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What’s A Burn Up Chart & How Do You Use It? (Ultimate Guide)

What's a Burn Up Chart & How Do You Use It?

Want to learn about burn up charts and understand how to use them?

A burn up chart is one of the simplest tools to quickly track your project’s progress and evaluate what you’ve accomplished.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about burn up charts to help you use them effectively. 

This Article Contains:

(click on the links to jump to a section)

Let’s get started.

What is a burn up chart?

A burnup chart is a visual representation of your project’s progress that highlights:

  • The work completed
  • and the total project work.

It’s an easy way for Agile project managers to track what’s been completed against their total scope of work. This makes it easy to estimate if things are going according to plan or not.

How do you read a burn up chart?

Here’s an example of a good burn up chart:

burn up chart showing points and duration

Let’s break it down. A burn up chart shows:

  • The quantity of work (your story points) represented on the vertical axis (y axis)
  • Your total total project time (sprints) represented on the horizontal axis (x axis)

In addition to the two axes, there are two lines present in the burn up chart:

  • The green line is the completed work line and it represents the work your team has completed so far
  • The grey line is the total work line and represents the total work you have to do (your project’s scope)

Here’s a closer look at both those lines:

A. Completed Work Line

This line highlights the work your team has completed so far. Use it to identify how far off you are from completing a project. Remember, a project is complete when your work completed line meets your total work line. 

You can also use it to chart how much work your team completed during each sprint (iteration). This is an easy way to identify when your team was most productive. 

Your completed work line is also a good way to motivate your team by showing them how much they’ve already accomplished. It’s a simple way to show them how much effort they need to put in to complete an iteration!

almost there homer simpson gif

B. Total Work Line

This line on the burn up chart represents your project’s entire scope of work (your total project backlog).

As clients may add backlog items midway through your progress, this line could increase due to scope creep. For example, in the burn up chart we highlighted earlier, the total work line moved up during the fifth iteration. This was likely due to the client adding some backlog items at that stage.

However, in rarer cases, your total work line may even go down if a client reduces the backlog items in your product or sprint backlog.

(Don’t count on this happening though!)

How do burn up and burn down charts differ?

While burnup and burndown charts are both key to Agile project management process, they’re not the same thing.

  • A burnup chart highlights the work you’ve completed against your total project scope while a burn down chart highlights the amount of work remaining in a project.
  • A burnup chart contains a work completed line and a project scope line. A burn down chart contains an ideal work remaining line and an actual work remaining line. 

While they differ, burn up and burn down charts are both key to Agile project management process.

What are the ideal and actual work remaining lines in a burn down chart?

The ideal work remaining line highlights how much work you’d have left if a project progressed as planned. 

Your actual work remaining line highlights the actual amount of work you have left. Comparing these two lines gives you an estimate of how far ahead or behind schedule you are.

What They’re Used For:

  • Burn up charts are a good way to track how much you’ve accomplished and keep a check on your project’s scope creep
  • Burndown charts are used to identify how much work is left against the total time you set aside for a project

The Key Benefits Of Using Burn Up Charts Over Burn Down Charts

Burndown charts come with two major issues:

1. A burn down chart relies heavily on accurate project planning

As your ideal work remaining line is based on what you’ve planned, getting it right is essential.

If you’ve underestimated the time a release would take, your release burn down chart will constantly put your project team behind schedule. Alternatively, if you’ve overestimated the time your release plan will take, you’ll constantly be ahead of schedule!

Burn up chart advantage

As there are no planned estimates in burn up charts, you won’t be facing this issue. All you need to do is accurately track your progress as you move on with a project.

2. Burndown charts don’t keep track of your product backlog

This is another major issue with most release burndown charts.

Your release burndown chart only reflects added story points (tasks that are completed). It can’t monitor a scope change in case items were added to your product backlog during this time.

This can make it difficult to determine if your release burndown progress is:

  • Solely due to adding story points (work done) to your chart
  • Due to actual progress in resolving product backlog items

As your release burndown chart might not correlate with actual backlog completion, you could have an inaccurate estimate of sprint progress.

This way, you could be completing work, but as your project’s scope keeps increasing, you’re not any closer to reaching your goal!

man upset by scope creep in burn up chart

Burn up chart advantage

As a burnup charts include a line for scope change, they can give you accurate progress estimates even when scope creep happens. This guards against your burnup highlighting inaccurate backlog data!

However, as the uses for burnup and burndown charts differ – you’ll still have to use both to adopt the Agile methodology!

How Burnup charts help Agile project management

Burnup charts are an essential part of agile projects.

Here’s how:

A. Keeps Track Of What You’ve Accomplished With Each Sprint

Burnup charts make it incredibly easy to track how your sprints are progressing. As your progress is marked across sprints, you can see where you made the most progress and where things slowed down.

This can also be very useful for Scrum teams.

How?

A scrum master can go over their burnups to see what went wrong and work on solutions with the scrum team during their daily meetings!

B. Monitors Your Project Scope

Unlike other charts, burnup charts also monitor your project scope. This gives you context when you’re monitoring your project progress.

For example, if a project is taking longer than expected, take a look at the scope line to see if there was a scope change. This would explain why you’re behind schedule – even if nothing appeared to be going wrong.

Understanding your scope of work can be incredibly helpful when justifying delays to customers and other stakeholders. If a client is concerned about how long a project is taking, a product owner can highlight the deviation from the planned project path – which would explain the scope creep.

key and peele now i get it gif

What is the Best Burnup Chart Tool for Agile Project Management?

