Building Enterprise Applications: From Start to Finish

So you’re ready to streamline your business practices and optimize your organization with a custom enterprise app. But where to start?

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by Matias Emiliano Alvarez Duran

09/26/2022

Building enterprise applications can be tricky, with limited budgets, strict security requirements, and a lack of internal technical expertise quickly becoming barriers to getting started.

Here at NaNLABS, we’ve been helping companies make successful enterprise apps for years. To guide you through the process, we’ve compiled a full guide to everything you’ve ever wanted to know about enterprise software development, from start to finish.

Ready to build your own custom software with a team that cares about you and your processes? We’re not code monkeys, we care about you. 


Table of contents

What are enterprise software applications?

Enterprise software applications are systems built to meet the needs of an organization rather than individual users. The goal is to integrate computer systems that manage all aspects of your organization’s operations. 

The ideal enterprise system manages all major business processes in real time and connects your business with customers, suppliers, and business partners.

Why build an enterprise application? 

Enterprise applications offer heaps of benefits, such as:

  • Increased efficiency. Managers and employees benefit when enterprise applications automate repetitive tasks and processes. For example, you can automate emails, employee pay processing, and task progress notifications.

  • Easier sharing and management of data. With a single entry point to data for all departments, employees receive the most relevant, up-to-date information. Plus, storing and collecting data about the company becomes easier.

  • Better understanding of the business. Using enterprise applications makes it easier for your organization to make business plans and track performance. Not only can you monitor production progress, but also customer satisfaction and business expenses.

  • Improved employee satisfaction. By combining the most important information and functionalities in one place, enterprise applications make the work easier for all employees to do their jobs. When you automate tasks it could be removing a common frustration your employees have with repetitive tasks.

  • Increased return on investment (ROI). By tracking all your work processes, an enterprise solution can help minimize unnecessary spending. Also, more effective internal operations mean it’ll be easier for you to service more customers and increase your revenue.

Whatever your business requirements, there are tons of benefits to enterprise application development. Source: NaNLABS

The four types of enterprise applications (with examples)

Enterprise applications come in all different shapes and sizes and knowing what’s out there will help when it comes to building your own custom app. Below we break down the four most common types of enterprise applications and provide examples for each.

1. Enterprise resource planning (ERP)

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) is a type of enterprise app that organizations use to manage day-to-day business processes such as procurement, accounting, and project management. 

An ERP combines various business processes and enables the flow of information between them, dramatically reducing data duplication and providing data integrity.ERPs should also include enterprise performance management, which helps organizations plan, budget, predict, and report their financial performance.

Popular examples of ERP software include:

NetSuite’s clean, clear front-end consolidates all your data surrounding business operations. Source: NetSuite.

2. Supply chain management (SCM) systems

Supply chain management systems manage the flow of goods, data, and resources related to any product or service you sell, tracking it from procurement to delivery.

SCMs offer functionality to cover planning, product or service creation, and order management, and the platform should be accessible across the supply chain from supplier to retailer. Getting a clearer view of these processes can speed up delivery, improve customer experience, and reduce supply chain costs.

Some of the most commonly used SCM systems include:

Blue Yonder’s web application allows you to track shipments in real-time. Source: Blue Yonder

3. Customer relationship management (CRM) systems

CRM systems are applications that help organizations easily track all customer communications and strengthen relationships with their leads and clients. 

The core function of any CRM system is contact management, storing and managing all data for every kind of external contact. Consolidating customer communication information allows your entire team to access details when they need them to close sales and deliver better customer service. 

It also makes things easier for the customer as they have a ton of information at their fingertips and a direct line of communication when they need it.

To understand more about CRM systems check out these examples:

Pipedrive’s CRM enterprise application allows for easy access to client communications. Source: Software Advice.

4. Knowledge management systems

A knowledge management system stores and allows access to knowledge to improve understanding, collaboration, and process alignment. Companies can use them internally for human resources but they offer just as much, if not more, value to clients.

Using knowledge management systems for clients keeps documentation up-to-date, helps clients find their own answers, and manages information access and permissions across user groups. 

This means you’ll be spending less time fielding repeat questions from clients, improve customer satisfaction and see an uptick in sales.

Check out these commonly used examples for more information:

Guru’s knowledge management system gives the end-user easy access to all the information they need. Source: Guru

How to create an enterprise application

So far, we’ve talked about a few pre-baked software solutions that offer plenty of advantages. But none of them were designed specifically for your business.

Custom enterprise software development is the only way to guarantee meeting your company’s unique needs. Here’s how:

1. Start with goal-setting 

Why are you building the custom software? Who is it for? How does it align with your organizational goals? These are the questions you need to ask yourself when starting out with enterprise application development.

To answer the ‘why’, think about what challenges your business is currently facing and how the app can resolve these. This leads nicely to the next question, the ‘who’, as now you’ll understand who you want to use the software (clients, customers, internal teams, partners, and so on) and how it will benefit them.

Goal-setting helps match your enterprise app goals with that of the company more broadly, strengthening the organization's short-term and long-term mission and objectives. 

2. Augment your development team

If you’re struggling to get things off the ground and don’t have a team with experience in enterprise application development then consider augmenting your team with NaNLABS. 

With years of experience in the field and a collaborate-first approach, we can plug any gaps in expertise and help you scope and deliver the project in an Agile way. Our team will get to know your organization inside out, helping you build the enterprise app the way you want it and supercharge development.

