Businesses that follow an agile scrum approach to project management will likely know this tool: the burn up chart. Like Gantts and Kanbans, burn up charts display progress.
But unlike the former, burn up charts are super handy because you can quickly see both the scope of a project and work completed so far (represented by two different lines).
As the graph trends up, two lines should eventually meet to show the team has achieved their goals and completed the project.
You can then estimate what’s left to do in a project by measuring the gap between these two lines. And then quickly assess where changes need to be made, or in fact, if deadlines need altering.
Let’s delve into a bit more detail. Specifically, let’s look at the difference between burn up and burn down, why businesses should use a burn up chart, and — most importantly — how to create one.
“Burn up chart” is a part of our Project Management Glossary — check out the full list of terms and definitions.
What’s the difference between a burn down and burn up chart?
While both of these charts are useful for project managers, they represent different ways of tracking and communicating project progress.
One focuses on the work completed and the other on how much work remains:
Burn down chart – This tracks how much work and time you have remaining. With a successful project, picture a graph with a nice downward trending line. For more information about burn down charts check out this blog right here.
Burn up chart – This tracks how much work is complete to date and against the deadline. Picture a graph with two lines – one showing project scope, the other tracking what’s completed. With a successful project, the lines indicating scope and completed tasks need to be close — Of course, a business doesn’t want to see lots of activity outside/above scope or that it’s performing below scope.
So which one should a business use? Appreciate this is a little vague but a simple answer: It basically depends on what the business needs to track. And you can, in fact, use both for a 360° of your projects.
Need a bit more?
Burn down charts are ace at simply showing when a project will be completed. But if you need more information like showing slowness of task completion, or too many new activities popping up — both impacting the achievable deadline — then the burn up chart is the one.
Let’s dive into the benefits of a burn up chart some more.
Top business benefits of a burn up chart
There are a number of reasons why a burn up chart is a must-have. Let’s look at the ones with the biggest pull factor:
- Monitor efficiency between sprints – A burn up chart clearly shows progress made by the team and how much work is left.
- Predict project completion dates – And whether you expect a project to be completed on time based on progress rates so far.
- Quickly flag issues – Like project scope creep and tasks taking too long. With a burn up chart, it’s easy to see trends and how that impacts hitting the deadline — whether that be achieving goals quicker than expected or running behind.
- Easy to read, visual tool – A dramatic increase in the scope of a project is very easy to spot and in real-time… So project managers can then reduce work or adjust the deadline. Plus, it’s a great way to update and review progress with teams in meetings.
Sounds like the burn up chart is for you? Great, here’s how to create one.
5 steps to creating a burn up chart
Whether a business is looking to add in a new product feature or launch a whole new service, this five-step roadmap can be used to create a burn up chart for any project.
Step 1) Set the project scope – Like with any project, start by deciding which tasks to include in the project’s scope. This list may be a huge master list to start with but may get whittled down at step two.
Step 2) Predict project length – Start with the priority tasks first. This gives a guide for how long a project will likely take. Once a business starts to add additional tasks from the master list, it can then start to see how this impacts the project deadline and whether it’s worth doing or maybe holding back for say a “phase 2”.
Step 3) Divide and conquer (set sprints) – With tasks and deadlines in place, you can prepare sprints and allocate team members to activities. This helps with progress updates in meetings as individual teams can give updates on progress, and explain any issues that may push things beyond scope.
Step 4) Build your burn up chart – A basic tool used to build burn up charts is a simple one: Excel. Here, you need two columns. One for the activity (y-axis) and one for the time (x-axis) it takes. The aim is to ensure the graph generated shows an upward trend.
A more sophisticated approach that supports better collaboration is an online tracking tool. Check out these templates for better project management.
Step 5) Track performance in real-time – Once you’ve got your chart ready, and ideally a project management tracking tool, this forms the foundations of all meetings. And if scope is creeping or tasks aren’t on track, you can fix them asap.The best bit about a burn up chart? You can track progress in real-time giving a real honest view of whether the project is on track.
Ready to better track project performance? Start by having the right project management tools.
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At monday.com, our Work OS helps teams across all industries to better plan, organize, and manage projects from start to finish.
We’ve over 200 templates ready for agile teams to organize sprint planning and track the individual tasks completed which feed into burn up charts.
Here are a handful of the most popular ones:
- Scrum Sprint Planning Template
- Feature Backlog Template
- Bug Tracking Template
- Project Management Plan Template
- Project Roadmap Template
With timelines, Gantts, Kanbans, calendars, maps, and more, it’s a super easy way to see exactly who is working on each task and how the project is progressing.
And that’s why we’re the go-to project management solution for over 150,000+ businesses — like HubSpot, Universal Music Group, and EA Sports.
Still looking for answers? Take a look at these commonly asked questions.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does a burn up chart represent?
You can use a burn up chart in project management to provide a visual representation of how a project is progressing. It focuses on two key areas: work completed so far (one line on a graph) and the scope of a project (the second line on a graph). Its aim? To keep projects on track and within scope.
How do you make a burn up chart?
There are several key steps in building a burn up chart. This is based on key information that determines the project deadline. This includes:
- Setting the project scope
- Predicting project length
- Setting sprints
- Building your burn up chart
- Tracking performance in real-time
What is the difference between a burn-down and burn up chart?
Both of these charts are line graphs so helpful, highly visual tools. A burn-down chart time and work is remaining, reaching the zero on the axis at completion point (more on this here). Whereas the burn up chart tracks both the total volume of work completed so far and scope. Two lines represent this.
Unlike the burn-down chart, the burn up chart has a positive trend (assuming the project is on track).
Ramp up project progress today with a burn up chart
To sum up, burn up charts are a must-have tool for keeping projects on track.
Why? Because they are an easy way to visually track how fast development is moving and what’s getting in the way so you can quickly rectify it — helping projects stay on track and remain profitable.
Plus, they allow you to easily communicate performance with other team members and the Execs. As we all know, keeping on top of communication is crucial for successful project delivery.