This is the burndown chart of our latest sprint that ended yesterday. Burndown chart is an agile technique for focusing team on delivering results requested by the product owner. It measures the amount of work still left to do in a sprint. Contrary to the most types of charts, it is good if the line on this chart goes down. A coworker of mine remarked, “when the burndown chart goes down, the sales chart goes up!” This sprint was the most successful sprint (measured by amount of story points completed) in a year and a half since we have introduced scrum at Zemanta. We still didn’t finish all the stories, but we came pretty close this time. Big kudos to the team and the product owners for all the hard work that was needed in order to accomplish this!
Burndown charts have one big pitfall. By pushing people to complete stories and to make burndown chart line fall it is easy to forget that story points are just a proxy for measuring success of the team. The real measure of a successful team is the amount of tangible results that bring profit to the company. Your users don’t care about the amount of story points you’ve completed, they only care about the value they get for their money. In order to avoid this pitfall, it’s essential to instill in the team’s culture a very rigorous definition of done. This can only be achieved if the product owner and engineering manager do not accept half-baked work as done just in order for the burndown chart to look nice at the end of the sprint. This is not an easy feat and can only be achieved if the team truly believes in the excellence of their work.