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Explaining Cumulative Flow Diagrams

by Yuval Yeret

The Cumulative Flow Diagram (CFD) is a great tool for tracking and forecasting projects. By the use of it you can easily check the current status: how much work has been done, what is in progress and how much is still waiting to be done in the backlog. A Cumulative Flow chart helps to gain insight into issues, cycle time and likely completion dates. It is also indispensable for identifying bottlenecks.

cumulative flow diagram

The diagram above shows the number of tasks in each stage of the process, that grows over time. Different colors represent tasks in different columns on a board. The blue and navy areas show tasks that need to be done, the red area - work in progress and the purple area represents all the finished tasks. The most important one to watch is the red area. If it increases or widens vertically with time - like in the image above, this means, that there are some problems or bottlenecks along the way and the project will probably be delayed.

CFD visualizes where the stories are in the workflow across time. It can be applied by any kind of team doing customer-valued work, including Scrum and product development teams. Learn how to read a CFD, get to know the meaning of different areas of the diagram and find out how to identify factors which affect it.

Read our article on the Cumulative Flow Diagram »