Define “Enterprise” in 10 words or less 13 Sep 2005

106 comments Latest by anthony

We hear about “Enterprise Software” all the time. Or, this is a product for “The Enterprise.” Let’s see what you think it means. In this context, explain “Enterprise” in 10 words or less.

106 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Eamon 13 Sep 05

“We have too many employees. Also, our APIs are crufty.”

Craig 13 Sep 05

Business programs for more than productivity or entertainment

Failproof applications that run industry systems

noodlebrain 13 Sep 05

Big Business

Mark 13 Sep 05

a usage license for all within a corporation / organization

Danno 13 Sep 05

“So, We can sue someone if this goes south, right?”

Dave Giunta 13 Sep 05

Software for the Starship Enterprise… duh!


Software that ensures collaboration amongst employees of a large-ass-corporation doesn’t happen. (more than 10 words, but it was the shortest I could get this committee over here to agree with.)

Martin 13 Sep 05

According to WordNet:
an organization created for business ventures

pwb 13 Sep 05

I’m so sick of everyone talking about how RESTian stuff may be OK for the small guys but really the “enterprise” needs SOAP?

So for me, enterprise = unnecessarily expensive and complex.

Carlos 13 Sep 05

Usable by all departments in the organization.

James 13 Sep 05

A product to manage more than a team of 3 people?

I kid.. :)

Not sure if you are trying to touch on “ERP”… - Enterprise Resource Planning Software…

Brad 13 Sep 05

I’m in the middle of that fight. I was told Ruby on Rails and PHP and ColdFusion etc were mickey mouse tools only used by hobbyists and that real Enterprise solutions are built with either Java or .NET.

So we are entering the sludge of development now. Hundreds of Rational documents, hundreds of diagrams, hundreds of meetings, etc. I was even told that the GUI wasn’t important and if we have time, we can work on the look at the end.

It’s a sad, dark day.

Enterprise is Yahoo taking over Flickr. Enterprise is big and slow.

10 words or less, Enterprise is:
Useful some of the time, costly all of the time.

Simon Jessey 13 Sep 05

Since we are talking about the “enterprise” for which enterprise software is created, I would say an “enterprise” is a:

Body of different components working on a mission-specific venture.

Essentially, you might gather people, services, or entire organizations together into a group working on a specific goal to create an enterprise. It may be deliver a product or service, for example. Enterprise software must necessarly be quite robust to handle all the different components, which may feature a variety of activities that combine to attain the specific goal.

Brady 13 Sep 05


Nate 13 Sep 05

Complex, often closed-network data apps for large multi-office companies?

Daniel Lakier 13 Sep 05

I gotta stop posting, but I just keep taking the bait.

Software that enforces or enables business rules and processes.

Owen 13 Sep 05

A group of people large enough to NEED organizational structure

Mike 13 Sep 05

This is going to be fun. :-)

1) Where excuses are plentiful when your project gets axed.
2) Where innovation dies and bureaucracy takes over.
3) A place to go when you lose your desire to create.
4) Where it takes 30 days to make a 3 minute decision.

Art Wells 13 Sep 05

An already vague word rendered meaningless by repetition and abuse.

Josh Williams 13 Sep 05

Red tape software for red tape companies

Jemaleddin 13 Sep 05

“Enterprise:” Where “Engineers” “Architect” “Solutions”.

misuba 13 Sep 05

bigger than small business, and possibly smaller than big business

Rich 13 Sep 05

Enterprise software is a massive collection of feature requests.

pixelenator 13 Sep 05

For me it means bigger than small, smaller than big & different than meduim.

Darrel 13 Sep 05

“Software claiming to do everything but actually doing very little”

Tom 13 Sep 05

Highly available and mission critical with complex business requirements.

Anj 13 Sep 05

Software that (in theory) is designed to work well across a large, multiple-site networked environment, potentially with multiple servers for data that have to stay in synch with each other.

Raymond Brigleb 13 Sep 05

“What you get for hitting the Enter key.”

Pablo 13 Sep 05

Constellation Class Starship

Anton 13 Sep 05

A hive made of clay.

