Typically, we like to leverage products wherever possible – like Magento & ATG for eCommerce or Sharepoint, Drupal & Adobe for Content Management. But for unique ideas and business models, sometimes, it's not possible to do that. Whether you're an entrepreneur who's looking to build the next Dropbox,
Uber or Spotify or you're a business who needs better software to fit around your ops, we treat custom software development in a modular fashion: building out the custom components where necessary, and seamlessly integrating existing products to minimize your risk, the overall project timeline, and cost to implement.
Enterprise software refers to the applications and software systems developed or commissioned internally by companies. They are either tailor-made from scratch or purchased from third-party vendors and heavily customized for an organization's business.
Up until the mid-1970's just about all software applications were limited to enterprises, due to the fact that enterprises were the only ones that could afford computers. Organizations such as Oracle, SAS and J.D. Edwards were the early movers when it came to delivering powerful database and accounting software solutions.
In recent years, cloud computing and Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings like Salesforce have shaken up the enterprise software space. Yet despite such innovation the traditional issues of developing and introducing an enterprise application into a business remains relatively the same.
Enterprise software is categorized according to the business functions they cater to. A key feature of an enterprise application is its ability to integrate data from different business processes for an organization. This is the reason an enterprise application is able to provide a holistic and real-time view of the entire enterprise.
Some of the major product categories and solution sets of enterprise software are listed below:
There are a host of other enterprise software categories that span multiple divisions in an organization and cater to a wide range of customer groups. For example, the SAP Business Suite is a leading ERP package that is used within a large number of industries ranging from aerospace and telecommunications, to banking and industrial manufacturing.
In his book "Enterprise Information Systems: Contemporary Trends and Issues," David Olson, a renowned enterprise systems educator, stated that:
Enterprise applications add a degree of automation to the implementation of business processes as well as supporting tasks such as data analysis, data planning and data management. For example, the ERP system has integrated software modules such as sales, accounts receivable and quality management for communicating and sharing data.
As an example the sales modules within ERP systems include applications necessary to create and manage sales contracts, orders, and invoices. Essentially all of these modules consist of multiple applications that can automatically perform the functions required to execute business processes.
When transactions for a specific product type outpace the current inventory levels, an ERP system can automatically process a request for inventory as the demand grows. Enterprise systems also enable a business to reduce the manual input of data and lessen the cost of information technology.
However, there are always certain generic challenges while implementing enterprise solutions. Depending on the sector in which the enterprise operates in, the extent of complications vary.
Appropriate training of employees is essential during and after the implementation of enterprise software. They should be comfortable using the enterprise applications or else operational inefficiencies will arise resulting in a lot of redundant work. It is also very important that implementation of enterprise solutions be done in stages. Trying to implement everything all at once will lead to a lot of chaos and confusion.
It is also essential for management at all levels to support such implementations. Management should provide direction to the teams behind enterprise implementations. Intervention from management is often necessary to make everyone agree on the same solution. In fact the success of a major enterprise implementation can completely hinge on the sustained commitment of leadership.
The end-users of an enterprise system may not feel comfortable using the system. Resistance to the new system can lead to a drastic dependence on IT specialists, or an under-utilization of the enterprise system. To avoid this issue, enterprises must focus on listening to users. There should also be a significant amount of initial training dedicated to users during and after the initial deployment.
Development is evolving rapidly to meet the needs of the expanding high-quality software required for every business out there. Organizations are currently adopting multi-platform software for real-time systems, distributed computing infrastructures, business intelligence, and mobile applications.
But to implement an effective software development strategy certain trends need to be considered and implemented. Trends such as HTML5 web applications, mobile apps and websites, app stores, and cloud applications are going to be central to the future of business technology.
According to Gartner, spending on business software is expected to grow 6.8% to $320 billion in the USA this year, after rising 5.2% in 2013. In order to prosper, companies must invest a portion of their revenue on integrating HTML5, mobile apps and cloud applications in innovative new approaches to software.
HTML5 is the future when it comes to the world of web application development, whether it is for smartphones, tablets or desktops.
According to Ken Dulaney, Vice President of Gartner, "increasingly, enterprises are finding that they need to support multiple platforms, especially as the [Bring Your Own Device] BYOD trend gains momentum."" HTML5 (despite a few issues to sort out) is one of the most effective tools for building multiplatform web applications.
