We recently introduced the Created vs Closed Work Item Chart (CVC Chart) in Aiveo for monitoring the performance of teams working on multiple projects. This article will explain what a CVC chart is, how you can use it to monitor your projects, and why we decided to use it in the portal dashboard but not the project dashboard.
The Created vs Closed Work Item Chart
A CVC chart keeps track of the total number of work items created and closed over a specific period of time. It assumes that, as someone monitoring a project, you are only concerned with recent performance. It therefore does not count the number of work items that were created or closed prior to the time period.
Fig. 1: A CVC chart with a 30 day period.
Fig. 1 is a CVC chart that considers the period between March 1 and March 30. The red line represents the total number of work items created since the beginning of the period, while the green line represents the total number of work items closed since the beginning of the period. On March 26, for example, a total of 120 work items were created since March 1, while a total of 150 work items were closed since March 1.
You can use the CVC chart to measure the performance of your teams, in terms of their ability to close recently created work items. Performance can be evaluated by examining the red and green shaded areas between the created and closed lines on the graph. When an area is shaded red, performance is considered good if that area shrinks over time. When an area is shaded green, performance is considered good when that area grows over time. Poor performance may be an indication that team productivity is lagging, or that work items are being created at a faster rate than teams can handle.
The CVC chart also allows you to see the rate that your teams close work items. You can tell by looking at the slope of the closed line. If the slope is small, it may mean that the team is not productive, or that the work items are too large and should be broken into smaller, more manageable pieces.
To help illustrate the usefulness of the CVC chart, the next section explains how the CVC chart can be interpreted under different circumstances.
Interpreting the CVC Chart
This section shows what a CVC chart may look like, and how it can be interpreted, under two different use cases. The first use case assumes that work items are created gradually over time, perhaps to deal with issues as they arise. The second case assumes that work items are primarily assigned at the beginning of milestones, which will be the case for teams that have an iterative project management style. For both cases, examples of good performance and poor performance are shown.
Creating Work Items Gradually Over Time
This use case assumes that work items are created on an ongoing basis, with up to 5 work items created within a day. When teams perform well, the rate that work items are closed is equal to or greater than the rate that work items are created. Teams that perform poorly, on the other hand, struggle to close recently created work items.
Fig. 2: A CVC chart illustrating good performance when work items are created gradually over time.
Fig. 2 provides an example of a team performing well. It is easy to tell visually that performance is good, because the area between the lines that is shaded red generally decreases over time, while the area shaded green grows over time. From March 1-15, the team is completing work items at about the same rate in which they are being created. From March 15-30, the team is completing work items at a greater rate than they are being created. Overall, the team performed well throughout the month.
Fig. 3: A CVC chart illustrating poor performance when work items are created gradually over time.
Fig. 3 provides an example of a team performing poorly for the first half of the month. From March 1-15, the red area on the graph grows over time, because work items are being created at a faster rate than they are being closed.
After March 15, the team's performance improves. The red area shrinks until the lines cross, then the green area grows. This indicates that the team recovered and was eventually able to close work items at a steady pace.
Creating Work Items at the Beginning of Milestones
This use case assumes that your teams are following an iterative process, where the majority of work items are created at the beginning of each milestone. It assumes that iterations last for two weeks. In this case, one iteration begins on March 6, while another begins on March 20. A small number of work items were created during the milestone as well.
Fig. 4: A CVC chart illustrating good performance when work items are created at the beginning of milestones.
Fig. 4 shows a team performing well with an iterative process. The large jumps in created work items occur on March 6 and March 20, the first dates of each milestone. You can tell visually that the teams are performing well, because the red areas shrink over time to the point where the created and closed lines cross. This means that teams are completing all the work items created for the current milestone. The green area grows over time, until the beginning of a new milestone. The green area exists because, having closed all the work items for the current milestone, the teams begin to close work items that are present in the backlog.
Fig. 5: A CVC chart illustrating poor performance when work items are created at the beginning of milestones.
Fig. 5 shows a team performing poorly with an iterative process. You can tell because there is a large red area in the graph. While the red area shrinks over time, the created and closed lines never cross, indicating that at least one team is not completing all of its assigned work items within each milestone. One or more teams may be unproductive, or perhaps some are overestimating the number of work items they can close within a milestone.
Why the CVC Chart is Used to Monitor Multiple Projects
We wanted a graph on the portal dashboard that, similar to a burndown chart, could help with
- Ensuring that recently created work items get closed at a steady pace.
- Estimating the number of work items that teams can close over time.
As the previous sections demonstrated, the CVC chart does both.
We decided against using a burndown chart on the portal dashboard, as it implicitly assumes that the goal is to close all work items by a specific date. This makes sense on the project dashboard, where a manager can view different milestones and make sure that the work items in them are being closed by the milestone deadline. The portal dashboard, however, shows the progress of multiple projects, which may each have different milestones. We decided to use the CVC chart because it shows the progress that teams make on projects and the speed at which they close work items, while avoiding the need to force projects to share the same milestones.
The CVC chart helps you measure team performance in terms of closing recently created work items, and in terms of the speed in which items are closed. It consists of two lines: one showing the total number of work items created in a time period, and the other showing the total number of work items closed within the same time period. The gap between the two lines, and the slope of the closed line, help you measure team performance.
The gap between both lines is shaded to aid interpretation of the graph. Generally, areas shaded red should shrink over time, while areas shaded green should grow. A large red area indicates an issue, as work items are being created at a faster rate than they are being closed.
The CVC chart provides similar information to a burndown chart, without assuming that the number of work items must reach zero by a certain date. This is useful when showing aggregate information over multiple projects, that may each have unique milestones, and is why we included the CVC chart on the portal dashboard.
If you have questions about this article, or suggestions for other charts to include in Aiveo, please let us know.