Solomon Folks 13 Sep 05

That is like trying to define “urban” it’s just not a term/word that we will even agree on, no matter what the dictionary says. Does “Enterprise Rent-A-Car” imply that there cars are mission critical?!?! Does urban mean black…i.e urban music. No wonder english as a second language is hard!

isil flynn 13 Sep 05

Our team defines Enterprise as “Institutional” or “Institution Wide”. An enterprise project would be corporate in nature - affecting the entire system; an enterprise solution would serve the institution as a whole (it might be an expensive piece of software, or something open source.)

Rob 13 Sep 05

Like others, using “enterprise software”

software for more than a few users or computers

often given a bad rap because of the terms overuse

something people that hate Microsoft complain about

crap that sometimes works

software indented to make the workplace better but often doesn’t

correctly done, software that make work easier

zack 13 Sep 05

Entry cost is > $150,000.00

Ana Nelson 13 Sep 05

Large scale solution designed and implemented from the top down to ensure flexibility across and integration between multiple business centres within an enterprise, thereby ensuring it is of absolutely no use to anyone and proving the assertion that “a good compromise leaves everyone unsatisfied” while simultaneously disproving the assertion that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” as the same total budget distributed and spent from the bottom up would generally result in much greater benefits to both the parts and the whole.

Gavin 13 Sep 05

3 or 4 zeros tacked on the end of a price tag

Guan Yang 13 Sep 05

I’m really glad that you no longer call these postings an “exercise in clarity”.

Andre Leistner 13 Sep 05

From the dictionary included with MacOSX:

a project or undertaking, typically one that is difficult or requires effort

Matt 13 Sep 05

If your software is difficult to implement, maintain and change, then it is Enterprise level.

Chris S 13 Sep 05

To boldly go where no sane developer has gone before.

cp 13 Sep 05

All things to all people

Isaac Garcia 13 Sep 05

A single solution meant to resolve large company-wide inefficiencies.

Operative word being “meant”

Felix 13 Sep 05

More Obscure Features For You, More Money For Us

RyanW 13 Sep 05

The big, expensive edition of our software

Andrew 13 Sep 05

I’ll do it teenage-girl style, since “enterprise” has 10 letters:


Ok, so “resource-hungry” isn’t actually one word…

Chris Carter 13 Sep 05

A business where information transactions are considered “mission critical”. (this doesn’t have to be software related)

Mission Critical meaning there are Big Problems when a transaction is screwed up.

So, with that definition, enterprise software is that which can reliably prevent screw ups, or create a quick or transparent resolution to a screw up.

Unfortunately, in our modern world where buzzwords are the only thing that IT-unsavvy managers know, enterprise becomes synonymous with Big Software, as Big Software usually comes with legal recourse for screw ups.

To me, Ruby on Rails could be considered Enterprise Software if I could get reliable transactions (not just database, but everything, filesystem included), auditing at every level and unique identification of every piece of information (UUIDs inherant). Also, if it had clustering and load-balancing support. I haven’t looked to deeply beyond into those, so please don’t get mad at me if it already does those things :)

Andrew 13 Sep 05

“A business where information transactions are considered �mission critical�

Well that’s pretty much *every business, * isn’t it? Mission critical doesn’t just equal millions of dollars or millions of customers.

A friend of mine ran a greeting card company in college from a box she kept under her bed. I think it made her about $2000 a year. There were “information transactions” such as billing, inventory, and sales receipts that were clearly “mission critical”: if she lost a recipt from the printer, she couldn’t deduct that expense that year.

But who would ever consider this an “enterprise” situation?

Darrel 13 Sep 05

“perpetual annual license fees to maintain a semblance of functionality”

FineJames 13 Sep 05

Enterprise = “Big ass license deal”

Fat commission for sales monkey

Mark Roseman 13 Sep 05

Far too expensive software that ships with its own salesperson

Chris Carter 13 Sep 05


Take note of my capitalization of “Big Problems”. If your friend lost a receipt, did not deducting that expense pose a critical threat to her entire business?

How about security: would she be in terrible danger of major legal action if she misplaced a customer’s name?

Regardless, you hit the nail on the head, the very thing I was getting at - most business ARE enterprise level, in terms of their requirements, or what their customers should expect from them. It’s this thinking that mom and pop shops don’t need to guarantee reliability and security that lets software vendors charge an arm and a leg for features that are fairly simple to implement with some good planning ahead of time.

I work for a small ISV, everything we do is centered around reliability and security, with auditing and accountability at every level. We work for small and large companies alike, and you know what? They all get the same “enterprise” features because they all need it. Hence my definition of enterprise. Make sense?

