6 real-life intranet horror stories that will keep you up at night
The nights are drawing in, there’s a damp, misty, chill in the air, and a carpet of leaves covers the ground. As the nights continue to become that much grimmer and darker, this is the perfect time to gather round and share stories of the uncanny, unnerving and unnatural variety.
The scariest stories are often the most mundane - tales of everyday situations that somehow just go a bit wrong, that could happen to any of us at any time, anywhere. To help you get into the Halloween mood we’ve shone a light into the darkest nooks and crannies of the internet to bring you six stories that are guaranteed to bring sleepless night to anyone facing an intranet project.
These are stories of the best intentions leading to horrible unintended consequences, of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and of people being tempted into making terrible mistakes.
1. Being given an intranet project to run, without the resources to do it
Being dropped into a situation that you aren’t quite prepared for a work can be a chilling experience as it no doubt is for this unfortunate HR Manager. Deciding which department should be handed the (un)enviable job of owning the intranet project is a difficult process but all too often leads to situations like this.
Intranets have a strange status as a tool that everyone has, but no one really wants to own. Choosing one department to run, and own, the project can doom it from the outset and is a clear suggestion that the powers that be may not be as invested in success as they need to be.
HR might be the “pulse of our staff”, and know exactly what employees want, but that doesn’t mean they know how to put it together.
Marketing know the messages that need to resonate intranet off by heart and have a design vision to pull it off, but they won’t know what policies employees might need to find.
IT knows how to build an intranet and keep it working, but may not have the first clue as to what needs to go on it.
The only way of out this nightmare is to make the intranet everyone’s responsibility rather than commanding one department to get everything done.
2. The dangers of being beguiled by buzzwords
When you’re trying to move your intranet forward into a bright future of unparalleled productivity enabled by seamless, transformative, digital collaboration and crowdsourced innovation it may be little bit too easy to give in to jargon.
You may have been in this situation before yourself. You’re trying to breathe new life into your intranet and you’re desperate to find a way to show how it genuinely will make work easier, less frustrating and more rewarding. It can tempting to make a deal with the devil and give in to jargon in the hope that it’ll make the project seem that much shinier and more modern.
Like most deals with manifestations of evil, this almost never results in anything particularly good. Instead, your users will log on and be confronted with a wall of buzzwords and jargon that has no direct relation to the reality of their day-to-day work.
At best, they’ll poke around the intranet and try to discover what it’s meant to do for themselves. At worst, your new digital workplace will quickly become a deserted place that people only venture into when they absolutely have to.
There’s only one way out of jargon hell - just explain what your intranet is there to do in everyday language with benefits that employees can relate to, and avoid using the phrase ‘Digital Funnel’ at all costs.
3. When quick-fixes turn into long-term disasters
They say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and this is a perfect case study of just how that can happen.
Restricting the ability for users to create news threads on an intranet forum is not a bad idea. Giving people free-range to create threads can lead to a jumbled mess of discussions and a nightmare for administrators.
Here the admin was no doubt afraid of this and so prevented it from happening, with a simple quick fix for the whole problem.
For the longest time it must have seemed like the solution had worked, with ordered, easy to moderate, discussions.
Yet as the years went by, it seems like the cure may have been worse than the disease. As loading times began to stretch out into eternity, no doubt they wished that they’d thought a few years into the future before going ahead with their quick fix.
4. Why not listening to advice can lead you astray
The best horror stories have a grim sense of inevitability. It’s obvious that splitting up inside a creepy, deserted house, summer camp or spaceship isn’t the best idea, but you never know exactly when disaster is going to strike.
Intranet horror stories like this are no different. It might seem obvious that having a design dictated by department heads won’t create an intranet that works for everyone, but it’s not until employee feedback starts coming in that those departments heads realize they’ve made a huge mistake.
5. What happens when fear and temptation override common sense
Sometimes we just want to have the best intranet, filled to the brim with shiny new features that we just know everyone will love. It’s tempting to cover the front page with a decade’s worth of intranet innovation, from social tools to team workspaces and dynamic widgets.
At the same time, it’s easy to be frightened that no one will ever visit the intranet or get any value from it if every little piece of information they could possible want isn’t right there in front of them.
Both of these can combine to lead projects to a terrible fate - an intranet with all the features and information that anyone could ever need, but that no one can ever use or find.
These temptations and fears seem to be afflicting this particular project, but there’s still time for them to pull back from the brink of disaster. By talking to employees and finding out what they think they need they can avoid falling into the trap of creating an intranet for everyone, and no one.
6. When user expectations go beyond reality
Whilst this may not be quite as chilling as some of the other stories we’ve found, being confronted with users that expect your powers to go a little bit further than they can in reality has the potential to boil the blood.
Nothing is quite as terrifying, or aggravating, however, as senior executives who think Facebook provides an effective and easy to follow model for an intranet.
On that chilling note, we hope everyone takes these horror stories to heart the next time you start an intranet project.