Agile is a popular project management methodology primarily used in software engineering. It propagates the division of whole/larger parts of work into smaller chunks and implements them in short incremental cycles called sprints or iterations. Performing a manual exercise of managing this division of work into smaller parts and cycles is tedious. Of that, the need for an agile management tool (also known as an agile project management tool) arises.
An agile project management tool accredits teams to track, manage, and complete projects as committed and with utmost quality considerations. These tools are specifically built to support agile frameworks and ways of working to help embrace the key tenets of agile. Any agile management tool aims to increase visibility, communication, and collaboration among team members, stakeholders, and project participants.
Jira is a powerful tool that supports multiple agile frameworks, projects, and teams. It is a mature and proven product used by tens and thousands of entities across the globe to manage projects of various sizes, complexities, and flavors. It has robust reporting capabilities to manage projects, domains, and industries.
One of its reporting features – a Jira burndown chart helps teams track releases, epics, and sprints to get insights, make decisions and determine a course that can categorically improvise the future, quality, and deliverables of the project. In this blog today, we will look at these aspects of Jira, understand burndown charts, and review how to understand, utilize and improve the efficiencies of the teams with them.
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What is Jira?
Jira software – originally designed as a bug and issue tracking tool- has evolved into a powerful work management tool comprising multiple capabilities suited to any agile project management methodology for software development. Jira is essentially a part of the product suite designed to support teams in managing use cases from all aspects of the software development life cycle.
The Australian organization developed Jira – Atlassian Corporation Plc, a development and collaboration software company that offers powerful tools and practices to help teams organize, collaborate, and complete work.
Key Features of Jira
Jira has great features making it a market leader in the agile management space. Some of its interesting and pragmatic features include:
- Scalability – Jira can support any team structure irrespective of business complexity, as it offers high tailoring and flexibility to tune processes according to the business requirements.
- Platform independence – Jira being platform independent, can be used with any operating system.
- Plug-in Templates – Jira, out of the box, offers multiple templates to manage business workflows. Each existing workflow can be easily customized to meet specific business use cases.
- Agile boards – Jira offers easy-to-use/customized agile boards for scrum, Kanban, or hybrid projects that quickly help review tasks in a snapshot representation. Multiple workflow customizations are possible to represent/manage the boards per the team's needs.
- Release and Roadmap management – Jira remediates release and roadmap level planning, tracking, execution, flagging, and reporting to support teams in continuous deployment and development.
- Notifications – Jira offers various collaboration capabilities by notifying users for feedback, collaboration, voting, watching, contributing, and dependency mapping by ensuring a flow of communication across the workspace.
- Reports – There are multiple reports offered by Jira out of the box apart from custom building capabilities. Jira reporting helps in the effortless reporting of live project metrics and the time-to-time representation of team data.
- Dashboards – There are more than two dozen gadgets readily accessible to integrate the reports and develop executive-level dashboards and information radiators acting as a bandwagon for agile principles.
- Global Search – Jira offers a robust global search spanning all hierarchies, including Addins/integrated modules making it easier to search and locate across the workspace.
- Wide Customization – Jira has wide customization features, making it easier to fit in the landscape according to the business/technology requirements, considering the granular team/user approach.
- Multi-Lingual support – Jira supports multiple languages and can be localized in French, German, Japanese, Spanish, and many more languages.
- Multi DB support – Jira supports multiple backend databases such as MySQL, Oracle, PostgreSQL, and SQL server, making it easily adaptable in the technology landscape.
- Integrations and Addins – Jira supports integration with multiple interfaces/tools such as Confluence, GitHub, and TFS – Team Foundation Server, Versioning systems, Planning Poker tools, Salesforce, and other ERP/CRM systems.
What is Jira Burndown Chart?
A Burndown chart originally used in Scrum is a popular agile information radiator that visually represents the actual and estimated amount of work to be done in a sprint. Burndown, as the name suggests, in this context, means decreasing the amount of remaining work as the team progresses. It is an indicator of the trend the team is progressing in the sprint/release. This means to say a burndown can be created either at a sprint level showing the team's progress across the sprint duration or at the release level tracking important milestones along the way across the release duration.
A Jira burndown chart (also addressed as burndown chart scrum Jira) essentially portrays a descending trend of the work-in-progress, i.e., remaining work overtime for any team. It brings out the team's pace, progress, and status in a single-frame format, serving as an important artifact to review the team's progress and identify the pain points or areas of concern for the team. To summarize, it is a single tool that will tell any project stakeholder about the team's progress being on schedule, ahead of schedule, or behind schedule.
There are certain key components that a burndown chart (considering a Jira sprint burndown chart in the below explanation) carries:
- The Vertical Axis – represents the remaining work or the number of tasks.
- The Horizontal Axis – represents the remaining time in the sprint.