Tim 13 Sep 05

We charge 20% maintenance and spend 9% revenue on R&D!

Jim Remsik 13 Sep 05

A Wide Organization.

Bill 13 Sep 05

A big company thinking big.

Whereas they could be thinking big and acting small potentially minimizing their perceived software requirements.

Trivial answer, I guess.

Dom 13 Sep 05

Scalable, Shared, Secure, Can be Integrated, Not Desktop Software (Server).

rbyhckr 13 Sep 05


Matt 13 Sep 05

“Technology designed to scale well (many concurrent users)”

In software, this often also frequently means front-line software for production employees that also automates back-office tasks like accounting.

Jim Remsik 13 Sep 05

A Wide Organization is described as follows:

An organization with a large number of entities who reside at a common elevation.

Thus each encounters similar problems with the potential to be resolved with blanket solutions. The probelm with blanket solutions is they can only serve some percentage of the middle, not the whole.

Benjamin Mosse 13 Sep 05

A company with over 500 employees.

Alan 13 Sep 05

Five times as complex, Fifty times the gross profit.

Jeff 13 Sep 05

Simple tools stitched together with simple workflow then overly customized/complicated.

Deirdre Saoirse Moen 13 Sep 05

I’m reminded of my husband and our former coworker, Nick Moffitt, walking around in lab coats at the first Linux World Expo in 1999. The back of the coat showed a picture of Mr. Spock over a biohazard symbol, with the lettering “Spock Mountain Research Labs.”

When asked what they did, they’d reply, “We build Linux-based solutions for the Enterprise.”

Every time the word “enterprise” comes up, that’s the picture I get in my mind.

Danski 13 Sep 05

Enterprise, adj.

1. Term used to convince large companies that they are fundamentally different animals to smaller companies, thus tricking large companies into believing that they need craptastic, resource-consuming bloatware instead of the normal, everyday software everyone else uses.

2. Term used to describe software which is insanely expensive and comes with a vicious, barnacle-like support contract with which you will be cursed for the rest of your days.

Alex Bunardzic 13 Sep 05

Enterprise is a pecking-order based ongoing attempt to mitigate risks of doing business.

JohnO 13 Sep 05

adj. Enterprise - you have no idea what changing some code will break

(exactly 10 words!)

Michael Koziarski 13 Sep 05

All this leads me to the conclusion that �Enterprise Software� is a polite way of saying shitty legacy systems and overly complex requirements. The resulting systems are horrible to use cost too much to maintain.

I’m sticking with what I said all those months ago.

Roger 13 Sep 05

Software used by a lot of people who aren’t going to be happy if you screw anything up.

Scott 13 Sep 05

If it has a Dashboard view, it’s Enterprise Software.

Cote' 13 Sep 05

When coders sacrifice control and IPO’s for (perceived) stability, big-bucks.

Luc Heinrich 13 Sep 05

One word: “Boring”

Jennie Robinson 13 Sep 05

A company with $1 billion or more in yearly revenue.

Trevor Squires 13 Sep 05

So, you say “enterprise software” and you’re asking what “enterprise” is… I interpret the question as “what category of problem is enterprise software supposed to address?”

Aside from the obvious jabs like “salesman needs a new porsche”, I figure the problem category is this:

“A (typically large) organization’s labyrinth of byzantine procedural bulls***.”

Sadly, I think there’s a lot of supposedly “enterprise “apps that have been grossly over-specified. The (2 year) project plan says they’re going to save the world but in reality they only ever manage to address a very narrow subset of problems.

They’re not “enterprise class” at all: they only *wish* they were.

Cassio Pennachin 13 Sep 05

Buzzword compliant.

Moises Kirsch 13 Sep 05

Over 20 users.

Jonathan LaCour 13 Sep 05

In my experience, the best definition “The Enterprise” takes far fewer than 10 words when taken from the perspective of a technically minded, intelligent person. In fact, it takes just one compound word: bullshit.

However, whenever sales people (who almost always do not adhere to my strict definitions of “technically minded” and “intelligent”) discuss “The Enterprise” they all seem to understand exactly what the other is saying. Quite simply, “The Enterprise” means “businesses large enough to have problems because they’re too big.” I cheated a little and used a contraction.