With HTML5 tools, brands can build web and mobile apps with a single codebase. The flexibility of HTML5 apps to run on multiple device types is a major cost saver and strategic advantage for companies. These multi-platform apps can run on a variety of Operating Systems (OS) and device types.
Many organizations have already embraced cloud strategies and it has become the integral for apps, content and for syncing across devices. "Over the past 12 months, the cloud has become an easy choice for mainstream organizations, "says Andrew Brabban, Fujitsu UK's Director of Application Services.
With cloud applications, companies that would normally require enormous amounts of startup capital may only need a fraction of what was previously required to successfully develop, host or distribute software applications. According to Mr. Brabban, "there will be a focus for cloud services in three areas: management, integration and aggregation."
Organizations could also potentially use cloud applications for a variety of business processes. A majority of applications like generic word processing software, to customized Customer Relationship Management (CRM) web applications can be fully hosted in the cloud. The cloud would not only reduce the cost of hardware, but upgrade costs would also be minimized.
Google Apps is a great example of cloud based applications. Google’s offering has already gained substantial adoption from small businesses, boasting more than 50 million users, from over five million businesses.
More and more people are depending on their mobile devices like smartphones and tablets for everyday tasks. They are being used for ticketing systems on buses and trains, to purchasing products, watching videos, and keeping an eye on the stock market. The Cisco Visual Networking Index, projects that global mobile data traffic will increase 18-fold between 2011 and 2016.
Organizations are also using mobile apps to connect with clients and create tools for frontline or remote workers to access customer databases, fill in timesheets or manage inventory. For organizations to achieve all of their mobile objectives, they must have a thorough understanding and practical mobile strategy.
Successful enterprise technology companies such as Workday, which specializes in HR software, have strong mobile strategies that are central to their success. Consumer apps have heavily influenced the design and development approach to enterprise apps. Today's business tools look drastically different than the clunky software systems that used to require an archaic CD-ROM to install.
Instead, enterprises are using custom app stores to distribute apps. There is also the option of creating web applications with HTML5 that can be accessed on tablets, smartphones and PCs with no need to download. These apps come with offline functionality, run directly in the cloud, and can be accessed instantly through a browser like Chrome or Firefox.
Mobile computing, cloud services and HTML5 usage will play a leading role in the software development strategy of almost every industry on the planet. Forrester accurately sums up the future needs for all tech or non-tech companies by stating that a great digital experience is no longer a nice-to-have; it's a make-or-break point for businesses.
When it comes to software projects a majority of focus for project managers, business analysts, and programmers may be technical, but the human factor should never be ignored. User adoption and end-user training are the final and arguably most important checkpoint for a project.
If users detest the application or suffer from disrupted workflows as a result, the entire project can be deemed a failure. Communicating with employees who will use the application and observing their workflows in the existing business environment are some steps to take to alleviate the chance of poor user adoption.
By thoroughly understanding the pros and cons of the existing software setup, development teams and business analysts can gear the project towards those ends. Building on the successful existing components while avoiding the weaknesses of the current system are key strategies for creating an engaging enterprise application.
While choosing a technology stack and assessing the IT infrastructure of an organization are critical, observing end-users in their actual business environment is paramount. The truth is that an application which meets technical requirements may fail to achieve usability in the eyes of a business user.
This issue has led to a wider trend in software development within the enterprise as well as for consumer products. Front-end designers who build the user interface are collaborating more extensively with the back-end programmers. And both designers and programmers are becoming increasingly knowledgeable of the link between technology and business processes.
Due to this shake up in development, the end product is more aligned with the technical feature capabilities needed for the application while not ignoring ease-of-use and intuitive design. For enterprise projects, development teams and business analysts should observe business users in their natural environment to better align the creation of new software.
What is their preferred device type? Are there aspects and functionality within the current system that are highly valued by employees? Or are there blatant weaknesses that already plague a worker’s? With this information in hand, the development team can align the replacement software application to solve or build upon those areas.
This prevents mishaps in terms of disrupting the workflow of employees. Change is always difficult, but learning from the existing setup contributes to a better aligned road-map for moving forward.
