De-mystify CFD – Agile iteration tracking?

Cumulative Flow Diagram is a valuable tool for tracking/ forecasting agile projects. CFD is getting more prominence in the Kanban.

Software’s who cater to agile management like, Rally, Jira, MSF-TFS, etc. provide CFD as one of the default report and some even provide options to configure the CFD reports to our needs. Rally extends iteration CFD to release and project burn down as well.

CFD is one such tool which is more helpful in relative to other tools but not used much mostly due to lack of knowledge in its application to real life project scenarios.

What is cumulative flow diagram?

Cumulative flow diagram in short known as CFD is the distribution of work against time. Let’s understand this little more on how this can used by management.

Few questions management is interested to get answers from agile projects are:

  • What is WIP against the limits?
  • How many stories are yet in backlog?
  • How many stories am I working in parallel? Will I be able deliver all of them by end of the sprint with defects fixed? Any indications of wastage at end of sprint?
  • Does the team have a blocker impeding the progress? Does this require escalation for the resolution or something team can manage?
  • What is team’s story delivery rate so far? How many stories can I deliver tomorrow or Am I ready to deliver tomorrow?
  • What is the development/ scrum team’s turnaround time to deliver the story?
  • What is the lead time to production?
  • What should be my velocity considering the delivery rate and the impediments from the past?

There are many more, but in the context of CFD lets consider these questions and see how we can get the answers. Below charts provides insights into each of these questions providing info where more probe is required to get into details of issues/ impediments.

Explanation of the metrics is not given here but focus is how to get these metrics from CFD.


CFD related metrics should be used with caution like any other metric which has its own limitations. CFD is time sensitive for the current iteration or sprint. Once sprint/ iteration are closed, CFD outcomes can go in as a feed into sprint planning. This will add to the baseline to strengthen the new sprint.




Certainly one can add more intelligence and get more insights when you review 2 or more metrics together.


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