Sprint Burndowns in Story Points or Time?

Another day, another interesting discussion at work.

This time, I guess you got that, we talked about the data teams’ Sprint Burndowns should be based on. Should teams have their Sprint Burndown based on Story Points or on the sum of all remaining estimated tasks in hours?

To answer this question, it’s important to understand what the goal/role of a Sprint Burndown is. The Sprint Burndown is a tool that:

* shows the team’s progress of a running Sprint
* indicates the team’s performance during the Sprint
* should show whether a team is on a good way to meet its commitment or not
* shows where blocks in the development process may happen 

Let’s do a small comparison of 2 approaches…

1. Sprint burndown based on story points

* doesn’t require the team to estimate tasks
* might be considered as less overhead by the team
* may not explicitely show bottlenecks in the development process
* may have the tendency to create burndowns like this


2. Sprint burndown based on time

* requires initial tasks to be created and estimated at Sprint start
* may put negative pressure on the team by introducing another level of estimations (and measuring against these estimates)
* may be considered as too much overhead by the team
* may show bottlenecks/blocks more explicitely than with Story Points
* will have the tendency to create burndowns like this


In summary, the purpose alone of the Burndown should already give a good idea in which direction to go. The team/company’s culture and how deep you are in your implementation of Scrum may be 2 other aspects to take into account when making that decision.

Now Jeff Sutherland recently wrote “The best teams I work with burn down story points. They only burn down when a story is done.” (Source) - Are you there yet?

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