story points


In the world of agile project management, one term that often comes up is “story points.” Agile teams use them as a way to estimate and measure the effort required to complete a specific task or user story. This guide will comprehensively overview them, including their definition, their use in agile project management, and the benefits they offer to teams.


What are Story Points? 

Story points are a unit of measure used by agile teams to estimate the relative effort required to complete a specific task or user story. Unlike traditional time-based estimates, they focus on the complexity and effort involved, rather than the number of hours or days it will take to complete a task. 

Understanding the Concept of Story Points in Agile 

In agile project management, story points are used to estimate the effort required for each user story or task in a project backlog. This allows teams to prioritize and plan their work effectively. They are typically assigned using a scale, such as the Fibonacci sequence (1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, etc.). Here each number represents a different level of complexity or effort. 

The purpose of using them is to provide a more accurate and consistent way of estimating work, regardless of the individual team member’s skill or experience level. By focusing on the relative effort rather than the actual time, agile teams can better forecast their capacity and deliver projects on time. 

What Does 13 Story Points Mean? 

In agile project management, the number of story points assigned to a task or user story represents the level of effort required to complete it. A higher number indicates a more complex or effort-intensive task, while a lower number represents a simpler task. 

For example, if a task is assigned 13 story points, it indicates that it is more complex and will require more effort to complete compared to a task assigned 5 . The specific meaning of each of them will vary from team to team, but the relative difference in effort remains consistent. 

How Story Points are Used in Agile Project Management 

Agile teams utilize story points as a tool to estimate the effort required for each task or user story in their project backlog. Additionally, this estimation process is often done collaboratively. This way, team members discuss and share their perspectives on the complexity and effort involved in each task.

By assigning them to each task, agile teams can prioritize their work and plan sprints more effectively. Teams can also track their velocity, measuring the number of story points completed in each sprint. This enables teams to forecast their capacity and make informed decisions about the work they can accomplish within a given timeframe.

Benefits of Using Story Points for Estimating Work 

Using story points for estimating work offers several benefits to agile teams: 

  • Consistency: they provide a consistent framework for estimating effort, regardless of individual team members’ skill or experience level. This allows for more accurate and reliable estimates. 
  • Focus on Complexity: they shift the focus from the actual time it takes to complete a task to the complexity and effort involved. This helps teams account for unforeseen challenges and variations in individual productivity. 
  • Better Planning and Prioritization: By assigning story points to each task, teams can better prioritize their work and plan sprints based on their capacity and velocity. 
  • Improved Forecasting: they allow teams to forecast their capacity more accurately, enabling them to make informed decisions about what work can be completed within a given timeframe. 
story points

Story Points vs. Hours: Which is Better for Agile Teams? 

The debate between story points and hours as estimation units in agile teams is a common one. While both approaches have their merits, the first one offer several advantages over hours-based estimates. 

Firstly, story points provide a more abstract and relative measure of effort, which allows for better planning and forecasting. This is especially valuable in agile project management, where requirements can change frequently, and tasks may have varying levels of complexity. 

Secondly, they focus on effort rather than time. This reduces the pressure on team members to deliver within a specific timeframe. This promotes a more collaborative and flexible work environment, where the emphasis is on delivering value rather than meeting strict deadlines. 

Lastly, they allow for more accurate estimation and planning, as they account for the inherent uncertainty and risk involved in software development. Hours-based estimates often fail to consider the unforeseen challenges and variations in productivity that can arise during a project.

How to Assign Story Points in Jira 

Jira, a popular project management tool used by agile teams, offers a straightforward way to assign story points to tasks or user stories. Here’s a step-by-step process: 

1. Create a Jira Board: Set up a Jira board for your project and configure it to track story points. 

2. Define a Story Point Scale: Define a scale that aligns with your team’s understanding of complexity and effort. This can be based on the Fibonacci sequence or any other scale that suits your team’s needs. 

3. Assign Story Points: When creating or editing a task or user story in Jira, assign the appropriate story points based on its complexity and effort required. Use the scale you defined earlier. 

By following these steps, you can effectively assign these units to tasks in Jira and leverage its features. This way you can effectively track your team’s progress and velocity. 

