Create a new user, and Edit an existing user.
  • Each feature has been broken down into individual tasks with durations and resources applied.
  • All Scrum events, such as Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review, and Sprint Retrospective are available in this Sprint 1’s backlog.
  • All the work items for Sprint Backlog have been associated with the Sprint 1, which is our current Sprint.
  • The Sprint 1 starts on Monday, September 12, 2022, and completes on Friday, September 23, 2022.

For information on how to prepare a complete Sprint Backlog, you can refer to this in-depth article.

However, with this alone, we can’t have a proper Burndown or Burnup Chart, because these charts are fundamentally progress related reports. To have progress reported, we have to set the status date, which can be done by going to the Project tab > Status group > Status Date: command.

As shown, we have set the status date to be Monday, September 19, 2022, which is one week after the Sprint Start date.

We need to have certain tracking done on the status date, as well. Without it, a proper Burndown or Burnup chart is not possible! As tracking occurred for the current Sprint, we have the following information with respect to the progress.

In the below figure, I’ve applied my custom grouping of Sprints followed with Task Summary Names. I’ve also added the % Complete field into the Current Sprint Sheet view. I hope this will help you to more easily understand the progress of the current Sprint.

As of the status date (Monday, September 19th), we have the following progress:

  • Feature item, “Login to the online trading system,” is 100% complete.
  • Feature item, “Create new user,” is 55% complete, whereas feature, “Edit an existing user,” is yet to have begun.
  • The Sprint 1 Planning event has been completed, and a number of Daily Scrums are also completed.
  • The cumulative percent complete for Sprint 1 is 57%, and cumulative work is 312 hours.
  • The % of completion of the work items are taken from the settings in the Board view. The corresponding board columns’ states are reflected in the Board Status column of this sheet view.

Remember, when you track the work items, you do that in the Current Sprint Board view. This is applicable for either stand-alone Agile or Hybrid-Agile environments. The corresponding Current Sprint Board view for this project will be as shown below.

It’s time to proceed to the Burndown Chart creation.

Building a Sprint Burndown Chart

A Burndown chart shows the remaining cumulative work. You start with total cumulative work and track daily how much work you have completed or burned as compared with the status date. Hence, the name, Burndown, because you are burning down work.

A Burndown chart shows the progress of the team within the iteration. Simply put, it is a visible chart that shows the remaining cumulative work for an iteration or Sprint, if you are using the Scrum framework. You can learn more on various Burndown Charts in this article.

Now, we are going build upon this report. To create the first-cut of the Sprint Burndown Chart, I’ll go to Report tools > Design > Insert > Chart command, and use the simple Line Chart.

In this Line Chart, ensure two fields available, which are crucial for the Burndown Chart:

  • Remaining Cumulative Work: It informs the total remaining cumulative work of the Current Sprint. This is represented by the line having blue color coding.
  • Remaining Cumulative Actual Work: It informs the total remaining cumulative actual work of the Current Sprint. This is represented by the line having an orange color coding.

These fields can be selected in the Field List command pane, which is highlighted in the above figure. If this command pane is not available, enable it by going to Chart Tools > Design tab > Show/Hide group, and choosing the Chart Data command.

As we are in the Current Sprint (Sprint 1), you should also ensure that the necessary group and filter are applied:

  • The built-in group applied is Sprint group, which groups among the Sprint. Say you have three Sprints, hence in total you have three groups, with two lines for each group.
  • The built-in filter applied is Current Sprint filter, which considers only the Current Sprint work items. This is because, in a project, one can have a number of Sprints, which in turn can be associated with multiple releases.
  • Applying the filter ensures that only the Current Sprint’s work items are shown.

The applied group and filter are highlighted in the above figure.

Customizing a Sprint Burndown Chart

Next, we are going to customize the report to make it readable, presentable, and understandable. As a first step, I’ll enlarge the Chart Area and add labels for both the Remaining Cumulative Work and Remaining Cumulative Actual Work lines. To do this, simply select the corresponding line, right-click, and use the Add Data Labels command.

This will add the data labels to the lines, which will be in hours because units for the Remaining Cumulative Work and Remaining Cumulative Actual Work are in hours.

After you add the Data Labels, your chart will show as the below figure. You’ll want to format the Data Labels next. To do so, select any one of the Data Labels (which will select all of them). Then, right-click and select the Format Data Labels command, as shown below.

Next, in the pop-up Format Data Labels command pane, ensure the correct label positions by going to Label Options > Label Positions. The positions will be as follows:

  • Below the line for Remaining Cumulative Work.
  • Above the line for Remaining Cumulative Actual Work.

In addition, I’ve done a bit more formatting with color coding:

  • For the Remaining Cumulative Work, the labels have light blue color coding.
  • For the Remaining Cumulative Work, the data labels have light orange color coding.

