What is Enterprise Software? Here's a Nerdy Comparison

What is Enterprise Software? Think of Star Trek's Enterprise, the noble series of vessels which bore Captain Picard and crew to progress and adventure. I know, not all that creative; but hopefully memorable! The Star Trek crew could have each had their own customized ships with only the tools needed for their individual jobs.

But that's not how many organizations work, right? Instead, space adventurers tend to need a hub: one big ship with authorizations for who could use what, by gaining an economy of scale (it's cheaper and easier to address the needs of the group).

Enterprise Software is Intended for. . .Enterprises!

Also known as enterprise application software (EAS), this is software used by entire organizations or very large teams, rather than just one person or small department.

To live long and prosper in your organization, it is important to understand the role each plays within your organization's Information System, which I think of as a plan for how technology will be addressed in order to meet organizational goals.​


With the Star Trek crew on just one ship, there was less redundancy of capital (you don't have to replicate 100 ship engines and parts—you just build one, where everything's bigger), plus the community of workers could more thoroughly collaborate and share knowledge. And since enterprise software allows for multiple users, that means it is architecturally 'bigger' than, say, an office suite.

The financial advantage of adding appropriate enterprise software is pretty much a no-brainer, but the philosophy has its limits. Organizations must be careful not to grow too big with their enterprise solutions. Usually, only very large corporations make the bulk of their solutions system-wide.

It is important to keep asking, "Is this application used by everyone [choose an enterprise solution] or just a team or two [choose a non-enterprise solution]?"

Who Makes Enterprise Software?

The enterprise software market is huge, but here are a few names to help you get a feel for who develops these types of solution: Oracle, Adobe Systems, Salesforce, Sage, SAP, IBM, HP, JBoss (Red Hat), Epicor, Lawson, and Microsoft.

Types of Enterprise Software

Enterprise software is also a hugely broad category. To illustrate, here is a list of tools that might be included in a given enterprise software suite:

  • Billing
  • Ordering
  • Scheduling
  • Customer Information Management
  • Customer Relationship Management
  • Online Marketplace: Shopping/Payment processing/Product Catalog
  • Enterprise Resource Planning
  • Human Resource Management
  • Manufacturing
  • Sales Management
  • Industry-specific Solutions (Fashion, Law Enforcement, Food Service, Retail, etc.)

Again, enterprise solutions are usually customized. A savvy organization chooses its IT solutions strategically. If, for example, most employees do not need to do billing, an enterprise solution might not be the best—an application for just their billing department would be cheaper. If nearly everyone in the organization or large team orders product periodically, enterprise software is probably the way to go.

What Enterprise Software Isn't

Enterprise software is typically either inherently task-oriented or enables another program to be (also known as middleware). That said, keep in mind that although word processors, spreadsheets, slide show presentations, and other productivity suite tools are very task-oriented, these are not typically included in an enterprise software suite.

This bifurcation likely originated from days when not everyone on a team needed costly productivity software. This is definitely beginning to loosen as free or low-cost productivity software suites and cloud computing trends have made it less costly to offer productivity software system-wide as well. But enterprise software still represents the concept of being server-based and available to conglomerate users, rather than each worker utilizing a program uniquely.

The Interplay Between Enterprise Suites and Office Productivity Suites

Your enterprise software obviously will affect your productivity suite, just as computer systems went on the fritz when the Enterprise was under attack. Plus, when Picard called out for Computer, Computer wouldn't have been able to respond if it didn't physically reside somewhere. Remember, even cloud-based enterprise solutions are not really housed in thin air, but on a server in some physical location.

Ideally, that environment supports and does not get in the way of productivity. If your enterprise software does create issues, buying a flashier productivity suite will likely not solve what ails you.

Understanding this relationship will alleviate headaches for your organization. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to send me an email.