Enterprise software has no use for actual people because it solves problems that we don’t have. Problems with fancy-sounding solutions like “workflow” and “replication.”

kmilden 13 Sep 05

The software that powers the death star…

Chris Griego 13 Sep 05

Enterprise Software: “Software designed to support the bloated infrastructure of misdirected companies.”

Fazal Majid 14 Sep 05

It’s a market segmentation classification for software vendors:

Business software costing more than $100,000 per license.


Software intended primarily for Fortune 500 companies

A big firm has to be called “enterprise”, not just “company”, just “Cauliflower is cabbage that has gone to college” (Mark Twain in Puddinghead Wilson’s Dictionary)

Chris 14 Sep 05

So we can sell the same software for much more money

Tom 14 Sep 05

Organization with full-time IT staff and a structured procurement process.

Oliver Schwarz 14 Sep 05

10 words: Enterprise…

“…does everything, but accidentally not the one thing you requested.”

Christian Romney 14 Sep 05


Beckie 14 Sep 05

Solutions from a staff of five where the leader calls himself “president” .)

Josh Poulson 14 Sep 05

The entire firm, no matter how diverse, where synergy can still be found.

Alipasha 14 Sep 05

People get organized to fulfill an economic or social goal.

Alexandre Simard 14 Sep 05

I’m amazed at the number of people who misread the question. It’s “Define ‘Enterprise’” not “Define ‘Enterprise Sofware’”.

I’ll reword and second Jonathan LaCour’s definition:

business large enough to have problems because of its size

roliver 14 Sep 05

Corporate suits making technology decisions they know nothing about

Mark 15 Sep 05

Client: Tie all this stuff together
Vendor: Sure, got specs
Client: No

twifkak 16 Sep 05

My favorite I’ve read so far is “expensive and complex.” (I stripped off the ‘unnecessarily’ ‘cause there is the occasional real need…) Enterprise software is expensive and complex by definition — that’s what the purchasers are looking for — and everything follows from that. It matters less that it’s highly available; if it has a complex solution to high availability, it’s okay if it doesn’t actually work.

Another one I just came up with “acts professional.” As in, wears a suit and tie, doesn’t make jokes, doesn’t take anything lightly, carefully dissects and analyzes everything to the slightest detail (ad nauseum). All the characteristics they look for in a person to “act professional” they’re looking for in enterprise software.

twifkak 16 Sep 05

Err, Jason, were you asking for the noun form or the adjective form of ‘enterprise’?

twifkak 16 Sep 05

Okay, I also like “all things to all people.”

kris olsen 19 Sep 05

As a guy who has spent about 20 years in the enterprise arena trying to make sense of it (from using it to implementing it to managing people who try to implement it), this is funny stuff.

All true and all very, very funny - I wouldn’t even attempt to contribute. Thx.

stan r. 10 Oct 05

Software that fails because nobody gets trained to use it.

glyphrider 10 Oct 05

enterprise software is software that expects to fail.

any genius can build a bridge between two mountains. but it takes a twisted mind to build a bridge that detects and reports on the shift of said mountains, the eventual rot and decay of bridge components and the fact that the whole area is now underwater. oh yeah, and the guy that just got back from cisco training reprogrammed the router to direct traffic away from your bridge and into the abyss.

Anonymous Coward 11 Oct 05

“Overpriced proprietary softare under development with support, implemented by non-techies.”

For a recent example, read Password deficiency in the workplace

It’s such a waste to see this crappy software get implemented only to have bug reports and cores sent in for fixes - plus managers making implementation decisions like not using passwords, etc. If only more would be allowed for people that have a clue to suggest and implement open sourced software. There’s a reason some software doesn’t have a phone back for technical support…


Ky 04 Nov 05


Ky 04 Nov 05


Ky 04 Nov 05


Eric 23 Dec 05

“An excuse to get Global Services in the door at $375/hour.” — An IBM salesman, behind closed doors

You, the customer, volunteer to get robbed blind, so that when you later threaten to stop paying, the vendor has a big incentive to fix it.

Ian Waring 26 Dec 05

A place where you need dedicated, professional help (from a vendor) to persuade the organization around you to part with enough money to keep them employed!

Ian W.
Simplicity sells!

anthony 20 Aug 06

“The Enterprise is on a five-year mission…”