five levels of intranet

(this is a refer link that simply notes an external resource without creating a cite link, i.e. not using it as evidence; for a more general discussion see the intranet article - and for a 2004 view see the reference on reflexive intranets)


Craig Hubley wrote on 1996-05-24 an article on five levels of intranet that "defined the levels which offer the benefits of intranets, as follows:


"Level 0: 'mailing' nets which provide the basics: external and internal email

Level 1: 'interactive' nets which support e-commerce and web documents, where convenient, and integration of the business with the global Internet."

These functions provided broadcast of the organization's messages to the world, and receipt of feedback by email and web forms, with some use of collectively authored media like mailing lists or blogs, which have primitive user interfaces not tailored to the organization's needs.

Technology determines privacy: what is exchanged by point-to-point email or provided by web form is private by default, while what goes to a mailing list or blog or web thread is not, and may be freely quoted. The technologies are still intrusive and it is technology-driven progress mentality that drive "early adopters" to force others into the patterns of use.

This is a reactive phase - people do as little as possible to avoid changing their work processes and their job descriptions even as the new technology forces them to. It is technology change, not any deliberate choice, that is driving the change. If an organization stays at this level it devotes an ever-increasing effort to dealing with the cognitive dissonance between the technology-driven pressures and the organization's constraints.


As intranets evolve the specific constraints of the industry and organization's commitments and rules start to be respected as actual constraints. Technology is not presumed to rule over the privacy and access and procedural rules of organizations - which are probably evolving rules easier to implement using an intranet. NOTE: a wiki is a necessary but not sufficient part of an intranet - a true intranet has features wikis do not generally support - see civicspace and tikiwiki and mediawiki for some examples of heavily enhanced wikis that begin to implement more of the features of true intranets.

At level 2 the intranets are normalized as part of operations in specific projects, and at level 3 ultimately in every aspect of the organization:

"Level 2: 'project' nets which fully implement privacy and access rules, and are considered safe for sensitive information.

Level 3: 'mainstream' nets which require every employee to be competent in intranet skills."

Organizations are recruiting people who are already proficient in these skills, making them a mandatory pre-requisite for any paid employment. The large public wikis for instance are the training grounds for the level 3 organization's editors and researchers - recruiting generally targets people with serious skills in this regard.

By now organizations are fairly reliably representing all they agree on in a standard format in a very few namespaces, and some are starting to develop the organization's self-image, identity, and self-claims through the intranet. Other means of such formation still exist but are quickly reflected.

There are power struggles between the intranet and other media to determine which decisions stick. Reflections of a decision made in one medium are probably distorted and casually misrepresented in the other. There is little or no ethical discipline that would force people to the same levels of accountability and standard of evidence in both media, nor is there any clear concept of consequences for what's written. Contradictory and obsolete instructional capital is published and passes with little comment, since only "insiders" refer to it.


Ethical and instructional discipline should in theory evolve to a point where the decisions that can only be made "live" (like those dealing with actual political decisions) or in some other equal-power medium (like a mark up and mail back exercise)) are clearly differentiated from those that are more casual and can be made in the unequal power relationships that prevail in the intranet/wiki. Namespace discipline is good enough to be certain that the organization's various factions, tendencies and arguments are adequately represented so that no one can claim that they or their faction was not "really consulted". Consulting the information from worn devices is common, and reliable enough to enable speeches and other public appearances, e.g. an all-candidates meeting or an encounter with the press at a protest:

"Level 4: 'mandatory' nets which perform knowledge management and enable mobility"

Eventually the decisions themselves are delegated in the same manner as is seen in today's offshoring software market, which offloads low-level decisions involved in software work, or in the 24x7 financial markets which run on mobile devices, or in political work relying on BlackBerry technologies: A position protocol evolves that relies on access to these tools and conveys positions to the press based on these tools.

"Level 5: 'ubiquitous' nets which support very personal computers in a global secure network of easy task and decision delegation"

At this point the network is fully reflexive and command verbs are handled in the same command hierarchy as the positions themselves.

There are significant hazards of downtime at this level but part of ubiquity is dealing with emergency response as routine - ensuring that such groups as community emergency response teams remain in operating order during emergency operations. An election protocol evolves that starts to rely exclusively on these devices.

citation of original article including abstract

full original text of 1996 article