Friday, July 19, 2013

Using Google Spreadsheet as a Burndown Chart


No one in our shop questions the value of having a highly visible burndown chart in order to track our daily progress, but as we move to a more distributed team with developers working remotely or from home, we are presented with some challenges in both updating and making the burndown chart available.


Our teams will generally update the burndown charts daily. We simply add the number of remaining story points (for the current release) as recorded in our issue tracker and mark that number on our burndown chart. The chart was usually kept in the hallway or some other room where it was highly visible.

With distributed team members, we had to find a way to share a burndown chart easily. We tried several methods and finally decided to go with a Google spreadsheet. The spreadsheet allows us to display a chart for our burndown, update it daily and share it with management or testing.

Sample of the Completed Burndown

Step 1: Create a Google Spreadsheet

You'll need to start by creating a new Google spreadsheet with two sheets. The first sheet should be named chart and the second sheet named data.

Detail of the 2 sheets

Step 2: Setup the Data Columns

Select the DATA sheet, and add the columns that you will need for your chart; Sprint, Date, Actual, Projected, Ideal. Sprint is used for reference and does not display in the burndown chart.

 Setup the Chart. Switch to the CHART sheet and from the Insert menu, select the CHART option.

In the chart edit dialog, set the data range to "DATA!B1:E100" and select line chart as the type. Select OK or update.

Updating your Chart Data 

Now you are ready to begin using your new burndown chart. We usually fill in the Ideal column with values that give us a straight path from our starting value all the way to zero. The Actual column is filled in every day with the actual number of REMAINING story points on that day. After you have completed a few iterations (or sprints), you can begin calculating a projected path based on your current velocity.


Using some of the sharing and publishing features built into Google Apps, you should be able to share read-only versions of your burndown chart. So far, we have had great luck with this method, and it has worked well for our entire team.

About NexPort Solutions Group

NexPort Solutions Group is a division of Darwin Global, LLC, a systems and software engineering company that provides innovative, cost-effective training solutions and support for federal, state and local government, as well as the private sector.


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