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    Enterprise application describes applications (or software) that a business uses to do ifts work. When the word enterprise is combined with application, it usually refers to a software platform that is too large and too complex for individual or small business use.

    What does an enterprise application do?

    Enterprise applications are designed to be integral parts of an organization’s information system. As such, they generally handle a much broader and deeper range of functions and scales more than a smaller application. Rather than focusing on individual users or small teams, an enterprise application can serve entire teams and business divisions, interdepartmental needs, and even entire customer segments.

    Enterprise applications (EAs) are also distinct from a typical application by the sheer amount of data that is stored, processed, and otherwise managed. They are able to execute stricter security policies and have more administrative layers and permissions, redundancies, and safeguards.

    Due to the breadth and intricacy of corporate requirements, enterprise applications must be able to perform a wide array of functions. They achieve this in three main ways:

    • Applications feature the core functionality of their application type, yet any given application is a unique blend of features, often from different types of EAs designed to serve specific business needs.
    • Integrations of applications with add-ons or other applications or systems enhance the functionality of the EA or combine multiple EAs into a more comprehensive ES.
    • EAs can be customized through flexible configuration options or custom development.

    Enterprise applications serve a broad variety of functions, as they must meet the diverse needs of a large enterprise comprising multiple departments. They must also rapidly process high volumes of information and be deployable across a variety of networks. Enterprise applications are used by medium to large businesses, government agencies, schools, interest-based user groups, clubs, charities, or other sizable organizations.

    To meet these requirements, enterprise applications are typically component-based, distributed, scalable, complex, mission-critical, and operable from a single, central control panel. Large organizations may even integrate numerous enterprise applications into a collection of applications or into a platform known as an enterprise system (ES).

    What is the key benefit of enterprise applications?

    Enterprise applications play a crucial role in making business operations more efficient and productive. By centralizing data and administrative controls, EAs integrate data and operations across teams and departments and provide reporting and business intelligence to make better decisions.

    EAs are highly customizable to help meet specific business needs, and without them, large enterprises might have difficulty organizing business processes or meeting regulatory requirements.

    Integration and Deployment

    Enterprise applications are typically designed to interface or integrate with other enterprise applications used within the organization, and to be deployed across a variety of networks (Internet, Intranet and corporate networks) while meeting strict requirements for security and administration management.

    Types of enterprise applications

    Key types of enterprise applications and their purposes include:

    Email Marketing Software

    Email marketing software automates email campaign creation, delivery, and tracking. It is often integrated with a customer relationship management (CRM) platform to track contacts’ interactions and conversions with those email campaigns.

    Marketing Automation

    Marketing automation involves the stimulation of interest in products and services through sharing relevant articles, videos, social media posts, e-books, podcasts, and other media or serving up advertisements. It is often implemented through an integrated content management system (CMS), email marketing platform, social media platform, and other marketing tools.

    Content Management Systems

    A CMS is used to create, edit, store, and publish digital content such as web pages, blog posts, downloadable digital assets, and images. It often supports workflows, content organization, user and role-based administration, security, and more.

    Customer Relationship Management

    CRM applications track and manage communications through the web, email, telephone, mobile apps, chat, social media, and corporate marketing materials.

    Project Management Software

    Project management software involves the application of processes, tools, and knowledge to organize a company’s resources to complete projects. Software tools designed specifically for organizing and tracking task completion, time, labor, costs, and other project resources and objectives may be used in the process of project management.

    Business Continuity Planning

    BCP is the preparation and testing of measures that protect business operations and also provide the means for the recovery of technologies in the event of any loss, damage or failure of facilities.

    Enterprise Application Integration (EAI)

    EAI unites the databases and workflows of enterprise applications, so information use is consistent, and data changes are reflected throughout the organization.

    Enterprise Asset Management (EAM)

    EAM manages the organization’s physical assets throughout the assets’ lifecycles. Applications and processes are used to optimize, implement, and track the maintenance activities for assets in relationship to their associated tools, materials, skills, information, and priorities.

    Enterprise Resource Planning

    ERP is business process management software that allows an organization to use a system of integrated applications to manage the business and automate many back-office functions related to technology, services and human resources.

    Low-code/No-code Development

    These provide a development environment wherein software can be designed through a graphical user interface (GUI). Wholly functional applications can be created with little or no coding skills, making application development possible without coding expertise and therefore less expensive and more convenient.

    Product Data Management (PDM)

    PDM manages the production and publication of product data and process-related information in a single, centralized system. PDM is known in software engineering as version control and should not be confused with product information management (PIM).

    Product Information Management (PIM)

    PIM collects, manages, and enriches the information of products and the relevant digital assets required to market and sell them through multiple distribution channels. PIM serves as a single, centralized platform that governs information across teams to improve collaboration, efficiency, and consistency.

    Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)

    PLM involves the handling of products as they move through the various stages of their lifecycle, including design, engineering, manufacture, marketing, service, and disposal. PLM integrates various business systems and their data, processes, and inputs to help companies with decision-making regarding pricing, promotion, and cost-effectiveness.

