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Project Pulse – Burn Down Report

We have good days and bad days when trying to churn through our task list. And you should never let one day’s productivity dictate the speed at which the rest of your project will be estimated on. Nor should you predict speed in percentages. I have discussed some of this in a previous post

What we want to do is understand our project work in terms of hours.

Gather around, its real world example time!  I have a car.  This car tells me my percentage of gas remaining and my current speed.  Unfortunately I don’t have one of those nice little BMW features that tells me my miles per gallon and distance possible.   So when I was traveling from Houston back to Austin in my car, I would freak out when my car informed me that I had only so much gas left, because I had no way of knowing just how long that percentage would last.  When I did that same trip in my friend’s car, I knew because of the MPG that I could go another 50 miles before needing to find the gas station.

So now when I sit in these project status meetings that handle tasks in percentages, I cringe.  First of all, the only accurate percentages I ever believe are either 0%, 50%, or 100%.  Many tasks zoom through 0% to 505 and 50% to 90% where they wait in a magical limbo while people discover the real amount of work it was taking. 

The way we get our insight into the real end date of a project or group of tasks is with the burndown chart.  As with project velocity, you need to track the hours remaining on all of your tasks.  With that information, keep a daily record of the total sum of hours remaining.  Chart these points out daily (ignoring weekends and holidays)to see where your historical burn down is.  Take your 5 day project velocity and use that to subtract from your remaining hours each day until it reaches zero hours.  This is your predicted end date.


In this example graph you can see that we were able to identify one of our features as out of scope and removed those hours from the remaining work to be done.  It also looks like we won’t complete all of our work until sometime in June at our current pace.  With that information we can work with the project stakeholders and requirement engineers and figure out what (if anything) needs to be changed to meet a deadline.Using this in conjunction with the previous Project Pulse articles will help you create a more holistic project dashboard to effectively manage your efforts.

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