Burnup Chart vs. Burndown Chart

The two most popular charts allowing to follow a team’s progress during the Sprint are Burndown Chart and Burnup Chart. Both are not perfect tools but good enough to see how the team is progressing through the Sprint (release, etc). However, before any team decides which one to use all team members (and organization) must understand what information is presented and how to read them – as some times this can be misleading.

Both Burndown Chart and Burnup Chart on the x-axis present time, from the very first hour of the sprint to the very last. The difference comes with the y-axis. On both charts, the y-axis represents the number of User Story Points (the most common and I’m going to use that in this post), a number of tasks, a sum of business value (if qualified) or any other value the team measures.

Burndown Chart

This is a simple one – with only one line (excluding the guideline). The y-axis represents User Story Points remained to be delivered. Once some item from the Sprint Backlog is done plot is going down. Same happens in case some item is removed from the Sprint Backlog. Any time a team adds an item into the Sprint Backlog or reopen one that has been already closed plot is going up.

And for me, this is the main disadvantaged – the fact that two totally different situations are presented in the same way on the chart:

  • closing some item looks the same as removing an item (1)
  • added item to the Sprint Backlog looks the same as reopening item already done (2)

Burnup Chart

This one is more complicated as there are two lines (excluding the guideline). One represents commitment and it’s flat line unless the Sprint Backlog change – once an item is added the plot is going up, once an item is removed the plot is going down. The second line is work compleated. It’s going up once some item is compleated and back down in case it is reopened.

The ambiguity mentioned above (Burndown Chart disadvantage) does not take place here as all 4 situation looks different on the chart:

  • closing some item (1) and reopening item already has been done (2)
  • removing an item from the Sprint (3) and adding item to the Sprint (4)

That two different situations, which looks different on those Burnup Charts, would have the same look if we decide to use Burndown Chart.

Final note

Burndown and Burnup charts are good not only for the sprints (it’s just the most commonplace for them to be used) but for releases, etc.

Everyone need to make which is best for them. My favourite is Burnup Chart as it provides more information on the first glump.