Project Assignment 4 – App Description and Burn Down Chart

In this assignment, you will write and present an app design summary. You will also review the work required to implement the project and construct a simple burn down chart.

Reading List

To prepare for this assignment, read

Assignment Description

App Description Document

Immediately after meeting with your scientist, you should write an App Description Document using your notes from the interview. The App Description briefly describes what you expect to design and implement. It is a one or two page document which includes the following sections

  • App Idea – a few sentence description of the main purpose of the app and what it will enable.
  • Users – a list of different user types with a few word description of the user and their role using the app. Include information such as their expected age, and expertise with technology.
  • App Usage – This is a brief description of the users using the app.
  • Data – List of general data types. This is NOT a detail list. For example you could list “form data”, “device gps coordinates” and “photos.”

I will ask you to read your App Description to the class. We will discuss the different aspects of your description. You should use these discussions to delineate what aspect of the App Description is missing and prepare for your second scientist meeting.

Email your Scientist/Client

App Description

After you have reviewed the App Description with me and the class, and your team has revised the App Description, email it to your scientist. In the email, ask your scientist to review the description and make any revision. The App Description can be attachment or inline in the email, but make it distinct from the body of the email so that it is apparent that that it is a separate document.

Second Interview Reminder

Also in this email remind your scientist/client confirming the next meeting. If you are meeting by Zoom, make the Zoom meeting and include the Zoom connect information in the email.

Carbon copy your team and me on the email to your scientist.

Burn Down Chart

A burn down chart shows the remaining work to be accomplished on a project over time.  The ordinate of the chart is a measure of work or effort and the abscissa is a measure of time from the beginning of the project to the delivery date of the product. Ideally, the graph shows a steady decline of work remaining on the project over time reaching zero at the delivery date. A burn down chart does not always show this steady decline. The graph can show an increase in remaining work if the scope of the project is increased or the tasks of the project were a poor estimate of the work.  

A burn down chart is a tool for monitoring the progress of a project and to predict the completion time for the project. The creation of a burn down chart is a planning activity because the team needs to delineate tasks of a project and estimate their values. Performing this activity during the initial phase of development affords the team the opportunity to think about the complete project before getting bogged down in the details of design and implementation. 

Burn down charts are a popular tool for the Scrum development processes. A burn down chart is made for each iteration (sprint) and is a tool used to monitor the progress during the sprint. The chart can be used to refine later estimates on user story values and sprint efforts. This course is not using the Scrum development process. It uses a process that I called “Scheduled Rapid Development”. Although the course does proceed by prototype iterations, these iterations are not equal size or effort. Consequently, we will use the burn down chart to monitor the entire development of your projects. 

As a team, you will create a burn down chart that you will maintain throughout the semester. To create the burn down chart, you need to create a list of tasks for the project and estimate their effort or work. You can use the course project assignments as a guide to create the project task list. You will need to estimate the effort or work for each project task. The measure of work or effort for the tasks should not be an absolute scale such as person-work hours. Rather, the measure should be relative. Meaning that it can only be used to compare the effort for one task to another. By reading the assignments, you can make your estimate of effort. Some tasks/assignments will be obviously easier than other. The resolution for the measure of effort should not be very refined. It is sufficient to identify that one task is twice as hard as another. A popular scale to use for effort is the Bernoulli scale. If you feel that you cannot make this estimate then give each project task the same value, for example 10. 

Besides the measure for the estimate of project task effort, you need to construct a timeline. I suggest using weeks. So the burn down chart will have 15 weeks including final weeks. If you plan for your team to meet twice a week, you may consider a higher resolution for time, for example twice a week. 

I have created an Excel template, empty worksheet with formulas, that you can use to make your burn down chart. 

CS4760 Burn Chart-Empty.xlsx

The worksheet consists of two parts, a burn down table and a burn down graph. You list the project tasks and their estimated in the burn down table. You monitor the progress of your project by entering how much effort was performed on the tasks for the week. The burn down graph will automatically display the progress of your project. I have created an example spreadsheet using the template.


