It’s a widely used term, but the full meaning of ‘enterprise software’ is hardly nailed-down. The obvious definition is software used by an enterprise, business or company. But this interpretation is so general, it could apply to almost anything. After all, businesses make widespread use of office suites, email clients and database management systems, just to name a few examples – but would you always categorise these as ‘enterprise’ tools?

More data, more people, more everything

A better definition of enterprise software, or enterprise application software, is provided by veteran software developer Martin Fowler: ‘Enterprise applications are about the display, manipulation, and storage of large amounts of often complex data and the support or automation of business processes with that data.’

This explanation of enterprise software emphasises data, and how a business as a whole deals with large data volumes. Enterprise software is designed to meet the needs of teams, departments or even whole organisations, as opposed to individual users.

Various types of enterprise software cover a huge range of applications, from sales, billing and customer relationship management (CRM) to human resources and cyber security. And enterprise software is a booming industry, with big names like Oracle, Adobe, SAP and IBM developing an ever-expanding array of tools.

Do you really need enterprise software?

Whether or not you class your organisation as ‘an enterprise’ isn’t really the point. It’s less about size, and more about the level of functionality you need to fulfil your business goals. For example, if you only have one salesperson in your whole organisation, a full sales management system might be overkill. However, you could be a similar sized organisation with a larger salesforce, in which case an enterprise-level tool makes sense.

A potential drawback of enterprise software is that a single system can’t always be matched up to the needs and working habits of each individual. This can result in counterproductive scenarios where workers fall back on ad hoc documents, spreadsheets and email chains. In business-critical applications, this risks communications breakdown, loss of data and disruption across the whole organisation.

So how can you ensure you pick the right software for your enterprise? Enterprise software is generally task-orientated and focused on a specific application and business process. As long as your organisation is effectively structured, with clear understanding of roles and responsibilities within departments, it should be a simple case of matching the right teams with the right software tools. Your customer support agents need access to a CRM. Your HR manager? Not so much.

Enterprise software in the cloud

By nature, enterprise software is decentralised and accessible, while simultaneously focused on performance, scalability and connectivity with other applications. Enterprise software is typically based on server clusters and networks, not individual machines. In other words, modern enterprise tools go hand in hand with cloud technology.

As organisations look at digital transformation and updating legacy systems, requirements for enterprise software are only set to increase, with Gartner predicting global IT spending growth of 2.4 percent this year. Don’t be surprised to see an increase in the types of enterprise software too, with emerging technologies and trends like the internet of things and artificial intelligence demanding a whole new generation of management tools.

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