What is the Agile Burndown Chart Used For?

So, What is the Burndown Chart Used For?

A burndown chart is a representation of work to do versus the time. It is often used in scrum, which is an agile software development methodology. People always ask the difference between the burnup and burndown the chart. 

A burndown chart will show you how much work is left to be done for the project while a burnup chart will show you the amount of work that has already been done and the total amount of work left. In a burndown chart, the X represents the number of days while the Y represents the remaining effort.

A burndown chart will show a team its performance on a project nada to show how each individual is contributing towards it. It is simple to create and use hence very effective.

It also provides you with the time that the project might take and the amount of work that the team needs to do in order to achieve their goal. I decided to take through the agile burn down chart because I believe so many people are in need of understanding how it works. It is also advantageous to those who use it hence maybe you can grasp a few tips from here.

The 8 Components of the Agile Burndown Chart 

  1. Time (Horizontal Axis)
    This is the X axis which represents the number of days and therefore this is time used. The graph could either show twenty-one days or three 7-days sprints.

    Burn down charts are capable on reflection information of the entire project or even a single sprint( run at full speed over a short distance). Depending on your team, create a good plan showing the number of days available for the sprint to be released.

  2. Work Remaining (Vertical Axis)
    Tasks are estimated by the amount of work that is left to do. If you wish to learn more about time used by tasks in an agile burndown task using a technique called Fibonacci sequence, you can go to http://elearningindustry.com/charts and get all the information there.

    Estimation of time can also be in story points and there should be a start and ending point. Also for easy interpretation, you can plan in dates instead of days.

  3. Starting Point
    The overall number of points in a project is what we call starting point. In case you want to calculate the overall estimated effort, you can simply do so by adding up the column of the estimated effort.

    In this stage, you can decide the effort you want to be used during the project per day hence ensuring the effectiveness of the plan.

  4. Finishing Points
    For example, you plan on running your day for 52 days and you have 4 IT personnel who should give you at least 80% efficiency of their work hence the work should be over in 52 divide by 4 then divide by 0.8% hence the work should be over in about 16 days.

    The end of a project is acquired by the division of the number of tasks, a number of members and estimated factor.

  5. Tasks Remaining
    This is a line which shows the time when the sums began to be done up to the time when the members finished the project.

    It is not necessarily based on the expectation but the tasks required to be executed per day. If your team is keen on this, then go ahead and calculate the sum of estimated effort total efforts of the project.

    For instance, 52 tasks which are expected to be done in 16 days come down to an average of 3 per day by the end of the project

  6. Actual Tasks Remaining
    With time, you will be able to tell the actual tasks that a team can do. This can vary from time to time as you keep doing tasks daily. You can estimate actual effort again to get the accurate time needed to complete a task.

    If your estimation gave you 10 hours for a single task then you work 8 hours in a day it means only 2 hours of effort remaining. So now you actually realize that you need 4 hours for a task to be completed hence, the remaining actual effort for a task is 4 hours.

  7. Ahead of Schedule
    When actual work is below the estimated time, it means that your team is ahead of the schedule because they are completing more tasks. If more efforts are added then there will be a change in the actual effort.

  8. Behind Schedule
    Being behind schedule means that your team is doing less work than what was estimated. This is evident if the actual work completed is below the estimated.

    However, the agile burndown chart is meant to help you plan and estimate and not an accurate outcome. Although if your team is too slow you can always go back and plan again in order to get results that are close to accurate.

Common Mistakes

  • Confusing actual remaining effort and actually spent effort - this may happen sometimes to new members. Make sure you clarify.
  • Using Too Big Tasks: If a task is big, break it down into small tasks in order to achieve more accurate results. Do not estimate large tasks.
  • Unrealistic remaining effort: Be honest with yourself when estimating actual remaining effort.

Another relevant topic is the Niko-Niko calendar, heard of it? Well, here is a break down of it:

What is a Niko-Niko Calendar in Agile?

niko-niko calendar agile

So, What is the Niko-Niko Calendar?

Many people have been asking lately, what is a Niko-Niko calendar in Agile? Well, it's a practice in the Agile industry which aims at monitoring patterns of change of your team's mood over time.

The technic used is really not that hard. All it requires is that daily, after work, every team member should paste a sticker on designated calendar to highlight how their day went while they were at work. Whether it was good, or whether it was bad.

