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Scope Changes: Burn-up or Burn-down

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Many agile projects adopt different variations of XP and Scrum to what they deem fit in their environment. One point which is hard to understand is when companies design reporting tools, how do they decide on if they want to use burn up or burn down charts.

I am a strong supporting of a burn up chart as it gives a more accurate picture of a long running extensible project. In a burn down chart it always seems that we are aiming for a zero but can’t quiet ever seem to reach it.

Lets take a scenario:

Project A
Points: 100

After after 5 iterations 50 points are complete, and new requirements come in.

Points completed: 50
Points remaining: 50
New points: 50

Total remaining: 100

So now, in a burn down it is not visible that we are now aiming for 150 requirements, but rather that we are back to where we were at the start of the project – 100 points to do.

In a burn up we would clearly be able to see that we finished 50, 50 more came in, and our new target is 100 points. Burn down is not suitable for scope changes, thus does not seem very agile.

Written by zkashan

November 22nd, 2008 at 10:53 am

One Response to 'Scope Changes: Burn-up or Burn-down'

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  1. I suggest that burn-up is better for the product backlog and burn-down is better for the sprint backlog.

    I really like burn-down for the sprint because a sprint should have a reachable goal and reaching zero implies done and shippable.


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