    Business Intelligence (BI)

    BI helps businesses make more data-driven decisions by combining data mining, data tools, data infrastructure, data visualization, reporting, dashboard development, and predictive analytics. BI helps gather and enhance big data from across an organization and its customers in a central location, present it in a manner useful to decision makers, and provide predictions and suggestions to optimize operations.

    Human Resources Management (HR or HRM)

    Human resources management, also known as human capital management (HCM), assists with the management of human capital such as employee recruitment, hiring, deployment, training and development; performance appraisal; and pay and employee-benefits systems and design. HRM helps optimize the use of labor, reduce risk, and maximize return on investment (ROI).


    Cybersecurity applications protect computer systems and networks from malicious attacks that result in the disclosure, theft, or damage of electronic data, hardware, and software. Common approaches include intrusion detection systems and intrusion prevention prevention systems (IDS and IPS), software-defined networking (SDN), and security information and event management (SIEM).

    IDS monitors systems or networks for malicious activity and policy violation. IPS is an IDS that can additionally attempt to prevent cybersecurity incidents through reporting, blocking, or dropping the activity.

    SDN centralizes network control, routes data through a single firewall, and allows the selective blocking of malicious traffic, all of which make IDS and IPS data capture and countermeasures more effective.

    SIEM is the combination of security information management (SIM) and security event management (SEM). It aids in threat investigation by providing real-time collection of data from various sources across an organization, normalizing and aggregating the data, analyzing it to detect threats, and pinpointing security breaches.

    IT Services Management (ITSM)

    ITSM supports the implementation and management of an organization’s IT services. Functions include the deployment and support of EAs; architecting storage, networking, and cloud resources; and managing helpdesk support and troubleshooting procedures.

    ITSM improves the quality of customer and employee experience and customer service by optimizing the design, creation, delivery, operation, and control of IT services provided internally and to customers.

    Forms Automation

    Enterprise forms automation is a company-wide system of document management that organizes, distributes, completes, processes, and digitizes a variety of essential paper-based business documents. These include forms, contracts, surveys, applications, and more.

    Forms automation plays a vital role in decreasing costs and increasing data organization, consistency, accuracy, accessibility, analysis, and other benefits of a paperless office.

    Salesforce Automation Systems (SFA)

    Also known as salesforce management systems, SFA is an information system that automates repetitive data entry and sales and administrative tasks. SFA often combines CRM and marketing information and automation systems to boost Salesforce productivity; increase sales and marketing efficiency; uncover revenue opportunities; and integrate sales, marketing, and customer service.

    Business Process Management (BPM)

    BPM improves business processes, efficiency, and bottom-line profitability by monitoring, discovering, analyzing, modeling, managing, improving, and automating day-to-day workflows and other aspects of business operations.

    Supply Chain Management (SCM)

    SCM centrally manages the flow of goods and services throughout the production cycle from raw materials to finished goods. It tracks and suggests improvements for the transportation and storage of raw materials, work-in-process inventory, finished goods, and order fulfillment. As such, SCM is often less risky and more cost-effective, timely, sustainable, and resilient.

    Proprietary Enterprise Apps

    Proprietary enterprise applications are usually designed and deployed in-house by a specialized IT development team within the organization. However, an enterprise may outsource some or all of the development of the application, and bring it back in-house for deployment.

    Application Service Providers (ASP)

    Use of enterprise application service providers (ASP) is prevalent. In this setting, the enterprise application is designed and serviced by a third-party application service provider and leased to the enterprise, as an on-premise or hosted service. This is also often referred to as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) or Web-based applications.

    How do enterprise applications work?

    Enterprise Application Architecture

    Enterprise applications are built on enterprise architecture with vast storage and processing capacity. Users share data across systems that span departments or the entire enterprise, including remote locations.

    Multiple complex applications are integrated together into systems, and systems are integrated into even larger systems or platforms. EAs may be installed locally, provided from the cloud, or a hybrid of the two.

    Enterprise Application Provision and Operation

    Enterprise applications are often provided as packaged enterprise application software (PEAS), which is an EA or ES offered as a package with some degree of customizability by an application service provider (ASP). Many EAs are cloud software as a services (SaaS) that are licensed to the enterprise by a third party that provides and maintains the software remotely.

    Such PEAS may generally be customized by the provider, the customer, or a third party, but some enterprises require solutions that are so complex, unique, proprietary, or compliant that out-of-the-box solutions are insufficient. In this case, enterprises may opt to develop their own EA in-house or by contracting a third-party developer

    Trends in Enterprise Apps

    A key trend in enterprise applications is the move to cloud computing, where the enterprise moves some or its entire infrastructure to the cloud where services are delivered to an organization’s computers and devices through the Internet as an on-demand service. Most enterprises may also choose a hybrid solution where cloud applications are integrated with on-premise systems.

    Further trends in enterprise applications include the increased use of AI, 5G networks, and cloud computing. Systems and platforms are becoming increasingly complex, and no-code or low-code app building platforms are decreasing the need for coding expertise for EA development, thereby lowering the cost and barrier to entry of developing applications.


    This article was reviewed and extensively updated in March 2022 by Lucas Ledbetter.