Story points vs. Hours – Which is the right way?

For every project, whether delivering a product feature or fulfilling a customer request, you want to reach your goal efficiently. But that’s not always simple – choosing the right method can become stressful. Whether you want to track the tasks through story points or hours, you should fully understand both of them well. 

Therefore in this blog, story points vs. hours, we help you decide. 

What are the story points?

When it comes to Agile Software Development, accurately estimating the effort required for each task is crucial. To accomplish this, teams use Story Points, which are abstract units of measurement assigned to each project based on factors such as complexity, amount of work, risk, and uncertainty. 

These points are represented by numerical values like 1, 2, 4, 8, and 16 or by terms like X-Small, Small, Medium, Large, and Extra-Large. They do not represent actual hours but rather serve as a way for Scrum teams to think abstractly and reduce the stress of estimation. By avoiding actual hour estimates, teams can focus on delivering customer value and adapting to changes that may occur during the project.

The need for estimating work in software development

Why are story points important?

When estimating the progress of a project, it’s crucial to focus on the relative complexity of the work involved rather than just time. Story points help with this shift in perspective, providing a more accurate measure of progress. 

By using this approach, collaboration and shared understanding among team members can be promoted, which allows for effective communication during estimation. Additionally, story points allow for adjustments and adaptability when dealing with changing requirements or uncertainties. By measuring historical velocity, they enable accurate planning and forecasting, encouraging velocity-based planning. 

Overall, story points emphasize the team’s collective effort rather than individual performance, providing feedback for continuous improvement.

Hours and their Role in traditional project management

Project management can involve various methodologies and estimating work in terms of hours. While this method can be effective for plan-driven projects with inflexible deadlines, it may not be suitable for projects that require adaptability and flexibility. For product companies, holding a project accountable has essential. 

Why are hours important in project management?

Hours provide stakeholders with a clear understanding of the time required to complete a project and enable them to set realistic expectations for deadlines. This encourages effective planning and coordination of resources, allocation of workloads, and creation of project schedules and timelines to ensure everyone is on the same page.

One of the most significant advantages of using hours-based estimates is that they are easy to understand and track progress. It provides stakeholders with a clear understanding of how much work has been done and how much time remains. 


By multiplying the estimated hours by the hourly rate of resources involved, project costs can be estimated accurately. This simplifies billing procedures when charging clients or stakeholders based on the actual hours. It also facilitates the identification of discrepancies between the estimated and actual hours, enabling the project manager to adjust the resources’ allocation accordingly.

Story points and hours - where do they lack?

Story points

Estimating the time and effort required for a project can be daunting. The subjectivity of story points can make it challenging to compare and standardize estimates, leading to misunderstandings and misaligned expectations if not communicated clearly. 

Furthermore, teams new to story points may face a learning curve in understanding the scale and aligning their estimations. The lack of a universal standard for story points can create confusion when working across different teams or organizations. 

Additionally, story points may be more abstract and less intuitive for stakeholders, making it difficult for them to grasp progress or make financial and timeline decisions based on points. It’s important to ensure that all stakeholders understand the meaning and purpose of story points to ensure everything is understood.


Relying solely on hours may only sometimes be accurate, especially for complex or uncertain tasks where it’s hard to predict the exact amount of time needed. This approach can also create a mindset of rushing through tasks, which can negatively affect quality and creativity. 

Instead, promoting a collaborative team approach and avoiding emphasizing individual productivity can help teams excel better. 

Additionally, hourly estimates may not account for uncertainties or changes in project scope, which can create challenges in managing unexpected events. 

Lastly, sticking strictly to hours can limit flexibility and prevent the exploration of more efficient or innovative approaches, making it difficult to justify deviating from estimated hours. 

Story points vs. hours - choose what works for your organization

It can be daunting to decide what works best for your team, and you don’t solely have to rely on one solution most of the time – use a hybrid approach instead. 

When trying to figure out what tasks to tackle first, using story points can be helpful. They give you a good idea of how complex a high-level user story or feature is, which can help your team decide how to allocate resources. They are great for getting a big-picture view of the project’s scope.

However, using hours might be a better bet when you’re working on more detailed tasks or tasks with specific time constraints. Estimating based on hours can give you a much more precise measure of how much effort something will take, which is important for creating detailed schedules and timelines. It can also help you figure out which tasks should come first and ensure you’re meeting any deadlines that are outside your team’s control. By using both methods as needed, you’ll be able to plan and prioritize more effectively.