Enterprise Software: A Definition With Concrete Examples

Jun 15, 2020

The software industry is fertile ground for jargon and buzzwords. Given the field evolves at breakneck speed, it’s often hard to keep up. However, today we’re here to talk about a term that has sort of the opposite problem: instead of being the new shiny trend of the week, it is an old, often-considered boring subject. We’re talking about enterprise software.

The goal of enterprise software is to enable the activities of large organizations, supporting a wide range of different user roles. Over the years, this type of software has acquired the reputation of being slow, bloated, and bureaucratic, much like the organizations it’s named after. But in a plot twist worthy of M. Night Shyamalan, enterprise software is making a resurgence and is suddenly trendy again.

Today’s post features a complete guide on enterprise software. We’ll start by defining the term. Then we’ll explain how enterprise software differs from other types of software. We’ll talk about some of the main examples of enterprise software and wrap up with some advice on how to get the most out of it.

Sound good? Then let’s get started.

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Enterprise Software Fundamentals

Let’s begin by building some foundational knowledge: we’ll define “enterprise software” and explain how it differs from other types of software.

Defining Enterprise

Before going straight to the definition of enterprise software, we need to take a step back and ensure we’re on the same page when it comes to the meaning of “enterprise” itself.

In short, “enterprise” typically refers to large business organizations or ventures, comprising many different roles and activities. A typical enterprise might include things like:

  • a sales department

  • an IT or technology sector

  • a financial sector

  • a legal or juridical sector

  • a PR (public relations) department

The (non-exhaustive) list above makes abundantly clear that there are many different roles inside a typical enterprise. Keep that in mind while we cover the definition of enterprise software.

What Is Enterprise Software?

Now that we’re on the same page about the meaning of “enterprise,” it’s time to go one step further and cover “enterprise software.” Here’s how Wikipedia defines the term:

Enterprise software, also known as enterprise application software (EAS), is computer software used to satisfy the needs of an organization rather than individual users. Such organizations include businesses, schools, interest-based user groups, clubs, charities, and governments.

What can we learn from the definition above? Well, since enterprises are typically big organizations, enterprise software must be “big software” by definition. By “big” here, we mean large-scale: software that supports a large number of users and user roles and supports many if not most of the goals of the enterprise.

What Are Typical Types of Enterprise Software?

We’ll now briefly cover some of the most common examples of enterprise software. Since the goal of this type of software is to support the activities of large organizations, most items on the list should come as no surprise. Let’s get to them.

HR Management

Large organizations will likely have many employees and a human resources department to take care of hirings, promotions, firings, retirements, vacations, PTO, and the like.

Depending on the enterprise’s location, it might be subject to complex labor legislation. Failure to comply with such laws might result in severe financial and legal consequences. Thus, having specialized software to assist HR professionals in their work is imperative for most enterprises.

Payroll Management

This item builds upon the main topic of the previous one: organizations have employees. Employees need to get paid the right amount at the right time. Otherwise, the organization might face some of the legal and financial consequences we’ve mentioned in the previous section.

Why did we grant payroll management its own topic instead of incorporating it into HR management? Well, though they’re certainly related, payroll management might involve an additional category of professionals, namely, accountants. Accounting software—or an accounting module of a larger enterprise application—will necessarily contain terminology that HR professionals might not be familiar with.

Customer Support

An enterprise will, hopefully, have many customers, who will invariably have problems and need help to solve them. That’s why most enterprises will have some sort of customer support center in which they reply to customers’ requests, either by phone, email, or live chat. Software that enables a customer support system is crucial in two main ways. The first and obvious one is that it allows customer support workers to do their jobs by helping customers.

But the second and most subtle way in which software helps in the customer support process is by gathering metrics that could improve the process itself. By monitoring indicators such as the average time it takes to solve an issue, total effort spent on each problem, or number of issues logged per day, organizations can have a clear view of how well they’re doing on the customer support front and, hopefully, put that knowledge to good use.

Email Marketing Systems

In order to not only survive but thrive, organizations need to be always acquiring new customers while simultaneously maintaining healthy, durable relationships with existing ones. Few tools are as efficient for this end as good old email, since it’s the de facto standard communication of the enterprise world.

However, you can’t just start mass emailing people using a library from some programming language. Besides the risk of being targeted as spam, such homegrown approaches might cause you headaches with legislation aimed at protecting users’ data, such as GDPR. Adopting a proper email marketing system is the way to go to if you want to avoid the dangers outlined above and have access to facilities you’ll need to manage your customers’ preferences.

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)

Last but not least, we have what is probably the most “enterprise-y” of all enterprise applications: the multibillion dollar industry we call Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software.

More than a type of application, ERP is a process. Its goal is to achieve the integrated management of the main business processes in an organization. Often, companies make use of technology to implement such a process, and that’s where ERP systems come in useful.

By employing ERP software, organizations can have an integrated view of their most important processes. That way, they can track both their resources and the status of business events. In a sense, ERP includes all of the previous items in the list and more. It facilitates the sharing of data across the departments of an organization and even to external stakeholders.

Historically, it was primarily large corporations that adopted ERP solutions. But recently, smaller organizations and even startups began making use of these systems as well.

Taking Enterprise Software to the Next Level

The word “enterprise”—and therefore “enterprise software”—has acquired somewhat of a pejorative connotation over the years. People would often perceive enterprises as being slow, bureaucratic, and stagnant. Enterprise software, by extension, was often considered bloated, slow, ugly, and hard to use, especially when compared to the trendy apps published by the hottest startups.

But things have changed. Nowadays, enterprise customers expect their software to be as good as consumer software. How would you go about that? How do you take your enterprise software process up and notch and delight customers?

The answer lies in the process. If enterprise software is to be as good as the best consumer applications available, it has to embrace modern development techniques and tools. This involves leveraging automation to the fullest extent, creating automated testing and release management strategies, and embracing DevOps and Agile.

But all of that is still not enough. A decisive step toward improving your enterprise software process is achieving value stream management (VSM), i.e., getting complete visibility of your software delivery process. That way, you can eliminate waste and improve efficiency. Plutora’s platform is a solution that can help you achieve VSM by giving you complete visibility of your software process. Plutora helps you manage your software factory remotely. You can integrate all of your current software delivery tool set into a unified view. By doing that, you simplify your enterprise software delivery.

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