The IT industry is notorious for using buzz words to describe everything. The word “Enterprise” has fallen victim to this situation. It’s so overused that we’ve now arrived at a point where the word has completely lost all meaning.
We’re going to reclaim this word because it’s definition is important to our work as business analysts.
Defining the Word “Enterprise”
An “enterprise” solution, is a solution that aims to solve the challenges faced by medium to large-size organizations. When a company reaches midsize (100 to 1000 people)* they start to experience issues that have to be solved through complex system features such as workflow control and sophisticated permissions models.
These are considered “enterprise” class system features because they are needed only when the organization grows in size. These system features only get more complex as the size of the company increases into true enterprise-class (> 1000 people)*.
Most small businesses can operate relatively well with “Consumer” class software and software that’s designed specifically for small businesses.
Enterprise vs. Consumer Software
“Enterprise software” differs from a “Consumer software” in 3 fundamental ways as far as Business Analysts are concerned.
- Enterprise software is designed, built, and deployed very differently than consumer software. It usually needs to have strict change control processes in place to make sure that changes are rolled out in a carefully controlled way to minimize business disruption.
- Enterprise software is usually based on a “distributed architecture”, which means that there is a separation between the user interface, the business logic, and the business data. This is very important for Business Analysts to understand because the BA has to model the solution at all three levels. We call this the solution stack. (see ESM Framework).
- Enterprise software has common sets of features that the BA has to sponsor into product scope. Normal “requirements elicitation” techniques will not uncover these features because the customer does not even know they need them until it’s too late for the project. The BA has to know which ones to include in scope to arrive at a complete solution.
As you gain more experience working with enterprise-class software, you’ll get better at predicting what features are going to help your customer in ways that they won’t even recognize. We’re going to learn what these features are, and how the knowledge of this feature set can help you increase the value you bring to the table as a BA.
- We use the word “Enterprise Software” to mean large and complex systems designed to meet the needs of larger organizations.
- For now, this is enough for us to start learning how to use the Solution Stack of the ESM Framework to make good modeling decisions.
* We’re using the Gartner Research definition of medium and large size businesses here (http://www.gartner.com/it-glossary/smbs-small-and-midsize-businesses).