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What is a Burn Up Chart and how does it differ from a Burn Down Chart?

Posted by Chris Adams

Article Rating // 128100 Views // 0 Additional Answers & Comments

Categories: Agile Methods, SDLC, Process, and Methodologies, Project Management, Tools


A Burn Up Chart is a tool used to track how much work has been completed, and show the total amount of work for a project or iteration.   It’s used by multiple software engineering methods but these charts are particularly popular in Agile and Scrum software project management. The completed work and total work is shown on the vertical axis in whatever units a project team feels works best, i.e., work-hours, work-days, story points, or any other work unit.  The horizontal access displays time, usually in days, weeks, or iterations (sprints).


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Burn Up Charts and Burn Down Charts are quite similar and display much of the same information.  Burn Down Charts are simple and easy for project members and clients to understand.  A line representing the remaining project work slowly decreases and approaches zero over time.  However, this type of chart doesn’t show clearly the effects of scope change on a project.  If a client adds work mid-project the scope change would appear as negative progress by the development team on a Burn Down Chart.


In contrast, scope changes are immediately evident on Burn Up Charts.  When new work is added the total work line (which is usually flat and steady) will clearly show the increase in scope and total work.  


Both Burn Up Charts and Burn Down Charts can be used on projects.  There’s no need to adhere to using only one.  Burn Up Charts make more sense when focused on work across iterations while progress within a single sprint or iteration is often tracked with a simpler Burn Down Chart.

Chris Adams
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