What this will basically mean, for those days when you might have had a bad day and felt really unproductive, you are to place a red faced sticker on that date.

After a while, you will begin to notice some colours being more dominant than the others. This will give you a little insight of the mood your team is generally in.

Expected Benefits of the Niko-Niko Calendar

Most experts will tell you that besides providing you with a little extra evidence and confirmation of how some certain employees, you may have suspected of being miserable feel, it's not really that much helpful beyond that.

Some will go as far as saying that the NIko-Niko Calendar promotes a detrimental effect to your employee morale.

Truth is though, the Niko-Niko Calendar can sometimes prove to be a great opportunity for reflection and at amazingly fast rate at that, too. You'll get immediate feedback from small changes you've made like altering the workplace environment and so on.

In case the change was good, you'll notice the mood of your team lightened up. In case the change was bad, well, you'll get to know that too, as painful as that might be sometimes.

Another special thing about this technic is that the team will also get the immediate feedback concerning matters of the work environments general mood. Basically, they will also get to know how the colleagues around them feel.

Another great thing about the Niko-Niko Calendar is that it acts as a good complement to other metric systems you might be already using around the workplace such as lead time, bugs, velocity and so on. They help make you aware of the mood your team is in for better reflection. They happen to be extremely fast when it comes to

indicating problems, are easy to set up and ready for use within no time. Aside from all this, they are a good way of making your employees feel valued as well as recognized.

Common Pitfalls of the Calendar 

As with all activities that include retrospectives whereby employees are requested to report their personal subjective feelings, it's unfortunate, but self-censorship will always prove to be a very big risk you'll have to account for.

One example is where an employee is being blamed for "whining" if they so happen to report poor days, eventually deciding not to record their true feelings. Below are some of the most common disadvantages of the Niko-Niko Calendar:

  1. The Kindergarten Feel To It: This is sort of self explanatory, right? Asking an adult to indicate how they feel by drawing faces on a chart daily will, inevitably, make them feel like they are kindergarteners.

    While some will most likely not have a problem with it, they will certainly be a few members of your team that will have a major issue with it. They already have a lot to do. Making their responsibilities more trivial than they need to be could certainly have a negative effect.
  2. People Have More Than 3 Emotions: This technic gives tools that allow its users to report one of three possible feelings. In a perfect world, this might just work, but unfortunately that's not the case.

    We all know life is nowhere that simple. The tools provided are just not versatile enough to give managers completely accurate emotional data.
  3. Employees Experience Emotions Differently: Emotions are usually more or less intangible. No two people experience the exact same emotions. They may indicate they're happy for two completely different reasons and the managers have no way of knowing what these reasons are.

Origins of the Niko-Niko Calendar

The "Project Retrospective" by Norman Keith, released in 2001, described many kinds of visualisations. Among them was the "Energy Seismograph", which can be taken as the forerunner for what is now known to everyone as the Niko-Niko Calendar.

Akinori Sakata, in 2006, became the first to officially describe this sort of calendar in his web article. He first referred to it as Nicocare where the tools to be provided were meant to measure both the safety and morale of your employees.

They tried everything and then finally decided that they will use sticker faces on a calendar to help measure one's moods, and thus, the Niko-Niko calendar was born.

Is It an Effective Way of Tracking Your Team's Mood?

With all that's been said and done, the Niko-Niko technic can be a way for managers to effectively track their employees moods. It may not produce the most accurate results, however, it can still provide more than enough information nonetheless.

This method makes tracking moods a little easy and can tell you what makes your employees happy so you can continue to do more of the same.

By checking the moods of your team members regularly, using this process, you will eventually manage to establish a calendar track of your employees' moods.

This information can prove priceless to manager, especially those handling agile projects. Niko-Niko happens to be the Japanese idiophone of a smile. Tracking metrics that affects productivity and performance is vital in the Agile industry.

Final Words on the Niko-Niko Calendar

A lot of things are tracked during the course of an Agile project. These include such things as lead time, bugs, velocity etc. Finding a way to effectively track those metrics will help you and your team identify problems early and much faster. Without them, you might find it very hard to improve the standards of your work environment.

The faster you're able to identify that information, the quicker you'll be able to analyze it, look to the future and steer your project operations in the right direction. It's all to do with tightening your feedback loop.

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