- The Trend Line (also known as Ideal Line) – Based on the estimates provided, flowing top to bottom from left to right, starting with the committed work and ending with the sprint duration
- The Actual Line (also known as Real Line) – represents the actual hours burnt/logged by the team while performing daily updates in Jira*
Note: It is important to note that the actual burn hours that a Jira burndown chart considers are from the parent story/task, not subtasks. So essentially, you cannot create a Jira burndown chart subtask.
The goal of the burndown chart is to get to zero towards the sprint end and stay by the trend line; the journey while getting to this goal is reflected in this powerful information radiator which is a gauge of the team's process maturity and effectiveness. It is a reverberation of the backlog burn rate and completion (team velocity) upholding the scrum values, i.e., transparency, inspection, and adaptation. A Jira release burndown chart serves as a graphic track of the team's progress, making it easier to realign the priorities and address improvements as we move ahead.
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Advantages of Jira Burndown Chart
A burndown chart is an important agile artifact that serves many purposes. Let us take a quick glimpse at some of its key benefits:
- A burndown chart gets continuously updated based on the actual updates by the team in Jira to reflect the actual status at any given point and improve team communication, transparency, and efficiency.
- Burndown charts reveal planning effectiveness, i.e., interpreting a burndown chart would unfold trends where the team is either not meeting commitment or completing work faster than anticipated – pointing to the sprint planning thoroughness.
- The chart also helps understand work breakdown effectively to ensure the team can meet the commitment on time.
- The chart serves as an important tool for course correction to the Scrum team, indicating exactly when the team is on track or off track, i.e., ahead of schedule/behind schedule, thereby requiring corrective action in the latter case.
- It also reveals the points where the team's progress may have stagnated due to blockers/impediments that may require follow-up resolutions.
- These charts act as a barometer of the sprint and team health, calling out progress and inferences for the next steps/actions.
- A burndown chart is a key tool to improve the feedback loop methodology across the workspace.
- It is a motivational tool for the team when their progress becomes visible and focused over the sprint.
Steps to Create a Jira Burndown Chart
Burndown charts are one of the most powerful Big Visibility Charts (BVCs) for any agile team, and they often entail a few inputs and steps to be created or utilized effectively. Before looking at what steps are to be followed in creating them, let us first take a look at some of their key inputs:
- Estimation factor (Story points or hours or any metric the team uses to represent remaining work)
- Full estimated sprint backlog
- Timeboxed duration of the sprint
Now that we are aware of the abstracts needed, we will try to address the important question of how to create a burndown chart in Jira – step by step:
Step-1: Configure the estimation factor
Before creating a burndown chart, it is imperative to configure the Jira board with the correct estimation factor that the team will use. To do this:
- Navigate to the Jira Workspace and select the Jira project
- Go to the active sprint from the left-hand side menu.
- Go to Configure/Board settings from the three dots (…) on the top right side.
- Click on estimation in the left-hand menu.
- In the estimation statistic dropdown, select the appropriate value (could be story points or original estimate or issue count, or task progress as the team has defined earlier)
- In case you enter story points – the burndown chart will reflect the burn in story points – you will see a Jira burndown chart story points, and in case you use the original estimate and time spent – you will see a Jira burndown chart remaining time estimate
Step-2: Ensure the estimates are entered
For the burndown chart to correctly show the velocity and progress the team is making, the team needs to ensure all the items in the sprint backlog (or release backlog) have the estimates updated. The team ideally does this in 2 scrum ceremonies:
- Backlog Refinement – A ceremony where the team gets together to review the product owner’s ask (i.e., What) and break it up into tasks or sub-tasks and estimate it for upcoming sprints (i.e., How much)
- Sprint Planning – A ceremony where refined items are reviewed, estimated, and decided to be included as part of the sprint commitment by the team.
Together, these 2 ceremonies ensure that the items in the sprint backlog are broken down as required, estimated, and accepted as a part of commitment towards the sprint backlog. To add an estimate to any item in Jira,
- Navigate to the Jira Workspace and select the Jira project
- Go to the team’s backlog from the left-hand side menu.
- Click on the backlog item – a detailed menu will open on the right-hand side.
- Scroll down to the estimation factor field, i.e., Story Point* or Original Estimate field, and enter the estimated value
*Story points can be determined using a wide variety of techniques – heuristic estimation, relative sizing, planning poker, bucket sizing, and many more.
Step-3: Review the Burndown Chart
Once the estimations are decided and entered and the sprint is started/in progress, it may be a good idea to regularly review the burndown chart to continually monitor progress and understand the team’s pace. To do this:
- Navigate to the Jira Workspace and select the Jira project
- Go to Reports from the left-hand side menu
- Select the burndown chart report (either from the left-hand menu or by clicking on the link underneath the burndown chart tile)
- The Burndown chart is displayed in 2 parts – first the graphical representation on top of the page and second the detailed representation below the graph at the bottom of the page – showing the date-wise changes i.e., increases/decreases to the sprint estimates.