Training and teaching users to operate a new back-end system or software application is critical for user adoption. Without someone there to physically show a user how to accomplish tasks and adapt to a new piece of software, users are much more likely to give up and ignore it. Although clear and precise documentation and training manuals are important, face-to-face interaction between software teams and end-users is highly effective.
Case in point, when it comes to customer relationship management (CRM) systems Forrester found that "22% of all reported problems were people-related or linked to user adoption."" After countless software implementations at Icreon Tech, we’ve learned that the best method for a seamless technology update requires extensive person-to-person interaction. In addition to the initial training, it is also suggested to have a set system in place for communicating and solving issues from end-users to the software or IT team.
By acknowledging the fact that users will have issues and will resist change, software teams and an organization's leadership team can better strategize a software implementation. Especially when it comes to legacy applications and subsequent legacy migrations, there is always the worker who will resist adoption.
In the end, we cannot force software on a user but we can remove some of the grit and grime from adopting a new system.
While some business-users may jump at the chance to adopt a new software system into their workflow, there can be an equal number of individuals who resist new applications for a number of reasons.
In addition to thoroughly understanding the current workflows and day-to-day tasks of end-users, software teams must introduce the new application and provide assistance during the roll-out. The more interaction with the people that will use the software and those that actually build it, the more likely a seamless launch and roll-out.
Thanks to cloud and mobile technologies, enterprise software is experiencing significant disruption. IT teams can provide application access to thousands of workers all through the cloud. Employees can download and update software through custom app stores built specifically for their company.
As it now stands, we are on the crest of a wave that will alter the traditional approach to software in the enterprise.
For the first time ever, Salesforce which is a cloud based software company, cracked the top ten list of enterprise software vendors worldwide. Once dominated by Microsoft, SAP, and Oracle, cloud players such as Salesforce are disrupting the world of software in the enterprise.
Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings that provide access to powerful applications in the cloud on multiple devices, are shaking up the approach to enterprise IT and business applications. Workday is another example. Following a successful IPO in 2012, Workday has carved a deep path in Human Resource and recruiting software.
Companies like Salesforce and Workday pride themselves on the technical ease-of-use and aesthetic interface design. Such concerns were often sidelined by the traditional leaders in business software.
Salesforce CEO and Founder Marc Benioff, described his vision of creating the most intuitive enterprise software out there. And his strategy not only permeated the approach to software development and design, but also the very distribution model for selling access. SaaS models are emerging as the next iteration in software for the enterprise.
While logged into Salesforce, you'd be forgiven if you thought it was Facebook or LinkedIn. The interface is derivative of many social networks, which helps to minimize the learning curve for new users. There is even an app-store for integrating apps like Google Drive and an Apple Calendar or downloading custom apps that an enterprise makes available.
Workday, which specializes in HR software, modeled one of their newest products for recruiters by emulating the look of “eBay and Kayak." The company also uses the SaaS model. For the most recent version, it took less than six hours to install for over 400 companies at once.
Most technologists have heard of the Consumerization of IT, the Open Cloud, and the Post-PC era, but what does this mean for business users and enterprise IT teams?
When it comes to the average American, they understand and discern quality software experiences with serious prowess. Not too long ago, this would have been an amazingly incorrect statement. But as of 2013, the average American spends 60 hours per week on a digital device and the average household owns an average of four different devices.
For employees that use refined tools from the app stores for productivity and business, they will avoid poorly designed business software. While they will use the enterprise application for mandatory tasks, they may be using their own personal apps for other functionality.
Even the way in which an IT team distributes applications across an enterprise, has evolved to become more intuitive and dare I say 'consumer-friendly'. Dense spreadsheets, endless columns, and a cramped display for data-input fields, are no longer acceptable (if it can be helped).
While certain comprehensive applications require the ugly yet functional interfaces that are well-known to back-end systems. For instance, logistics systems cannot help but present information in the way that melds with existing workflows and a need for lots of data entry.
But even that aspect can be fixes through innovative design techniques, and approaches to things like 'smarter transitions' and user experience.
In a recent New York Times blog post, Quentin Hardy describes how "the new style of development is likely to make the products look more like consumer software." He gives the example of Workday’s usage of their own application for searching internally for potential positions. Not only can employees easily search for available jobs, but they can share the job postings directly to LinkedIn and Twitter.
More and more, enterprises across all industries are seeking consumer friendly ways to make the most out of their business software.