Scrum-style Burn Down Chart in iWork ’08

Ever since I was introduced to the Scrum methodology of software development, I’ve enjoyed my work so much more than before. Most of that enjoyment is due to a sense of visibility, of knowing what’s going on.

I find working without an accurate awareness of the situation at large very disorienting, and software and web development are notorious for being circumstances that change rapidly. That’s why one of my favorite things about Scrum is the burn down chart. This is nothing more complex than a simple graph that depicts how much work you bit off and how far along trying to chew it you actually are. The benefit, of course, is that it’s pretty obvious pretty quickly if you’ve bit off more than you can chew. ;)

So up ’til now, my team and I have been doing this all on paper. There’s a certain tactile appreciation I have for doing this sort of thing on paper, but of course there are disadvantages, too. For instance, you can’t easily archive the information. You can’t easily share it with remote contractors. You can’t automatically mine this valuable data with software tools. You get the picture.

There are a few cool plugins to some tools like Trac that do all this, but at first blush most of these tools seem to require that you move all of your Scrum’s planning into the digital world. That is, you can’t just do the burn down chart, you have to do all your estimation (MoSCoW desirability, sizing, estimating ideal hours) through some tool. That’s a big step, and I wanted something simpler.

So naturally, I came up with a spreadsheet in as my solution. I mean, how much simpler can you get? Sure, it’s not exactly “well integrated” with other tools, but your non-tech-savvy boss will probably love it, and AppleScript can be used to automate data extraction. Here’s what it looks like:

An example Scrum-style burn down chart in Apple's iWork '08 Numbers spreadsheeting application, complete with an actual chart.
An example Scrum-style burn down chart in Apple's iWork '08 Numbers spreadsheeting application, complete with an actual chart.

(Click the screenshot to get a full-size view.)

As you can see, the Numbers sheet is a simple table and a line chart. I’ve embedded instructions for how to use the chart into the example itself, which I’ll quote here:

This is a sample Scrum-style iteration burn down chart for software development created by Meitar Moscovitz. It can be used to plot a team’s progress throughout a development cycle (aka. “iteration” or “sprint”). This sample chart depicts a 3-week iteration (15 working days) with a 150-point target goal.

The X-axis represents time, and is thus labelled Time in Days, while the Y-axis represents the work to be completed, and is labelled Points.

The green line shows the team’s ideal velocity based upon the total number of points—termed the Remaining Initial Value—scheduled for completion in the graphed iteration.

The blue line shows the team’s actual velocity (or “completed work”), which is entered by the team leader (aka. Scrum Master) after each day in the Done column.

To use this chart: duplicate this sheet, enter your iteration’s total points in the Initial Value row of the Remaining column, and delete the values in the Done column except its initial value of 0. To add more days, copy and paste more rows into the table. Optionally, give the sheet and its contents new titles. ;)

Feel free to download the Example Burn Down Chart.numbers file and use it yourself. If you do use it, please leave a comment and let me know how you’re going. Thanks, and enjoy!

(Mike Cohn of Mountain Goat Software has got a similar spreadsheet for Excel you can download.)

6 replies on “Scrum-style Burn Down Chart in iWork ’08”

  1. This chart was exactly (EXACTLY!) what I was looking for. I use the Scrum methodology for building software and envisioned your chart for Numbers and there it was, so thank you.

  2. Thanks for posting this file. It’s working great so far. I had to create a new chart since my sprints were shorter than 15 days and Numbers wouldn’t recalc the chart (too much white space on the chart). But that was easy.

  3. Aloha Meitar!

    Thank you! Thank you! I am using this to help me to chart progress on a portfolio that I have to do for school! I had no idea what a burn down chart was or how to create it or use it. You have made my semester!

    Mucho Mahalo!

  4. Thanks, I was using an excel to create my burndown chart however numbers makes makes a much more usable version.

    I am interested to see your automate AppleScript, we are currently using Bugzilla at my workplace and i’m not sure the best way to extract the data into my burndown report.

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