Combustion chart as a way to improve task estimation

What exactly is the Incineration Chart and why is it so important for the functioning of the Scrum team?

The way small teams, related to the Scrum methodology, functioned in the world of broadly understood business came from the IT industry. Their core is to maintain the simplest possible structure and to carry out tasks during sprints. However, how do we know how the works are carried out? How many sentences remain and how does our performance look like? This will be helped by the Burndown Chart, which we present in a visual form, showing the remaining work to be done during the sprint.

The Burning Chart, or what?

To put it mildly, it is a visualization of the state of work during the Sprint - how many sentences have been completed and how many are still ahead of you. Too vague? Going into details it should be noted that the purpose of using the combustion diagram will be to provide the scrum team with up-to-date information about the progress of work and the difficulties encountered. Thus, the scrum master realistically assesses the level of implementation of the schedule.

In fact, the point is to draw as many conclusions as possible about teamwork. At the same time, it prevents conflicts with the product owner at the end of the sprint and motivates the Development Team to better organise itself. If we want to achieve this, the combustion graph needs to be updated daily. We can use professional software for this purpose or prepare a handy chart.

Advantages and disadvantages

Visualization in the form of a presentation has always made it easier to understand long-term phenomena. Sprint can last from a week to almost a month, so it is even more important to be interested in introducing appropriate charts. After all, the team's duties are organized around previously assigned tasks. It is also worth taking care of the quality of the chart, because in certain scenarios it may be useful for negotiations with the product owner.

In addition to the simplicity of implementation, among other advantages can be listed legibility and accurate insight into the progress made. The speed of analysis in case of necessity to introduce any changes in the project is invaluable. Nothing stands in the way of controlling the budget that we have for the tasks.

Unfortunately, it is also necessary to mention potential drawbacks. For an outsider, e.g. an investor, the chart does not have to be immediately transparent, which may lead to misinterpretation. At the same time, it does not take into account the dependencies between individual tasks and even more so, it will turn out to be ineffective if at the very beginning we incorrectly estimate the time needed for the execution of specific modules of the project. What is more, the simplicity of the chart does not allow for the transmission of more complex information, such as why there was a delay.

How to prepare your own Combustion Diagram?

Basically, nothing is simpler. The chart is based on two axes X and Y - separately the amount of remaining time (days) and the number of tasks to be completed. On the basis of these two axes we determine the curve which defines the line of ideal combustion. It is this curve that you will relate the actual number of tasks completed each day. When one day two tasks are completed, we subtract two units from the graph. The two new tasks to be completed similarly raise the graph by two units upwards. If one day two targets are met but one new target is reached at the same time, only one point is subtracted from the chart.

Of course, there is no single, top-down formula for the Combustion Diagram. For example, on the basis of the table it is possible to enter other values, such as extending the chart by not only planned tasks, but also the actual number of sentences to the end. This allows you to more accurately confront the original assumptions of the plan with reality. Next, the interpretation of the obtained pattern will help to precisely determine the pace of work of the team. When the acceleration occurred and when the slowdown occurred, as well as how quickly we are able to deal with specific problems. Sa I have the end of it should also mention that the Combustion Chart will successfully adopt for other agile and cascading methodologies.

Łukasz Fiszer
October 25, 2019

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