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Mar 29, 2006: From consulting to products and services

(Updated this list October 4, 2006 and again on May 25, 2007; please keep the suggestions coming...)

I'm back from Vancouver, and naturally I'm biased, but it was perhaps the best IA Summit yet. Over 580 attended, destroying last year's record of 400+. More important, the vibe was one of strong optimism without the irrational exuberance. In any case, mix Vancouver with over 500 really smart colleagues and you can't go wrong.

One recent trend was evident at the Summit: information architects are moving away from consulting and toward developing their own products and services. At some point in the next decade or so, I'm convinced that "information people" will take their place alongside "numbers people" and "operations people" in C-level positions. But for now, they're becoming senior management the entrepreneurial way, via startup.

I'd like to compile a list of IA-founded (or heavily influenced) products and services, and have made a start here:

  • Kevin Cheng, Tom Chi: Off Panel Productions (helps niche comic artists publish their work online)
  • Scott Hirsch and John Zapolski: Management Innovation Group (management consulting firm)
  • Victor Lombardi: Smart Experience (user experience training firm)
  • Fred Leise: Intuitect (information architecture design software)
  • Chris McGrath: ThoughtFarmer (wiki-CMS hybrid for intranets)
  • Jacco Nieuwland: Swipr (generates deliverables from Visio files)
  • Frank Ramirez: My Picturebook ("children's book meets web2.0")
  • Lou Rosenfeld: Rosenfeld Media (user experience publishing house)
  • Rashmi Sinha: MindCanvas (user research service) and SlideShare (YouTube of Powerpoint presentations)
  • Gene Smith, Jess McMullin (nForm): PaidPOV (user research service)
  • Peter van Dijck: Mefeedia (video blog portal)
  • Thomas vander Wal: a mysterious and as-yet-to-launch service likely to involve the Personal InfoCloud
  • Jeff Veen, Lane Becker (Adaptive Path): MeasureMap (blog analytics tool)
  • Christina Wodtke: PublicSquare (CMS)
  • Alex Wright: Rollyo (search tool)

I'm sure I'm forgetting some; please email me and I'll update the list.

On the to-do list: develop a mutual fund for IA-intensive companies? :-)

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Comment: Lou (Mar 29, 2006)

Looking at this list, I'm sure there will be comments about who is and isn't an IA. Yikes. I'd rather not go there. But is Jeff Veen an IA? (He sure hangs out with a lot of IAs; guilt by association?)

Jeff, are you there? :-) Please set me straight.

Comment: rashmi (Mar 29, 2006)

I have never referred to myself as an information architect as well, but hang out with a lot of them. I would add that this is a general trend among UX types and include Ethnio by Nate Bolt as another example.

Comment: Victor Lombardi (Mar 30, 2006)

More products...

* Thomas Vanderwal
* Frank Ramirez

Comment: Dmitry (Mar 30, 2006)

I'd love to invest in that mutual fund, but none of the companies are public yet (unless MeasureMap now being part of GOOG counts). :(

How about a VC firm that funds IA's turned entrepreneurs instead?

Comment: Lou (Mar 30, 2006)

I think Thomas's work is still officially under the radar. What's Frank up to?

Dmitry, I've got my checkbook ready.

Comment: vanderwal (Mar 31, 2006)

What I am working on is under the radar, other than the knowledge that I working on something. I am in need of another PHP or Python developer and the money it takes to add one of these kind folks to my team.

Comment: Frank (Mar 31, 2006)

Hi Lou, Victor,

I'm working on a "children's book meets web2.0" project. The company is called My Picturebook (http://www.mypicturebook.com). We should have a preview version up in a couple months. The site is almost ready, but the book illustration won't be ready until late May. I'd be glad to share more details with you over email.

I think you're absolutely right about IAs becoming C-level players and entrepreneurs. Actually, if My Picturebook has any success at all (that is, we launch the product and sell some books before running out of money ;-)), I was going to submit a talk for next year's Summit: "From IA to CEO: How to bootstrap your startup" or something like that. Anyone wanna collab on that?

Comment: ML (Apr 3, 2006)

Sorry I missed you guys :(

I think an IA-Mutual Fund would be good. My head has been mostly on personal portfolio management recently so if this really takes shape I'd love to hear more!

Frank, really like your idea about IA to CEO...could be a great motivation for IA's out there who have great ideas about new products but little know how to get started.

Comment: mantruc (Apr 4, 2006)

It was great seeing you at vancouver, all!

Your list is also missing Jacco Nieuwland, who's developing a diagramming application for IA at http://www.userintelligence.com/

Regarding the IA fund, I'd be happy to invest there, sure seems like a safe 'm profitable investment to help such talented people.

And in terms of CIOs, my country has one, how bout that?

Comment: Chris McGrath (Apr 10, 2006)

I'm an IA/UIX consultant in Vancouver who's also thrown his hat into the product ring. It's called *ThoughtFarmer*, and it's a wiki-CMS hybrid for intranets: http://www.thoughtfarmer.com.

Comment: Lou (Apr 19, 2006)

OK, I've updated the list. More please?

Comment: Russ (Apr 19, 2006)

Welllllll...

I think I built my very first web site back in '93.

Then I started working in a variety of firms as a graphic designer to web designer all the way up to Creative Director and Director of User Experience.

Then the bottom fell out and I did a lot of consulting / contracting and did the roles from IA to Project Manager to everything in between, and then...

I started working in mobile devices and mobile features. Then software design.

And today, Product Manager for a Biometrics firm. All of that multitude of varying experience seems to have paid for itself and this role seems to have been the next logical step. So, I think you can add me to that list!

Comment: Paula Thornton (Apr 19, 2006)

If the CIO was really a CTO (typically, we see the latter being subject-to the former) and we used Clayton Christensen's definition of technology -- the processes by which an organization transforms labor, capital, materials, and information into products and services of greater value -- then we'd clearly have a 'home' to live in. But we don't. While the label CXO is often used to communicate the 'universe of all C-level roles', I suggest that we work to make it take on a very specific meaning, and that it becomes the eventual new home for even the more classic departments like sales, marketing, communications, and even HR.

Comment: peterme (Apr 19, 2006)

While Jeff is the lead on Measure Map, I think it's important to recognize that it was a product of Adaptive Path. The idea for the product came jointly from Jeff and Lane Becker, and it was wholly funded by Adaptive Path until acquisition by Google.

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