What are Story Points in Scrum? 

In Scrum, a popular framework for agile project management, utilizes story points as a way to estimate and plan work. Additionally, in Scrum, they are used to estimate the effort required for each product backlog item (PBI). These can include user stories, defects, or any other work item.

Similarly, story points in Scrum follow the same principles as in other agile methodologies. They provide a relative measure of effort and complexity, allowing teams to prioritize and plan their work effectively. Furthermore, they are often assigned using a consensus-based approach, where the entire Scrum team participates in the estimation process.

Tips for Effectively Using Story Points in Agile 

To make the most out of story points in agile project management, consider the following tips: 

  1. Involve the Whole Team: Ensure that the entire team participates in the estimation process to leverage their collective knowledge and expertise. 
  2. Use a Consistent Scale: Define a story point scale that is understood and accepted by the entire team. This will ensure consistency and accuracy in your estimates. 
  3. Regularly Review and Refine: Review and refine your story point estimates regularly, based on the actual effort and velocity of your team. This will help you improve your estimation accuracy over time. 
  4. Focus on Relative Effort: Remember that story points are a measure of relative effort, not time. Avoid comparing them across teams or projects, as they are meant to be team-specific. 
engineer manager

How Do You Use Fibonacci for Story Points? 

People commonly use the Fibonacci sequence, a mathematical sequence where each number is the sum of the two preceding ones (1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, etc.), as a scale for assigning story points. The reason behind using the Fibonacci sequence is to reflect the uncertainty and diminishing returns associated with estimating effort

By using the Fibonacci sequence, teams can capture the increasing uncertainty and complexity involved in larger tasks. It also prevents teams from overestimating effort by forcing them to consider the diminishing returns as the numbers increase. 

To use the Fibonacci sequence for assigning story points, simply assign the appropriate number to each task or user story based on its complexity and effort required. 

Common Challenges and How to Overcome Them 

While story points offer many benefits, agile teams may face some challenges when implementing them. Here are a few common challenges and strategies to overcome them: 

  • Lack of Consensus: If team members have differing opinions on the effort required for a task, encourage open discussions and strive for consensus. Consider using techniques like Planning Poker to facilitate the estimation process. 
  • Inconsistent Estimation: To ensure consistent estimation, provide clear guidelines and examples for each story point value. This will help team members align their understanding of effort and complexity. 
  • External Pressure for Time Estimates: Educate stakeholders and managers about the benefits of using these units. Alos, on the need for focusing on effort rather than time. Show them how they lead to more accurate planning and forecasting. 
  • Difficulty in Transitioning from Hours: Transitioning from hours-based estimates to story points can be challenging. Provide training and support to help team members understand their concept and benefits. 

Best Practices for Agile Teams 

To maximize the effectiveness of story points in your agile team, it’s essential to follow several best practices. Regularly reviewing and adapting your story point practices based on feedback, experience, and changing needs. This helps continuously improve estimation accuracy and processes. Encouraging collaboration within the team. This fosters an environment where members openly discuss and share perspectives on task complexity and effort, resulting in more accurate estimates. Tracking and monitoring your team’s velocity, which represents the number of story points completed in each sprint. This enables you to forecast capacity and make informed decisions about project progress. Additionally, leveraging estimation games such as Planning Poker. This involves the entire team in the estimation process, enhancing accuracy and promoting team collaboration and engagement.


Story points are a valuable tool for agile teams to estimate and measure the effort required for tasks or user stories. By focusing on complexity and effort rather than time, they provide a consistent and reliable way to estimate work. They offer benefits such as improved planning, better prioritization, and more accurate forecasting. 

Implementing story points may present some challenges. By following best practices and involving the entire team in the estimation process can help overcome these obstacles. By leveraging them effectively, agile teams can enhance their project management practices and deliver high-quality work within the desired timeframe. 

Remember to regularly review and adapt your practices based on your team’s experience and needs. With time and practice, you can master the art of using story points in agile project management. This will lead to more successful and predictable outcomes. 


Ready to enhance your agile project management practices? Read our article about Iteration Burndown Chart and experience the benefits for yourself!

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