Open the spreadsheet. Look at column A which is the Product Backlog Inventory (PBI). The tasked named as “Task 1”, “Task 2”, etc. were identified at the beginning of the project and given an initial value, in this case all the tasks have effort value 10. The tasks named as “Add task 1” and “Add task 2” were tasks identified after the project started. I will speak more about them later. For now, look at row 5 after the “Initial Estimated Effort”. This row is the header for the timeline, The headers numbered 1, 2, 3, etc. are the numbered week for the semester. (Note that the column for the “Initial Estimated Effort” is given the week number zero so that the graph plots properly.) The cells below the timeline are filled with the amount of work that was completed for the task. For example on the first week, 5 points of work were performed on “Task 1”. During the second week, another 5 pt of work were accomplished on “Task”, completing the task, and 10 points of work for “Task 2”. You can look at the burn down graph to see the effect of the effort during the first two weeks. The blue line represents the actual progress of the project while the orange line represents the ideal progress for the project. At the third week, the actual progress drops below the ideal progress. This suggests that the progress of the project is ahead of schedule. In this case, the amount that the project is ahead of schedule is small and probably does not mean much because the effort estimates are not accurate. 

Look at the rows for the project tasks that were identified after the initial estimated effort, “Add task 1” and “Add task 2”. The row for “Add task 1” has a cell with “-20” for the third week. This indicates that “Add task 1” was identified during the third week and given an estimated effort of 20. We must entered a negative number for the estimated effort because a positive number would indicate work done by the team. Look at the effect on the burn down graph. The actual progress is above the ideal progress. This should not be a concern. It represents that the team has expanded the scope of the project. An alternative method for adding the estimated effort for the task “Add task 1” would have been to enter “20” to the “Initial Estimated Effort”. I do not prefer this method because it will completely change the graph causing the total initial estimated effort to increase to 120. Also the technique does not indicate when then the task was identified and does not appear on the burn down graph. Look at the row for “Add task 2”. The task was identified during the sixth week and given an estimated effort of -30. The effect on the burn down graph is very similar to adding the “Add task 1” task. The ideal actual progress of the project is again above the ideal progress. 

Look at the row for “Task 8”. In the cell for the fifth week, the value -5 was entered. It is not possible for negative work to be done on a task. Rather, it represents that during the fifth week that the team identified that the effort for “Task 8” was harder then their initial estimated work.  Again the initial estimated effort for “Task 8” could have been corrected, but entering the negative number during the fifth week is better. It records when the team identified the poor estimate. 

The team is responsible for creating and maintaining the burn down chart. You do not have to use the Excel template that I provided, but whatever you use, it should provide all the information that my template provides. On your team website you will provide a link to download your burn down chart spreadsheet. In addition, the burn down graph should be prominently posted on your team website, such as on the website home page. To post the graph on your website you will need to use a second application, such as Microsoft Word. You copy the graph from the spreadsheet and post it into Microsoft Word as a picture. Then use Microsoft Word to export the image to a file. The PNG format is good.  You do not need to save the Microsoft Word file after the export. The PNG that you have created can now be added to the website. You should keep this graph up to date weekly. 

Submit on Canvas and Due Date

Submit on canvas your initial app summary and burn down chart spreadsheet before you present. I will give feedback during your team presentation.

Grading Rubric

The App Description will be evaluated by timeliness and completeness. In particular, I will look for:

  • Clear, concise and correct app idea
  • Identification of specific user types
  • Workflow that clearly illustrates the use of the app
  • Identification of major data types that app will collect and/or present

The burn down chart will be evaluated for demonstrating the major steps for designing and implementing the app. I do not expect that you and your team will know all the steps required to program the app, but I do expect that you and your team have looked at remaining project assignments and recorded correctly the timeline.

Prepare for the Next Assignment

In your next assignment you will prepare for your second interview with the assignment. There are no lecture readings, but you should read the assignment.