Hook & Loop: Bringing the B2C UX to the B2B World

In 2012, enterprise software technology provider Infor formed a new division called Hook & Loop, with a mandate to create experiences people love. In short, the goal was to bring the ease and fun and delight of the consumer user experience (UX) to the world of enterprise software.

Chief creative officer Marc Scibelli puts it succinctly: “Enterprise software sucked and it needed to be re-thought, and that’s what [CEO] Charles [Phillips] asked us to do.”

Manufacturing applications such as order buying and exception management just haven’t been developed with the “love” that’s put into consumer-oriented experience, says Scibelli. They were traditionally created in a vacuum of sorts, intensely focused on functionality, but not so easy to use, he says. “Software developers are always focused on how to make software work, but they’re not always focused on how to make it work beautifully.”

Hook & Loop set out to change that. To create the types of product it wanted to build — software that is “meaningful, pleasurable, convenient, usable, reliable and functional” — the company realized it couldn’t rely exclusively on traditional software developers. In assembling its team, it brought together a lot of folks you wouldn’t ordinarily expect to find on a software team — its members have created bestselling apps for iOS, visual effects for Hollywood films (including The Avengers), e-commerce sites for fashion powerhouses (including Kenneth Cole and Ralph Lauren), comic books, novels, infographics and art. When you bring these types of people together — and in this case, people who had never previously developed enterprise software — you get an entirely new mindset, says Scibelli.

Hook & Loop’s goal is to focus on the total experience for the user, making sure the functionality is there but creating an experience that allows users to interact with the software in an environment that more closely matches the context in which it is used and also is more like the experiences created for consumers on their own personal tablets and mobile devices. In other words, one that is visually appealing and makes it easy for a user to get her job done.
In its quest to create a better experience, Hook & Loop needed to get its own house in order first. It brought its disparate divisions into an internal working group to redesign the UI and UX of its own products, developing controls across platforms to give its software a uniform usability and user experience. All software under the Infor umbrella — including Fashion PLM and M3 ERP — now has a common look and feel.   

The company also builds customized solutions for clients that focus on offering pleasant user experiences while also reinforcing the brand mission. For example, a solution Hook & Loop created for a hotel puts the information the sales associate needs about a guest at her fingertips in highly visual and easy to navigate screens that allow the focus to remain on the guest during check in. A POS system created for an apparel company brings the endless aisle and the detailed imagery of an e-commerce site to a salesperson’s fingertips on a mobile screen that can be used to check out, upsell or offer more information to a customer.

Historically when developers created enterprise software, they basically recreated a “paper form” on the computer screen, says Scibelli. That’s what many applications still look like today. Enterprise software is often clunky, it’s not intuitive, and it requires a long learning curve to get familiar with it. Even when you know your way around, getting information in and out can be an arduous process, which takes users away from more valuable work they could be doing and keeps them enmeshed in a labyrinthine system.  Additionally, when it comes to hiring new talent, software like this can keep good people away. “There is a whole generation of users today that don’t understand why software looks that way,” he says.

Hook & Loop must have struck a chord — the division has grown from six people in 2012 to more than 80 today.

“The idea of Hook & Loop is to provide experiences that are unmatched in the b2b market,” concludes Scibelli. 

Jordan K. Speer is editor in chief of Apparel.
She can be reached at [email protected].
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