Immedient becomes INS

INS logoWell, it’s nice to move to a bigger, international company, without leaving your desk. Immedient was purchased by INS (International Network Services), a consulting firm with a related, partially overlapping portfolio. INS is big in network and security consulting, and there’s a lot of cross-sell opportunities with Immedient, which is in the IT business services field. Now we can offer the network, the software, and the security all from one shop.

INS is also big, with offices around the world, although it’s not quite a true multinational yet, since the meat of the business is still in the US. Still, I’m allowing myself to dream of a return to Europe again, maybe, someday. In the meantime, for me and my team, it’s business as usual.

Clinical Trials and Tribulations

A humanized flow diagramWorked on a whopper of a project, for Microsoft. My company was picked to help develop a “Solution Accelerator” for the Pharmaceuticals industry, providing a SharePoint implementation template for clinical trials, as well as some InfoPath data-gathering tools.

Clinical trials are enormously complex, regulated, and expensive. We focused on the protocol creation and approval process, which contains aspects of collaborative document authoring and workflow, regulatory submission and approval, etc. I had always thought enterprise software projects were big things, but taking a look at clinical trial protocols helped put that in perspective.

The challenge was to learn a lot very fast, in order to be able to add value. In about five weeks, we nailed down the realities of the process of protocol creation and submission, and I insisted we also focus on the context and goals of the different actors and stakeholders. I designed a nifty cast of characters, which we used in process diagrams to make the workflow come to life. They proved unexpectedly useful.

What happened is that the little sketch you see here helped everybody on the team stay on the same page in terms of user functionality. Developers working on a module could see the gal in the white lab coat and glasses using their module, and they made the interface precise and data-rich. UIs were markedly different, more verbose and action-oriented, for the suit-and-tie users.

I created countless flow diagrams, worked closely with developers to ensure all requirements were covered, and designed the SharePoint UI to host and unify it all. On a project of such scale and urgency, the difficulty was to not let user considerations get buried under the colossal weight of enormous and dense requirements. Tensions ran high, but we delivered, and the client was satisfied with the result.

Depth of Vision: Isometric Flash 3D for Business Visualization

Thumbnail for Depth Of VisionAhem… Sorry about the overly pompous title on this post… “Depth of Vision”, a flash presentation, is a nice little piece I developed, pretty much on my own, to showcase Immedient’s solution offering. Not much budget behind it: The voice-over talent is my wife!

Isometric 3D is that funny look you’ve seen with pixel art. It’s perspective without depth. I’ve always liked the look of it, even though it’s artificial. I think it’s because even though we never see the world without depth, when we conceive 3D objects, our mind’s eye sees them in an isometric mental model…

This fun little project took less than a week to put together, and was finalized and committee-stamped in less than a week after that. Kept me busy between billing gigs. Enjoy!

Beyond HTMLeum

Oil Industry UI DesignDid a one-week stint in Houston, Texas for a large international oil company, helping fix an internal accounting app. As is common with enterprise engagements, we were not only putting together a unified dashboard for a set of disparate and incompatible financial and accounting systems, but also walking the slick tightropes of high-flying politics. 

It was a quick intervention in a middle of a dense financial project. I was brought in late (post-requirements phase) but since the project was already starting to unravel, the client was ready for a semi-radical realignments of priorities.

I confined my work mostly to the UI, where I applied a whole heaping load of goal-directed thinking, and reduced the multi-screen app to a single screen with 3 tabs. I also noticed that speed was the big unvoiced issue with the application. Demos and training sessions were tense because of these dead moments of waiting for pages. Since the app was presenting results from batch-processing systems, I made the developer implement a quick and dirty caching system, that made the app nearly instantaneous. I also reorganized all data into a matrix, with a clear action column, as well as visual progress bars. Add to that a nice clean design in company colors, and the next demo was a raging success.

I’ve done my week in Houston, everybody’s happy, I’m going home.

Boot Camping at Baxa

Baxa Website thumbnailConducted, with my friend Peter Alexander, a hardcore two-day Usability, Information Architecture and Design Training session for the marketing team at Baxa. Trying to distill everything in two days is always a high-adrenaline challenge, and I think it went very well. The designers at Baxa are a cool team, eager to learn, and I think they picked up imediately on a lot of what we had to offer. 

We had a good chuckle at some of their product names. They manufacture high-quality, reliable, sterile medical equipment like the “3-way oral port stopcock.” There you go, I’ve said it, and my blog is now on every parental-control blacklist!

For Baxa, I also helped lead a Personas-and-Goals exercise, which helped elucidate a lot of debates and clarify the goals for different sections and tools of the site. I also delivered an information architecture review, and a sitemap.

We’re reviewing their next set of comps, and will help them stay on course with spot-checks. I already like what we’re seeing.

A chance to shine?

Immedient LogoOn this day I joined a new company, Immedient, as Information Architect. Immedient is a sizable IT consultancy, headquartered in Denver, with offices accross the country. They’ve been on an acquisition binge, recently, and the HQ is buzzing with activity. Immedient is a new name for the dot-com era. The company was formerly named Raymond James Consulting. I did some freelance graphics work with RJC a few years ago, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. This is the job I’d been looking for, and that will allow me to truly make a difference. As a graphic designer, I was asked to put lipstick on a pig. As a developer, I was only given enough time and budget to build a pig. My hope is that as an information architect, I’ll get a chance to design a whole different animal. Interestingly, although I found this job on my own, I had to jump through some hoops to get in. That’s because my previous employer, USA.NET, is a client of Immedient, albeit in an area that is totally unrelated to the marketing group I was a part of. Immedient was consulting with USA.NET on their MS Exchange services… So I had to get my boss, the head of marketing, to sign a paper confirming that, in effect, Immedient hadn’t “stolen” me from their client. Kinda funny. It’s a strange position to be in, when you’re telling your manager: “Hey, this is my two-week notice… if you agree to it.” But everybody involved was very professional and things went very smoothly. And I’m happy as a clam in a can. Finally, a chance to shine!