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Burn up chart: What is it & how to use one

A burn up chart template is an agile project management tool to help you keep track of completed work and scoped work.
This template was built with Coda, the all-in-one doc that brings words, data, and teams together. Play with the template below or copy the doc to save your edits.
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Unsure what a burn up chart and how it can help you with project management?
Essential for project management, these charts are easily created in Excel spreadsheets or project management tools like Coda.
In this article, we’ll go through what a burn up chart is, how to use them effectively and help you understand the difference between burn up and burn down charts.

What is a burn up chart?

A burn up chart is a graph used in Agile and Scrum software development projects to track and visualize project progress.
Project teams and product owners use these charts to track their progress as they “burn-through” tasks during a sprint or iteration - hence the chart’s unique name.
It presents information in a straight-forward and easy-to-understand way, perfect for visualizing and reporting on project progress to stakeholders within a project dashboard.
Burn up charts like can help project managers compare actual progress versus forecasted progress and communicate it easily to your project stakeholders. You’ll understand if there’s significant scope creep in your project and take corrective action (using a ) to ensure you meet project timelines.

Four common key stakeholder questions you can answer using a burn up chart:

How is the team's progress? Are things in this project going according to plan or schedule?
Do we need to change anything in the project scope to hit our goal on time?
Are there any significant obstacles affecting project progress?
How well are we doing against team expectations or managing project backlogs?

What you need to generate a burn up chart:

A measure of work effort on the project, usually represented by story points.
Total story points across the entire project. This includes items completed, items the team is currently working on and items in the product backlog.
​Total story points for items completed

How do you read a burn up chart?

A burn up chart shows two axes and two lines to show amount of work against project progress.
X-axis: shows project time (usually represented by sprints)
Y-axis: Amount of work (usually represented by story points)
In addition, there’s usually two lines tracking completed work and project progress versus overall project scope.

Completed work line:

This represents the work your project team has done to date and the work remaining for the project. You can show how much work was done during each project sprint; both to your team members and stakeholders.
Why not use this information to motivate your team on their progress? Teams can track how much work remains on their project by watching them close the gap between the completed work line and total work line.
With this information, it’s simple to track, modify, and identity areas for improvement for your team’s work processes.

Total work line:

This represents the total work you need to do to complete your project and the entire scope of your project.
The total work line is usually flat. Hence, this line clearly tracks when work is added or removed from the project.

Other lines that may be included in a burn up chart

Ideal line: showing how much work needs to be done each day to meet the set deadline. This helps to show if a project is early or behind schedule.
Required burn up line: Shows how much work needs to be done to meet the deadline according to the current scope.

3 benefits of a burn up chart for Agile and Scrum project management methodologies

1. Identify problems early and take corrective action.

PMs are the most creative pros in the world; we have to figure out everything that could go wrong, before it does – Fredrik Haren
With a burn up chart, you’ll be able to track and expose one of the biggest risks for any project manager or scrum master: scope creep.
Scope creep happens when a project’s scope or deliverables expand from what was originally agreed on in your initial requirements meeting or contract without allocating more time, budget or resources.
Scope creep is sneaky. But you can track this and avoid this risk with a burn up chart.
Using the total work line, see if the total work line line increases during project sprints. This helps you identify and address scope creep in your project before it becomes a significant problem.
With a burn up chart, identify significant blockers affecting project progress.
If there’s a sudden drop in the completed work line during a project sprint. Understand common blockers like vague success criteria, limited stakeholder engagement, for example affecting progress and help to remove those blockers.

2. Visualize project progress and plan project workflow accurately

With an ideal line, burn up charts help you show to your team members and other stakeholders involved (scrum team, management teams and third parties) if your project is:
Ahead of schedule
Meeting the agreed schedule
Behind schedule
Sharing these charts with customers and your stakeholders can also build confidence and trust in both your team and the efficiency of the project, leading to positive outcomes all around.
Have more efficient meetings and the confidence that you have clarity on your project’s progress.
Using the scope line, you can also clearly track when work was added or removed from the project.
Visualize and estimate project completion accurately by extending a trend line from the scope and completion line. Where the two lines meet is the estimated completion time.

3. Streamline communication with clients & stakeholders

Comprehensive planning and open communication are some of the influencing project success.
Burn up charts help to communicate project progress to your stakeholders in a logical, succinct manner.
It helps avoid mismatched objectives and expectations for current stakeholders.
Should project stakeholders change for any reason, confidently use burn up charts to summarize project progress and identify next steps with precision.
Using burn up charts is useful for many of the typical meeting formats involving business, product, development teams or external stakeholders.
Requirements gathering
Planning sessions
Team retrospectives
Project review sessions
Presentations to management meetings

👉 Get started with this critical path method template.
Copy this template

After you copy this template, you can start utilizing this free burn up chart template for your scrum and . This way you can better visualize when scope creep happens in your project, and whether you have the resources to complete the required work (using hours or story points).

Creating a burn up chart with this Coda template

Step 1: Define project sprints and tasks

On the page, you can add your project sprints and tasks by clicking the Add Sprint and Add Task buttons, respectively. This creates a brand new rows in the and tables. For each task you should mark the owner of the task in the Assigned to column. The Sprint Name is a dropdown that denotes the sprint for that given task. You’ll be able to edit the name of the sprints in the table. All the tasks in this table are sorted by the Sprint start date which is also found in the table.

Step 2: Estimate story points for scoped work

The Total Story Points is the estimated work for that ask (current default is 500 story points). As your team completes tasks in each sprint, you should update the Completed Story Points with the updated completed work amount to help create the burn up chart. It’s important to update these columns since these story points will help create the burn up chart on the page.

Step 3: Customize sprints and view burn up chart

On the page, you’ll be able to see a list of all your sprints. These are the same sprints you saw in Step 1. You can edit the name of the sprint as well as the sprint’s start and end dates. The Total Scoped Points, Completed Points, and Cum. Completed Points are all formulaic columns in this table and are based on the story points you entered in the page. As you scroll down the page, you’ll see the burn up chart which is a
based off of the table. As you update the story points in the table, this updates the table, which then updates the burn up chat all in real time.

Frequently asked questions about burn up charts:

What's the difference between a burn-down chart and a burn up chart?

Both charts are essential to Agile project management and represent the same information, but in different ways. Burn up charts show the total amount of work completed during a project’s duration and progress made over time, whereas burn down charts focus on how much work needs to be done to complete a project.
Burn up charts show upward-trending lines, Burn-down charts show a downward trending line as amount of work remaining in a project decreases over time. This visual representation may be more intuitive for stakeholders to read.
As burn-down charts track total amount of work completed, they are more suited to tracking projects with a fixed scope. Burn up charts are better if you’re tracking a project with a tendency for scope creep or scope change, as it allows you to show work done and progress made during each sprint.

What does a burn up chart show?

There are two main lines shown on the chart: one for the total project work planned, and the other for tracking the work completed to date for a project sprint.

What do the lines on the burn up chart represent?

Y-axis (vertical axis): Shows the quantity of work (story points)
X-axis (horizontal axis): Total project time, number of project sprints)
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