Cumulative Flow Diagram

The Cumulative Flow diagram (CFD) provides a graphic depiction of how cards are moving through various statuses on the way to being ‘Done’. It shows us the total scope of a board, grouped by status, and thus lets us know how much of that scope is in a particular status at a given time. The CFD in SwiftKanban helps to track the performance of the board and how close you are to completing the board on a whole. It plots the distribution of cards in each state/lane at a moment (date, calendar, week, month, and quarter,) along the timeline.

In the Analytics tab, click the Filter icon on the Auto-hide toolbar that docks out on the left edge. Select the options accordingly, in the filter window, and click Apply. The chart will be refreshed.

  • In the ‘Plot Chart By’ option, you can choose to plot the chart by ‘Card Count’ or ‘Estimate’ (provided you have estimates entered for cards). Estimate entered for a Card can be interpreted as days / hours / story points (as selected in preference by the enterprise).
  • Select a specific period, i.e. the Start Date and End Date from the calendar to limit the scope of chart data. View charts by selecting appropriate dates to analyze the recent performance of the team against the previous duration or the outcome of any process change. The chart considers cards that are/were lying in the chosen lanes / stages during the date range.
  • Select the ‘Time Period’ for Analytics to be rolled up/unrolled on X axis-Daily, Weekly, Monthly, and Quarterly.
  • Select specific card types, Size, Priority, and Class of Service values for the card types.
  • Select one Swim Lanes/ Smart lane if you have defined more than one.
  • Choose exactly the stages (explaned below) for which you want to generate by selecting the Start Lane and End Lane. The charts consider the cards that have exited the End Lane in the date range and may or may not have entered the Start Lane during the selected date range.
  • Show Prediction :Plots the line forecasting the required throughput to complete pending items based on the current progress. It also predicts the date when the pending items can be completed given the current throughput.  


Lane Selection in CFD

The CFD has filter options to select Backlog, Archive, and Board Lanes. Select specific child lanes or Parent lanes to roll-up child lanes into parent lanes.
To select Board lanes for plotting the CFD:

  1. Click Select Lanes in Lane Selection.
  2. In the Select Lanes window, click the required lane header to select. The check mark appearing indicates that the lane is selected for calculation. To clear the selection, click the selected lane again so that the check mark disappears. The selection is saved automatically.
  3. Click the Back button at the bottom or Close icon at the top to close the window.
  4. Click Apply to generate the CFD.

On the CFD diagram generated, you can find typical information about status of work on a particular day /week / month / quarter: how much work is done (‘Completed’ lane types), ongoing (‘In-Progress’ lane types), and is in waiting (‘Backlog’ and ‘Ready’ lane type). The vertical distance between two lines bounding a column is the WIP (# of cards) in that queue at that point in time. Hover and rest your pointer on a vertical grid line to see distribution of cards by count / estimates for different queues at a particular moment in the timeline plotted on X-axis.
Based on the overall pattern, you can also interpret what is the pace of progress; if the flow is consistently growing in parallel, then it should be OK. In the below image on 9th June, the ‘Ready for Deployment’ count is showing 26 from 20-April to 9th June. As you proceed to the next dates, you can see that the cards in the lane have reduced steadily indicating progress. If the band widens it will indicate work piling up to be pulled.

The chart can also help you to spot all sorts of issues that a team may be facing: where the bottlenecks are in the workflow, is work backing up at a particular status? If so, there is a bottleneck downstream of that status. This is where Cumulative Flow Diagram shows its real value. You can decide to take no tasks further in the queue, limit your WIP, avoid task-switching, or identify any bottlenecks in a consecutive queues.

User-controlled CFD Colors

Choose your own colors for the queues to avoid duplication and make it visually appealing, or even to highlight. Define the colors in the Board Editor by picking from the color palette.

To customize the color for the CFD, navigate to Your Board > Analytics. On the Analytics dashboard, click the Filter icon () on the CFD thumbnail. On the pop-up window that appears, click the  button. In the Select Lanes pop-up window, change the color of the lane by clicking on the color box at the right corner of the column, and selecting the color from the color picker box displyed.

Forecasting capability of the CFD

The CFD can also be used to make stronger commitments. Select 'Show Prediction' in the Filter options, which forecasts the required throughput to complete pending items based on the current progress. It also predicts the date when the pending items can be completed given the current throughput. When you choose to predict, the Backlog and Archive lanes are selected automatically for forecasting.
In the filter options, select the Start Date (not earlier than the board date) and the End Date (future date) in the filter options.
The Prediction CFD shows two different views to complete the pending cards (i.e. backlog and cards active on the board)-based on Current Throughput and another based on Required Throughput.

  • Current Throughput and Forecasted Timeline for the Team (Black Line): Line is plotted to forecast the future date when the pending items will be completed. It is continued from the current date through the forecasted date, based on the current throughput. On moving along the line, you can see the cumulative count of cards/estimates that will be archived on an average.
  • Current Throughput = Number of cards archived till date between Start and Today / No. of Days between the Start and today

In the above image, the current average throughput is 25 cards in a month, based on which it is forecasted that total 295 cards can be archived by Feb 2015.

  • Required Throughput and Generated Timeline (Green Dotted Line):- Line is plotted till the future date specified in the filter. Hover and rest your pointer on the vertical grid on the last date. It shows Required Throughput (Req TP) and cards that can be archived as on that date (including cards archived from Start Date), based on current Throughput. This means that the team has to adjust their throughput for the period and deliver by the End date. The line begins from the Current date and runs till the End date specified in the filter.
  • Required Throughput = Total number of cards not archived / number of days remaining (from today till the End date specified)

* If you want to calculate the unarchived card count, deduct the current cumulative card count (shown against the Current TP and CT) from the Total Cumulative Card Count shown against the Req TP/CT)
* Days converted to week / month / quarter, depending on time period selected for e.g.10.4 should be interpreted as months if Time Period plotted is ‘monthly’
In the above image, the Req TP is 208 cards derived by dividing 208 (cards) by 1 (month). 208 cards is pending card count arrived by deducting 95 from 303, where 303 is total cumulative card count on July 2014 and 95 is cards archived till date (seen on hovering over the vertical grid on the current month June 2014).

CFD Export

The CFD can be exported in Ms Excel format, along with the CFD data. Click the Export icon on the toolbar. You can open the file in Ms Excel or your preferred spreadsheet application. If you have filtered the chart for specific smart lanes, date range, etc., the chart and the data will be exported for the specific cards.