ClickUp is the best burn up chart tool for Agile project management – create powerful burnup charts to help you keep up with your project’s progress.

Luckily, Agile methodology is exactly what the ClickUp project management tool was built for! Here’s a quick glance at some of ClickUp’s key project management features: 

1. Burn up charts

As we’ve mentioned, ClickUp can help you create a burn up chart to track your project. 

Unlike some other burnup charts, ClickUp’s charts are super easy to read and understand! This makes it perfect for clients and customers.

burnup project chart in clickup

ClickUp’s burn up chart is a Sprint widget in the Dashboard feature.

In ClickUp’s burn up chart, the total amount of work to do (scope lines) is grey and the vertical axis represents Sprint points (or story points).

The green line represents the work completed over time (shown on the horizontal axis).

Once you reach all work completed, the green line will intersect the grey line, signaling the projects completion.

Add additional tasks to your project or Sprint, and you will see an increase in the grey line representing total amount of work to be done.

How do you create a burn up chart in ClickUp?

  • First, create or view a Dashboard
  • Click on + Add a widget
  • Select Sprint Widgets or search for the Burn up chart.
  • Give your Burn up chart a name (this is optional, and you can rename it later!)
  • Select the data and options for your Burn up chart
  • Click Add Widget 🎉

However, burnup charts aren’t all that ClickUp gives you.

In ClickUp Dashboard, you can view other data for your projects all in one place.

Widgets are the building blocks of each Dashboard and will help you get insights on:

  • Sprints
  • Docs
  • Tables
  • Conversations
  • And more!

You can even customize:

  • The data source of each widget: such as data from sprint lists or custom fields
  • The time period: such as a rolling 30 day period or a fixed range
  • The workload type: such as sprint capacity based on a story points

Here’s a quick look at some of the other widgets you can add:

A. Burndown Charts

With ClickUp, you can create a burn down chart alongside your burn up chart to keep up with your project’s progress.

Unlike other release burndown charts, ClickUp’s burndown charts come with a projected progress line. This line highlights what your project progress will look like if you continue at the same rate. This way, you can determine if you’ll meet your goal if you continue at the same progress rate!

ClickUp’s burndowns are also color-coded for easy identification:

  • Your target line is a red dotted line
  • Your actual progress is a blue line
  • Your project progress is a yellow dotted line
ClickUp's burn down chart

B. Velocity Chart

A velocity chart determines the completion rate of your tasks. In ClickUp’s velocity chart, project tasks are broken down into weekly and bi-weekly intervals with their average velocity displayed.

velocity chart in clickup

C. Cumulative Flow Diagram

Cumulative flow diagrams help Agile teams visualize and track project progress over time. ClickUp’s cumulative flow diagram also color-codes your projects based on their status. This makes it easier to see how tasks are progressing and identify issues quickly!

cumulative flow chart in clickup

2. Gantt Charts

ClickUp’s Gantt charts are perfect progress charts for your team. 

With all your tasks and dependencies present, you can quickly make scheduling changes to keep things on track. 

a project in gantt chart view within clickup

However, that isn’t all.

Unlike a chart in Excel, ClickUp’s Gantt charts come with lots of automation, such as:

  • Automatically readjusting task dependencies whenever any scheduling changes are made
  • Automatically calculating progress percentage based on completed tasks against total tasks
  • Comparing your current project progress against your expected progress
  • Calculating your critical path to identify the most important tasks to complete a project goal 

3. Sprint Lists

Sprint lists are a core feature of any Agile project.

Luckily, ClickUp has everything you need to create and manage them.

ClickUp can add checklists to every Agile project, task and subtask. This helps you create a sprint list that breaks down the goal for each release. Just check these items off when you’re done with user stories to move on to your next sprint release!

The tool can even add Scrum points to each list to keep track of your product backlog items.

sprint list view in clickup

As these lists are so easy to read, it’s the perfect way for an Agile coach to get a team accustomed to the Agile Scrum process!

4. Reporting

ClickUp can also generate tons of reports to help Agile teams stay on top of everything

Here’s a quick look at these reports:

A. Task Completed Report

This report highlights what tasks each team member completed. It also highlights the work hours between task creation and completion.

B. Worked On Report

This report highlights what tasks each user was active in. 

Note – to be considered active, the user must have performed any action in the task.

C. Workspace Points Report

This report gamifies work processes to motivate your Agile teams to achieve more. 

This report highlights:

  • Cleared Notifications – The number of notifications cleared.
  • Comments added – Number of comments added to tasks that fit your filters
  • Resolved – The total number of resolved comments 
  • Completed – Whenever you complete and close a task, it shows up here
  • Worked on – The number of tasks a user was active in
  • Total – The numbers from each column added together

D. Who’s Behind Report

This report highlights which team members have uncleared notifications and overdue tasks. It’s a simple way to identify who needs to put in more effort immediately.

E. Time Tracked Report

This report highlights the hours spent on tasks by each development team member. It’s a simple way to keep track of who’s been working the most.

But that isn’t all that ClickUp offers you.

There are tons of other features that make it the perfect Agile tool and Scrum software like:

  • Assigned Comments – to quickly assign tasks to development team members
  • Priorities – to help you tackle the most important tasks first
  • Dependencies – to help your development team attempt tasks in the right order
  • Templates – you can quickly tackle new sprints with a customized task and chart template

Conclusion

Burn up charts are one of the most helpful ways to keep track of your Agile project’s progress. And since you can’t manage Agile software development without the right project management tool, why not download ClickUp today?

It has everything you need to manage your burnups, burndowns and sprints to keep your project progressing smoothly.

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