Rekindling Burndown

Is the Campfire Cold?Match Burning Down

——– UPDATE March 2014 ——–

In the Fall of 2013, Workfront introduced Burndown charts as part of their Agile improvements. However, for those interested in a Project Level Burndown, showing (for example) how many hours were PLANNED to be worked each week, vs how many hours were ACTUALLY worked, here is an approach to consider:

In short, use Tasks to track this information:

  • Create a top level Task at the bottom of the Project Plan called Burndown
  • Under Burndown, create two more Tasks: BurnTarget and BurnActual
  • Under each of those, create one week-long Task for each week that the Project will run, chained (e.g. 10 one-week Tasks each, for a 10 week Project)
  • Create a Task Level Custom Form called Burndown — with a Numeric Text field called BurnHours and a dropdown called BurnSeries with two Parameter Options – Target and Actual
  • Attach the Burndown Custom Form to the BurnTarget and BurnActual lowest level Tasks (e.g. 20 Tasks)
  • Set the BurnSeries = Target on the 10 BurnTarget Tasks, and BurnSeries = Actual on the 10 BurnActual Tasks
  • Update the BurnHours to the appropriate straighline value (e.g. for a 1000 hour 10 week Project, 1000 hours, 900 hours, 800 hours, etc.)
  • Similarly, run an Actual Hours report and then update the BurnHours for any BurnActuals that have already elapsed (e.g. 1000 – 110 = 890 in the first week, 1000 – (110 + 90) = 800 in the second week, etc.)
  • Create a line chart showing the Sum of BurnHours, grouped by BurnSeries, across the Planned Task Start Date

Using SumIt, it is also possible to automate the Actual Hours portion, but hopefully this is enough to get you started. Additionally, this approach will let you “stack” Projects, too: think “Project Manager Burndown”, “Portfolio Burndown”, and “Total Burndown”. Cool stuff.

——– Original Article, published Oct 2010 ——–

Back at the 2009 Workfront User Conference, there was quite a bit of buzz around Agile Project Management tools. One concept I like was a burndown chart: pick some Tasks, choose a timeframe, then use a picture to confirm you’re on track to meet your goal.

I haven’t heard much about burndown charts since then, so I wonder … has the fire gone out?

A Spark of an Idea

Most modern Portolio Project Management Software does a good job of highlighting current state: what has happened, is happening, and will happen, from a particular current point in time, at the time it occurs. A burndown chart, however, has a historical state to it, allowing Project Managers to compare progress over time, not just at the time. That’s the tricky part. However using some concepts I presented in my Project Management Time Travel post, I’ve had some success. Here’s a picture. There’s a groovy animated browser version, too.


Burndown Example


Warming Up to the Concept

To be fair: this was just a prototype. But I’m considering taking it further. If you are interested in building Burndown Charts in Workfront, I’d love to hear from you. Specifically, how would you suggest I prioritize these alternatives?

When running a burndown chart, the majority of users will want:

A. To choose a single Project and generate a burndown chart run for all Tasks in the Project for the entire duration of the Project

B. To choose a single Project, provide a sprint name and associated date range within that Project, then generate a burndown chart run for all Tasks in the Project that are Planned [vs Projected] to finish within that date range

C. Same as B, but based on Projected to finish within that date range

D. To multi-select one or more Projects, provide a sprint name and associated date range, provide a Task Category, then generate a burndown chart run for all Tasks with that Category across those Projects, providing the Tasks are Planned [vs Projected] to finish within that date range

E. Same as D, but based on Projected to finish within that date range

You can either leave comments so others can read them, or email me directly at

Thanks in advance!

On March 31st, 2013, posted in: Advanced, Cool, Philosophical, Popular by ,