- Note: You can change the sprint (to see the burndown for a past sprint) as well as the estimate (to see the burndown in the desired estimate factor) on the burndown chart using the dropdowns that help in the Jira burndown chart configuration. With this, you would get the Jira burndown chart based on the filter.
Adaptations of Jira burndown charts - Burndown charts based on Jira issue types can be:
- Sprint burndown charts – As we have seen in this discussion, the sprint burndown charts display team progress and the burn rate of stories/tasks throughout a sprint
- Jira Epic burndown charts – An epic burndown chart in Jira displays the progress of work against the epic and helps in calculating or re-estimating the number of sprints required to complete the epic based on the remaining tasks/stories planned in the epic
- Release burndown charts - display the progress of work in the planned release and help in calculating or re-estimating the number of sprints required to meet the release milestones based on the remaining work to be done
- Bug burndown charts – Jira bug burndown charts are custom Jira burndown charts that display the bugs closed and bugs remaining over a while (or the bug burndown chart in Jira can also show the estimates burning down against the tasks estimated on the bugs
While the above adaptations are based on issue types in Jira, some teams may use more customized Jira burndown chart examples - Jira burndown chart by assignee, Jira next-gen burndown chart, and many others. These are more custom adaptations based on filters, reports, or Jira Query language (JQL).
How to View, Understand and Calculate the Burndown Chart
The burndown chart provides some very important reflections to the team, and interpreting a burndown chart correctly is very important to understand the team’s status and progress. A Jira burndown chart can be viewed/accessed directly from the projects report section or by having a dashboard with other data along with a Jira burndown chart. Configuring a burndown chart in the Jira dashboard will help in several ways to emit progress, provide the capability to view Jira burndown chart easily, Jira configures burndown chart, export burndown chart Jira, i.e., Jira export burndown chart to excel or any other desired format alongside simplifying reporting progress of the team.
To understand a burndown chart correctly, we will need to observe the real line and its proximity to the ideal line. There can be various cases and interpretations observing these 2 lines outlined below:
- The line stagnating or straight indicates impediments or downtimes, not allowing the team to move forward on their tasks.
- Real line bumping up or constantly above the ideal line – indicates estimation revisions after sprint start or potential challenges for the team, such as items being too large to deliver. It signals that team is behind schedule.
- The real line below the ideal line – indicates that the actual burn rate for the team is faster and signals team is ahead of schedule.
- The real line down to zero before the end of the sprint – indicates that the estimations are ineffective and tasks were overestimated or that the team has been burnt out faster than expected. Though this may call for stretch tasks (goals that the team may achieve if time permits but does not commit to), it is not always a favorable sign.
- The real line not down to zero at the sprint end – indicates there are rollovers and the team has failed to complete the sprint commitment causing some items to spill over into the next sprint/backlog (depending on the priorities determined)
- The real line is flat with sudden drops – indicating that the updates on the Jira items are intermittent or that the team cannot move at a constant pace.
- Rea line not displayed – indicates that the estimates are not updated or the board is not configured as expected. This is a classic example of the Jira burndown chart not working or the Jira burndown chart not showing time spent and can be corrected by navigating to the board settings.
Apart from the above trends, the burndown chart also flushes out some important metrics such as:
(Total Work - Work Completed) ÷ Total Work * 100
(Work Remaining ÷ Velocity = Days required to complete)
As an agile best practice, it is recommended to have a burndown chart Jira dashboard – so that team members and stakeholders can get a ready and easy view of this powerful, agile tool without needing to go to reports each time or create a Jira custom burndown chart. As we have seen above, some teams use the confluence repository by updating the burndown chart link on the confluence page to have a Jira burndown chart in confluence.
Projects today operate in a VUCA environment that brings in challenges every moment of the project lifecycle. Getting real-time information is a key win to focus on solutions and getting a clear picture of the team's activities. A burndown chart is handy in such scenarios, allowing the team to plan, inspect and adapt, enhancing productivity and execution effectiveness.
At a sprint level, burndown charts can help the Scrum Master navigate effortlessly through difficult times – pinpointing impediments and giving a luminous view of day-to-day progress; while at a release level. They help course correct and come up with the estimated completion date ensuring timelines are well communicated based on the robust foundation of the actual team data.
A Jira Burndown Chart is a super effective tool for keeping track of project execution and providing motivation in the journey. It serves various purposes, including executive-level reporting, sprint progress tracking, and release planning. More importantly, it is one of the five important agile artifacts as prescribed by Scrum.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1.How do I read the sprint burndown chart in Jira?
A sprint burndown chart is a powerful measurement tool that reflects the progress and remaining work from the sprint backlog. It reflects whether the team is in line or ahead of, or behind schedule, helping the scrum team to continuously inspect and adapt.
2.What are the four types of burn-down charts?
The four types of burn-down charts include
- sprint burndown chart,
- epic burndown chart,
- release burndown chart and
- The custom bug burndown chart or a product burndown chart.