Getting the Most From tinyPM’s Project Tracking

Marcin Niebudek

tinyPM provides at the moment several ways to track project’s progress using different types of charts:

  • project scope burndown chart (3 types)
  • project budget tracking chart
  • iteration scope burndown chart (based on story estimates)
  • iteration scope burndown chart (based on task estimates)
  • iteration scope burndown chart (based on reported time left on tasks)

Those charts are driven by four types of data available in tinyPM:

  • effort, on the user story
  • effort, on the task
  • time spent, on the timesheet activity
  • time left, on the timesheet activity

All those elements are optional to use and every user can choose for herself if she wants to use only some of them or all. You will find a cheat sheet with a summary on all tinyPM charts in our documentation at:

Entering each one of those elements provides different level of insight into project state, so let’s have a look at what can we see in tinyPM by providing each of that data.

User story estimated effort

You can enter estimated effort for every user story. This is the most important and most commonly used number in tinyPM. Story estimates allow planning, are used to calculate average velocity that tinyPM suggests as capacity for newly created iterations (planned velocity field). Finally story points drive all project scope charts, iteration burndown based on user stories. Story points are also used for drawing scope series on budget tracking chart.

tinyPM Backlog

We’ve been posting some information about types of project scope charts available in tinyPM in the article Burning Down, Climbing Up, but let’s recap some key points from the tinyPM user’s perspective.

Project scope chart based on total effort. This chart start with the value of total estimated effort entered for all stories in the backlog. Every completed story (all tasks completed) burns this chart down (blue line). This type of chart contains also the green line calculated from planned velocity entered for each iteration. This type of chart never goes up.

tinyPM - Project scope chart based on total estimated effort

Project scope chart based on initial effort. This chart starts with the sum of estimated effort entered for stories created before any iteration is created. For each iteration we calculate currently estimated effort for all user stories. This means that if any story is removed during some iteration then the chart will fall down faster, but if some stories are created during such iteration (after the start of the project) then the chart may even go up (if stories added are worth more points than stories completed during that iteration). Effort completed for each iteration on this type of chart is calculated using the following formula:

effort left (real) for iteration N = estimated effort of stories created until iteration N – effort completed by iteration N

tinyPM - Project scope burndown based on initial estimated effort

Project burnup chart. This type of chart is the easiest one to use as it starts with zero and every story completed during each iteration pulls the effort completed line (blue one) up by the number of story estimated effort. All changes in total scope of project (stories added or removed during project) are represented by the additional series of total scope (gray line). If all stories are created before initial planning of iterations then the gray line goes up at the beginning and and stays constant during all iterations. However if any user story is added later in the project (and has estimated effort defined) then this line goes up and the whole point is that both blue and gray lines meet at the top right corner of the chart at the end of the project.

tinyPM - Project burnup chart

Iteration burndown (“User stories”). This chart is similar to the project burndown based on total effort. It starts with the total estimated effort for all stories added to the iteration. On the day when user story is completed (all it’s tasks are completed), the chart is burned down. This means that this chart works well for projects where stories are relatively small within the iteration and are quickly completed. Otherwise this chart may stay unchanged until the very end of the iteration when all the stories are finally completed within one or two days.

tinyPM - Iteration burndown ("User stories")

Effort on the task

You don’t need the tasks estimation if you have small stories that can be completed within one or two days. In this case estimates on stories and iteration burndown based on those estimates are totally enough to track project and iteration progress with a proper level of detail.

tinyPM - Taskboard

However if you stories get bigger and you like to define more tasks for each story, then you may want to start tracking tasks instead of stories. In this case tasks can use different scale of estimates than stories (defined in project settings page). This gives a possibility to:

  • estimate tasks using relative scale like story points
  • estimate tasks using time units

If you only want to escape the trap of big stories completed mostly at the end of iteration then the only thing you need is to have more detailed tasks in those stories. tinyPM is able to present two types of iteration burndown chart based on tasks.

Iteration burndown (“Tasks”). This chart may work with tasks without any estimates. If tasks estimation is turned off then all tasks will be treated as even (assuming they are small enough to be completed within a day). They burn down they chart when they are completed. Additionally each task in progress is presented as the yellow area on the chart so that it’s possible to see if a lot of work is in progress but not completed. If the tasks are estimated, then the estimates are used to calculate the burn rates on the chart and bigger tasks burn it quicker than the small ones.

tinyPM - Iteration burndown ("Tasks")

Iteration burndown (“Effort left”). This chart (apart of task estimates) requires entering time left on tinyPM’s timesheet. However if you don’t do that and provide only estimates for tasks you will notice that it will look like the one based on “Tasks”.

Time left on the timesheet activity

Time left comes from Scrum methodology when it’s declared every day for each tasks in Sprint. Iteration burndown (“Effort left”) starts with total estimated effort of tasks. Thats why, if you plan to use time left from timesheet, then task estimations should be also done using time units. After that, for each iteration day, all time left values are added up to calculate total time left to complete iteration.

tinyPM - Iteration burndown ("Effort left")

This type of chart may go up if some day during the iteration we find out something that makes completing the task impossible withing the initially estimated time. At that point we enter higher value of time left for such task in the timesheet. So this chart to work properly requires both – task estimation and timesheet entries with time left for those tasks.

Time spent on the timesheet activity

Time spent entered in the tinyPM’s timesheet is used only on the budget tracking chart. Also the story estimated effort is used in this type of chart to calculate the scope line (blue one). Total effort entered for all stories becomes 100% of scope on this chart, while budget (in man-hours) entered for project (on project settings form) is used as 100% of budget (red line).

Each story completed burns down the scope line while, each hour entered as time spent (on timesheet) burns down budget line. More on budget tracking idea you can read in the article “We’re in the Right Truck!“.

tinyPM - Budget tracking chart

tinyPM - Project settings form

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