3 benefits Insight's burn-down chart adds to your Pivotal Tracker projects.

In Scrum, the burn-down chart is a graphical representation of work left to do versus time. In other words, it's a very powerful chart that gives you a ton of information on how much work is left to do—and how much time you have left to do it.

It occurred to us at Insight that a burndown chart could do a lot more than that, though. So we built one that does more. We built one that clearly shows if the team is getting overwhelmed and how the projected release date will be impacted.

The best part is that it plugs right into Pivotal Tracker.

burn-down chart

Controlling the scope creep

Scope creep (orange) refers to uncontrolled changes or continuous growth in a project's scope.

<img style="width: 45%" src="/content/images/2015/02/scope_creep.png"alt="scope creep" title="scope creep">

Naturally, you want to control change in scope, as it represents your team's workload for the current iteration. On one hand, if it grows too much, your team might not be able to complete the iteration as planned. On the other hand, if it shrinks too much, you might want to consider adding a bit more work and completing the iteration even better than you'd initially planned.

Scope creep is caused by two things: changes in estimation and the addition or removal of stories from an iteration. The orange line will track this variation and even provide details about which stories had an impact on the scope.

But wait a minute. In Scrum, aren't iterations supposed to be fixed before they even start?
In theory, yes, but in practice, not so. I've seen very few teams respect this rule religiously.
If a team is very strict about sticking to the plan, they can ensure the line stays at 0; if they're not, they now have a way to track and manage the scope.

The reason it's important to track the scope creep is because it is usually result of the following:

  • Poor change control
  • Lack of proper initial identification of what is required to bring about the project objectives
  • Weak project manager or executive buy-in
  • Poor communication between parties
  • Lack of initial product versatility

Are we running on schedule?

The projection is depicted by the dotted line. It helps your team figure out whether you'll be on time or late.

<img style="width: 45%" src="/content/images/2015/02/projection.png"alt="projection" title="projection">

Scope variation will obviously impact this line. The projection will crunch your data (scope variation, total points planned for the iteration, and number of points closed since the beginning of the iteration) and let you know whether your team will make your deadline.

It's a quick visual indicator either that something's terribly wrong and work needs to be removed or that everything's going more smoothly than expected and you can add some work. A caveat, though: Adding additional work will increase the projection, so we always recommend doing so one story at a time.

Planned work vs actual progression

Comparing the planned work against the actual work being accomplished is important in order to improve project predictability.

Imagine a daily stand-up meeting where you would review the planned work, track it against your actual progression, and quickly address any issues that may be causing any discrepancies. Imagine, if you will, how powerful such a visual indicator could be during the retrospective. Imagine a tool that would allow you to back up your thoughts with tangible data and spot problems you never before even knew you had. Imagine uncovering untapped opportunities for improvement and growth. And imagine it all in a simple, easy-to-read chart. We did.

Thanks to @SabiChaudry for reviewing this post