Visualise your work with the Open Tasks chart

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As part of our ongoing architecture redesign, we've also had to redo all of the individual dashboard screens. It has been a lot of work but also an opportunity to make improvements based on what we've learned along the way. 

For the Cumulative Flow chart we wanted to change two aspects in the existing implementation:

  • Our Cumulative Flow chart didn't really behave as a typical Cum flow chart you see in some other products would.
  • The name Cumulative Flow chart felt a bit technical, too. It's not obvious how to interpret the chart unless you're familiar with the concept.

One of our guiding design principles is that visualisations must be easy to interpret. It ought to be obvious what the chart is supposed to communicate when you look at the chart. Without having to read manuals or google the meaning of the terminology used. 

Therefore, we decide to rename the chart to Open Tasks. It provides essentially the same information as the previous Cumulative Flow chart, but in addition you get

  • Filtering based on label, assignee, or workflow state
  • Ability to adjust the timeframe shown
  • Ability to choose between task count and estimates
  • Options for grouping the data either by workflow state, label, or assignee

The last point makes this chart almost like three charts in one, as it provides answers to slightly different questions depending how the data is grouped. Let's take a look at each of these cases.
 

Detect bottlenecks in your workflow

When data is grouped by workflow state, coloured areas correspond to all the workflow states that are mapped to Not started or In progress. In this mode, the chart provides essentially the same information as the Cumulative Flow chart provided i.e. the distribution of tasks in different states over a time period. The width of the colour band corresponds to the number of tasks (or story points) in the given state.

The utility of this chart is in its ability to uncover impediments in the process. If any of the coloured areas starts to widen, it suggests there may be a bottleneck that requires attention.

 

Manage your backlog

When data is grouped by label, coloured areas correspond to labels (or other properties) that you’ve assigned to your tasks. The usefulness of this mode depends largely on how well you’ve chosen the labelling scheme. Chances are that some of your tasks are more interesting than the others. If you’ve labeled them accordingly, then this mode let’s you easily monitor the progress of those tasks. For example, you might use a specific label for severe bugs, and then use this view for monitoring whether the amount of severe bugs in your backlog is growing.

 

Manage your team's workload

When data is grouped by assignee, the chart shows the number of tasks (or story points) assigned to each individual. You'll quickly see if some of your team members are overloaded or running out of tasks. 

This new chart is immediately available for all dashboards, and if it's not visible, you can enable it in the dashboard settings. If you already had the Cumulative Flow chart enabled, then this chart replaces it. Go ahead and play around with the settings and filters to find the configuration that provides most value for you!

Here's a quick video to demonstrate this new chart in action

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BY SAMI LINNANVUO

Sami is the founder & CEO of Screenful, the company that turns data into visual stories. You can find him on Twitter @sl1nna