This can be done in the above Format Data Labels command pane, by going to Label Options > Fill > Solid Fill and choosing appropriate color coding. This step ensures populated values are not only properly visible, but also clearly associated.

Finally, our Burndown Chart for the Current Sprint, will show as below.

In the final cut of the Sprint Burndown Chart, I’ve also renamed the report, “Current Sprint Burndown Chart.”

In this chart:

  • The work is progressively getting burned down over the duration of the Sprint.
  • The planned/ideal burndown is depicted via the Remaining Cumulative Work line, whereas the actual burndown is depicted via the Remaining Actual Work line.
  • After the status date, there has been no tracking. Hence, the Remaining Cumulative Actual Work line is parallel to the time axis.
  • However, the Remaining Cumulative Work line continues to slide further and finally meets the time axis on the final day of the Sprint.

Building a Sprint Burnup Chart

Unlike a Burndown chart, a Burnup chart shows work complete or total cumulative work complete as of the status date. You may also want to show the scope creep – scope that is changed, but not committed. You can learn more on Iteration Burnup Charts in this article.

To create a Burnup Chart from scratch, again we have to go to the Report tab > View Reports group > New Report command and choose Blank report. The subsequent steps will be similar as for the Burndown chart, except for two key changes:

  • Instead of Remaining Cumulative Work, you’ll want to have Cumulative Work, i.e., the amount of work planned to be completed as of the status date.
  • Instead of Remaining Cumulative Work, you’ll want Cumulative Actual Work, i.e., the amount of actual work completed as of the status date.

These fields can be selected from the “Field List” command pane as shown below:

While customizing the Current Sprint Burnup Chart, one needs to follow the exact steps that we followed for the Current Sprint Burndown Chart. The final Sprint Burnup Chart is shown:

As you can see, the report is based on the status date. In this Line Chart, we have two crucial fields:

  • Cumulative Work informs the total remaining cumulative work of the Current Sprint. This is represented by the line having blue color coding.
  • Cumulative Actual Work informs the total remaining cumulative actual work of the Current Sprint. This is represented by the line having an orange color coding.

Just below the lines, I’ve also added the Data Table for the chart. In some cases, this gives clarity with respect to work hours on every day of the Current Sprint.

Demonstration and Analysis

To provide more clarity on these charts, I’ve prepared a demonstration on what we have learned so far. It’s explained in the following video [duration: 9m: 14s]. The content is taken from my new course, Mastering MS Project 2019 Agile. For the best experience, you may want to go full-screen in HD mode and plug-in your earphones.

 

Conclusion

Burndown and Burnup charts are widely used by Lean-Agile teams to visualize work remaining and work completed, respectively. The MS Project tool with its Agile features has a number of additional functionalities available to work such charts:

  • The reports can be exported to PDF files, which is quite useful if stakeholders don’t have MS Project installed.
  • One can have Burndown/Burnup charts not only for work, but also for tasks, cost, among others.
  • With the Sprint Task Burndown Chart, you can see the remaining tasks over time for the Current Sprint. You can also create the Task Burndown Chart for the entire project.
  • Create a Custom Burndown Chart with custom date ranges, which helps to identify the tasks or work completed within the desired date range.
  • For a Hybrid-Agile project, you can create the Burndown or Burnup charts for the Agile and predictive parts, separately. You can also have a combined view of the Burndown/Burnup chart for the entire Hybrid project.

I hope this article gave you a detailed understanding of working with the Sprint Burndown Charts using MS Project Agile features.

2021 is coming to an end. The last couple of years have been quite difficult with a lot of suffering for many around the world due to the Covid19 pandemic.

I wish all MPUG readers, around the world, a very happy New Year 2022. May it bring happiness and joy to all of our lives.

References

[1] NEW Online Course: Mastering MS Project 2019 Agile (Scrum and Kanban), by Satya Narayan Dash

[2] Online Course: PMI-ACP Live Lessons, Guaranteed Pass, by Satya Narayan Dash

[3] e-Book: I Want To Be A PMI-ACP, Second Edition, by Satya Narayan Dash

[4] NEW Certification Course: Certified Hybrid-Agile Master with MS Project, by Satya Narayan Dash

Written by Satya Narayan Dash

Satya Narayan Dash is a management professional, coach, and author of multiple books. Under his guidance, over 2,000 professionals have successfully cracked PMP, ACP, RMP, and CAPM examinations – in fact, there are over 100 documented success stories written by these professionals. His course, PMP Live Lessons – Guaranteed Pass, has made many successful PMPs, and he’s recently launched RMP Live Lessons – Guaranteed Pass and ACP Live Lessons – Guaranteed Pass. His web presence is at https://managementyogi.com, and he can be contacted via email at managementyogi@gmail.com.

 

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