Accurately predicting the status and expected completion of a document population is no easy task. Communicating the results clearly is also often a challenge. Fortunately, there are tools available to help with this task. One of the most helpful is a simple burndown chart, showing the outstanding work versus time.

To make generating and tracking projections easier, I created a document review burndown chart in Excel format. It’s populated with test data so that you can visualize what it looks like when completed. This document has two tabs – one for collecting data and the other for displaying results. Once updated, the result chart can be pasted as an image into an email for easy review by case teams.

Surprisingly little information needs to be added in order for the burndown chart to be useful. The chart tab and most of the projections automatically update. Calculated fields are indicated in grey and should not be altered (the spreadsheet has protection applied to limit editing).

To begin, open a fresh copy of the spreadsheet and edit the values on the “Calculation Settings” box. Estimate, based on known speeds or complexity the average speed (in documents per hour) of the review. Enter the total team size and the number of hours that will be worked. Keep in mind the need to discount a full work day for breaks, recurring meetings and other needs. An option is provided to indicate whether the first and second day of review should be calculated at reduced speeds and whether the team will work on Saturday or Sunday. Finally, enter the first day for the chart. Using the day before review starts will ensure the “reviewed” number starts at zero.

Once the settings are applied, searching the database for the review population will give the total number of documents for review. Enter this number in the first “Total Population” box. Copy that value until the “Projected Remaining” reduces to zero. If the population changes, adjust the total population starting on the day documents are added or removed and repeat the copying process to ensure the “Projected Remaining” reaches zero.

Each day, at a consistent time (either the start or the end of the day is preferred) search the “Total Population” number and confirm its accuracy (make sure to copy changes to later days), then determine how many of those documents have been reviewed and enter that value in “Total Reviewed”. This will automatically calculate the number of documents reviewed for the day and the actual number remaining for review.

Once the data is updated, the “Chart” tab will show an updated progress tracker. Projected review completion is shown in blue, actual review is shown in orange and the number of documents completed each day is shown as a bar chart in the background.

The “Calculation Settings” can be adjusted as additional progress information is gathered to create different scenarios – adding team members, increasing or decreasing speed, or changing hours. These alterations are immediately reflected and can be studied to help inform decisions.

Hopefully this helps improve your ability to project project completion and monitor progress along the way!

Download: Burndown Chart Example