Recent Innovations in search / information finding

An upcoming BayCHI event promises to be just awesome.
This month, a star-studded panel will look at recent developments in search and information finding. Panelists include:
Jakob Nielsen: Usability rock star
Peter Norvig: Director of Search Quality, Google
Ken Norton: Director of Product Management, Yahoo! search
Udi Manber: CEO of A9
Rahul Lahiri: VP of Search Product Management at Ask Jeeves
Moderated by Uzanto‘s own Rashmi Sinha.
Anyone who’s interested in search in general, or the intersection of search and user experience in particular, should attend. April 12th, at PARC in Palo Alto.

Building fudgable IT systems

Companies building IT systems to replace a previously offline (paper-phone-fax) based business process often spend millions of dollars on the project. These systems surprisingly similar to one another (given that they represent different business processes in different industries) Actors have particular Roles. The Actors operate on Documents, which are exchanged between actors in a pre-choreographed order that is the Business Process. The system is typically designed to replace a mature paper-fax-phone based process already in existence, be it processing a purchase order or approving an application for insurance.
Companies are often surprised when they face resistance or low adoption to the new systems (something I wrote about a little while ago in hooking small businesses up). A number of the projects that my company Uzanto has tackled in the past year have involved – in some way or the other – fixing broken systems of this type, particularly at the intersection between a large enterprise and it’s much smaller partners (think insurance brokers, or real estate agents, or retail stores). One specific reason for failure that we have encountered again and again is due to the fudgability of paper / voice, and the inflexibility of any software process that tries to replace it.

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Hooking small businesses up

My company has been doing b2b stuff in a variety of industries (health care, real estate, insurance) for the last several months. Not the old “lets build an emarketplace and hope for the best” kind of b2b stuff that was popular during the bubble, but the real, hard work of helping companies build electronic bridges with their close business partners.
As an engineer with a web services background, I’m surprised at how much of this work is UI related. Wasn’t XML and SOAP supposed to be a magic elixir that let companies integrate seamlessly with their partners?

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