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The Cumulative flow diagram shows the various statuses of your project's issues over time. It's a visual indication of how many issues are passing through each column of your board. This helps you see which columns accumulate more issues than others, and identify bottlenecks in your team's workflow.
How to read the diagram
The horizontal axis represents time, and the vertical axis represents issues.
Each colored area of the chart equates to a column on your board.
Each dot represents one issue transition, such as an issue being created (and thus being transitioned to To do) or an issue transitioning from one status to another (eg: moving from To do to In progress).
If your chart contains an area that is widening vertically over time, the column that equates to the widening area will generally be a bottleneck.
If you start a sprint with 5 issues, all issues will begin in the To Do column. If you view the diagram, it will show 5 issues To Do, 0 issues In Progress, and 0 issues Done.
If you then move 2 issues to In Progress, the diagram will display 5 issues To Do (because 5 have passed through that column), 2 issues In Progress, and 0 issues Done.
If you then move 1 issue from In Progress to Done, the diagram will show To Do = 5, In Progress = 2, and Done = 1.
If you then take that 1 issue out of Done and move it back to To Do, the diagram will remove the 1 from Done and remove 1 from In Progress, but the numbers in To Do will remain the same, because no new issues have arrived. Therefore, the diagram will show To Do = 5, In Progress = 1, Done = 0.
Things to keep in mind
The Cumulative flow diagram is based on your board's column mapping. An issue is considered to be To Do when it's in the left-most column of your board. Similarly, an issue is Done when it's in the right-most column of your board, and the Done status is associated with that column.
The diagram displays data for the entire life of the project. If your team works in sprints, you may find it more useful to use the date filter at the top to only show issues for one sprint.
If your project has the Backlog enabled, issues created on the backlog will show up on the diagram as a To do transition.
Ideally, your diagram should be rising evenly, except for the band representing Done issue, which should be continuously getting taller.
What you can learn from the Cumulative flow diagram
The diagram gives you a visualization of the following key metrics for your team:
Cycle time: The time an issue takes to move through the "In progress" statuses and becomes ready to deliver.
Work in progress: This is the number of issues that are actively being worked on at any given time.
You can limit work in progress on your board by hovering over a column name and selecting more () > Set column limit.
Scope: For Scrum teams, the diagram can give you a visualization of how much work has been committed to in any given sprint.
To learn more about metrics that may be useful for your agile team to monitor, check out our Agile Coach site.
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