How Storytel reduced redundancy and increased transparency in their product development process

Storytel was able to drastically improve the understanding of what their tech teams are working on and tighten up the development process.

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The Company

Founded in 2005 in Stockholm, Storytel offers streaming services of audiobooks and podcasts. With over 1.1 million customers across 20+ countries, Storytel is a global leader in on-demand audio entertainment who are putting a high priority on cutting edge customer experience.

The Challenge

With over 450 full time employees spread out across the four corners of the globe, there's a lot of pressure on the people at Storytel to be able to collaborate across teams, departments and time zones.

As is often the case at modern technology companies, each self organising development team at Storytel has the mandate to apply their own processes and tools to the way they work.

Back when Storytel was smaller, with fewer and more or less co-located teams, the autonomy wasn't causing issues. However, Mikael Holmquist, one of Storytel's longest serving product managers, recalls when they began to reach a breaking point.

"We had been growing a lot and reached a point where we felt we needed a more uniform process for how to work with product management in general, and feature refinement in particular. When each team was doing things in a slightly different way, and with different tools, we noticed that our colleagues felt they had low visibility into what we were working on, hindering collaboration within the organisation.” said Mikael.

"We had been growing a lot and reached a point where we felt we needed a more uniform process for how to work with product management & feature refinement.”

- Mikael, Product Manager

A widely adopted tool that was and is still used by the development teams at Storytel is Atlassian's issue tracker JIRA. One of the challenges with using JIRA for preparing features and epics was that people outside product and tech either didn't have access, or lacked the necessary knowledge to find information efficiently.

To overcome this problem, they started using Google docs and Confluence to prepare features and epics. This enabled a wider audience to weigh in on the work, but also meant introducing redundancy.

“We saw that teams that were using Google docs spent a lot of time copy & pasting back and forth between their documents and Jira. More often than not, the same epic would have several documents and presentations relating to it, which meant not only a lot of copy & pasting, but also created uncertainty as to what was the actual source of truth" Mikael adds.

With these challenges in mind, Storytel's goal became to find a solution where the different teams and departments can collaborate on initiatives that don't create redundancy, and provides transparency on the work that is happening.

The Solution

Storytel's product leadership decided that they needed to find a solution for preparing epics and features that supports collaboration, and at the same time does not create redundancy.

Ultimately, they achieved this by using Delibr documents for this purpose.

Now, each epic starts in a document where the high level information, such as identified problems to solve for, research findings and scope is outlined. These documents are shared across the organisation, via a roadmap that is accessible to everyone.

As refinement progresses, links to designs, user stories, technical decisions etc. are added. By doing it like this, they make sure there's a single source of truth for each roadmap item to consult, where the refinement that is happening is a living document.

When the team who owns the epic feels like it's ready to hit the backlog, the PM or tech lead simply converts the document into an epic and stories via the native JIRA plugin offered in Delibr.

Knowing that for any specific epic, there's a corresponding document in Delibr, instead of numerous documents, presentations and JIRA's, has been a key for increasing transparency and collaboration.

"We no longer have ten documents we need to keep in check when something changes during a meeting. Delibr lets us keep everything in one place."

- Mikael, Product Manager

A key functionality for the Storytel team was Delibr's integration with Jira. The integration is what makes it possible for them to use a single document for refining a feature from end to end and not having to copy & paste or re-write when adding tickets to Jira. From their documents, they are now able to simply select which set of stories to create. Once added, the stories in Jira displays the lastest information from Delibr, tying together the two platforms.

The Result

A couple of months before switching to Delibr, Storytel asked their employees if they thought they got sufficient information about what the tech teams were working on. After the implementation of Delibr, the same question was asked again, so that they could compare the results.

The survey revealed that there had been drastic improvements from before, to after, the teams started using Delibr. Before the switch, only 8% agreed that there were sufficient information about what the tech teams were working on, contrasting the 45.8% who believed so after the switch.

At the other end of the spectrum, the number of people who did not agree that they get sufficient information dropped from 18.7% to 6.3% after they made the switch.

But improved transparency wasn't the only upside that came with the adoption of Delibr. The JIRA integration has helped create less redundancy and made sure there's no disconnect between Jira issues and the documentation available to the wider organisation.

"For me, what really makes Delibr stand out, is how easy it is to structure the documents."

- David Božjak, Tech Manager

David Božjak, Tech Manager, adds "The process we have now, where we are using Delibr documents to prepare our features and epics, could have been done in Confluence or Google docs. For me, what really makes Delibr stand out, is how easy it is to structure the documents. This is much thanks to the nested bullet structure and the ability to collapse parts of a document. This lets us use the same document from early discovery to the creation of backlog items. Before, we typically split all of this up into numerous documents, presentations, designs and Jira issues."


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