Definition of RESOURCE (M-W.com)
1 a : a source of supply or support : an available means —usually used in plural b : a natural source of wealth or revenue —often used in plural c : a natural feature or phenomenon that enhances the quality of human life d : computable wealth —usually used in plural e : a source of information or expertise
2: something to which one has recourse in difficulty: expedient
3: a possibility of relief or recovery
4: a means of spending one’s leisure time
5: an ability to meet and handle a situation
Definition of HUMAN (M-W.com)
: a bipedal primate mammal (Homo sapiens) : man; broadly : hominid
So out there are several different opinions / ideas on how to visualize the basic health of an agile project. I have one standard form for my project Burn-Rate charts and it seems to be a unique enough way of combining things that I thought it could be useful to post.
Standard Story Points Based Project Burn Down – Wow that’s a long name. But the name defines the whole thing. A burn down chart is simply a line graph of the total amount of story points left in your project at any point in time. Usually we recompile the burn down chart at the end of each iteration. Below are a few examples of simple project burn downs. As you can see from the question marks it is not always evident what the burn down is indicating? Is the second burn down indicating that the team is running into impediments, or is the backlog growing to offset work, or are they just lazy…? All good questions and none of them can be answered with this visualization alone.
Lets Add a Burn Up Chart – A burn down chart is a line or bar graph of the number of story points completed thus far in your project. By comparing the data between a burn up chart and the burn down chart we are able to get quite a bit more information about whats going on. But there are still some questions.? In the second column below labeled Scope Creep we have to infer that since the team was consistently delivering by the data in their burn up chart that their burn down chart was flat lined because of scope creep. Once again we can’t exactly be sure.
Project Backlog Size / Story Build Up Chart – A Backlog Total chart is a line chart showing the total number of story points in the “must have” category of a project at that point in time. It is a historical indicator of the growth and grooming of a backlog over the life of the project. The Backlog Total charts below show two different examples of how you can start a project.
- In the Big Design Up Front (BDUF) example the team has broken out all the stories and created an entire backlog with estimates for the entire project. This is not all that common, but teams transitioning from waterfall methodology tend to do this on their first agile projects.
- In the Progressive Elaboration example below we see what most teams really do on Agile projects and that is start with a basic goal and timeline in mind and then elaborate the backlog over time.
All 3 Together – Lets bring all three together and see how that gives us an effective visualization of the project. In this scenario we are using the Progressive Elaboration approach to build the backlog as we go. As you can see the we make a couple assumptions about where things start.
- In this method the burn down does not start from the current total backlog size it starts from the proposed (budgeted) size of the backlog based on two variables, number of iterations (sprints) until the project is completed and the average velocity of the team. In this case that number totals 500 points.
- To start the project we only need enough stories / points elaborated to fill up the first iteration. As you can see from the green line on the graph the team starts with only about 50 points in their Backlog Total.
- The Burn Up chart will meet the Backlog Total on the day the project is delivered if those two lines do not meet not all the work is complete.
As you can see things like scope creep are evident as anything that pushes the project above the budgeted maximum points for the project. At that point in time the team / Product Owner must start making decisions about what needs to be removed from the project to keep on track. Quite simply anything on the Backlog Total chart that goes above the budget line needs to be either removed or substituted for something below the line of equal size.
Combining this with a simple Agile project framework – When we overlay this with the phases of an agile project from “Agile Project Management: Creating Innovative Products” from Jim Highsmith we can see that the phases of a project can be seen in the chart. In Envision and Speculate we are still building the backlog, and in Explore and Adapt we are working to reign the backlog size into the budget and move towards completion with our burn down at 0 and our burn up meeting our backlog total at the end of close.
In the end I find the combination of the 3 charts and the phase chart to be highly valuable in visualizing the health and progressive elaboration of any project. Of course none of this is a huge departure from the standard Agile text but it seems sometimes just a minor departure from the standard can be valuable.