Augmenting your team with NaNLABS means bringing experts in, not sending work out. Source: NaNLABS.


Ready to build your own custom software with a team that cares about you and your processes? We’re not code monkeys, we care about
you

3. Scope the parameters of the projects

If you have a flimsy timeline for progress and little to no milestones put in place, development will take twice as long as it should and project expenses will get out of control.

Organize for success and establish a clear, detailed timeline for development, and set milestones that are realistic and achievable. Collaborate with the dev team, as well as stakeholders, when committing to your schedule, and keep in mind the number of coding and testing resources you’ll need to assign to the project. 

4. Define must-have features

When establishing a workflow for development, it’s important to define what functionality you want from your enterprise app, and what can be achieved within the project scope. That way you won’t be trying to crowbar in new features at the last minute. 

Certain features are essential to any successful application, so take the time to look through them and decide which ones make sense for your chosen software solution. These include:

  • Extensive database. Regardless of the install base, you want as many users as possible to register on the app, which also means storing their operations, transactions and any other useful data. So, an extensive database in the back-end is a must.

  • User roles. Assign a set of permissions to specific users by giving them a role, making it clear who can do what on the application. This can grow quite fast if your organization has several teams, roles and complex workflows.

  • Multiple sign-in methods. You want users to have simple, streamlined access to your application, so allow them the ability to log in using federated SSO, social media or Google accounts.

  • Third-party integrations. Users are likely to have apps with functionality that your software solution doesn’t offer, integrating these third-party applications to your own with APIs will increase customer satisfaction.

  • Real-time analytics. Fresh analytics data means you can monitor custom behavior, see when immediate changes or fixes are necessary, and improve operational decision-making.

  • Instant messaging. Incredibly useful for internal communications but perhaps more so for giving clients a quick and easy way to speak to your team, strengthening customer relationships.

  • Robust security. With so much of your organization’s personal information flying around (not to mention that of your clients), you’ll want strong security systems built into your enterprise application.

5. Estimate the costs

As with timelines, estimating the development costs involved will stop things from spiraling out of control. 

Usually, custom software development pricing comes down to the app’s size, delivery time, and type of software. Estimating cost will help you determine the minimum and maximum range of work hours and your total budget.

This estimation should reach beyond the launch date. Take into account things that you may need to do after launch—monitoring user feedback, addressing post-launch bugs, and continuing maintenance.

6. Draw up a Statement of Work (SoW)

A Statement of Work (SoW) is a business document that covers every part of the agreement between the client and an outsourcing company to boost cooperation and avoid conflicts or misunderstandings. A solid SoW is a must, especially important if you choose to work with an external development company

Your SoW should include all the information we’ve mentioned so far (project goals, timeline, required features, budget) but also information such as hardware and software restrictions and post-project support. With this document in place, everyone will be on the same page, literally. 

7. Enter development

Once development has started you’ll want a clear methodology in place which is highly automated and transparent, allowing for progress monitoring. You should break down development into different intermediate stage releases to show progress:

  • Minimum viable product (MVP)

  • Alpha

  • Beta

Establish a clear methodology for development that details record keeping, tracking systems, user stories creation, and explanations of technical aspects, features, and constraints. Testing, such as integration testing or unit testing, should take place from beginning to end to make sure user stories meet the acceptance criteria.

8. Establish a maintenance and support system

However much you plan and test your enterprise application there’ll always be unforeseen errors and issues. Discover and respond to these technical problems by setting up a maintenance and support system not after, but before you launch. 

Failure to do so could result in poor customer experience or in the worst-case scenario malicious attacks and information leaks. When establishing support systems focus on:

  • Server maintenance

  • Regular backups

  • Automated deployment tools

  • Notification systems

Our top tips for building an enterprise application

After years of experience collaborating on a number of successful enterprise applications, we’ve picked up a few tips and tricks to help you along the way. Here are our key dos and don’ts for building an enterprise app.

Do 

  • Decide what type of application you want. Your enterprise app needs to stand out from the crowd, sure, but it pays to know what type will provide your jumping-off point.

  • Establish a plan. Write a SoW with clear goals, timelines, budgets, and feature lists so everyone knows the parameters of the project and you can track its progress.

  • Keep scalability in mind. Make sure you can scale your app to meet demand at any point in the future.

  • Seek outside help. Building an enterprise application is complex work, even if you have an in-house dev team, so consider reaching out for help from an experienced nearshore team.

  • Embrace integrations. Third-party apps are friends, not foes, as clients are always looking for ways they can integrate their other apps into new ones.

  • Create user roles. Having the ability to assign users specific roles helps organize users, increases ease of use, and bolsters security.

Don't 

  • Be unrealistic. The planning stage of app development is exciting, with people throwing ideas around left, right and center, but make sure that everything you commit to is deliverable and in-budget.

  • Allow for scope creep. Make sure you know what the app needs to do from the get-go and stick to it, otherwise timelines and budgets will balloon. 

  • Leave testing to the last minute. According to Agile methodology, you should be testing continuously on each iteration or new piece of functionality, to weed out vulnerabilities early and increase code quality.

  • Forget about long-term maintenance. Building an enterprise application doesn’t stop at launch as the system will need maintenance and updates to fix bugs and maintain security.

  • Overlook security. You don’t want to be the proverbial pick-pocked tourist of the enterprise application world so prioritize cybersecurity when building your app.

  • Ignore user feedback. Whether they be internal team members or customers, remember that their feedback is an opportunity to improve the application, you’re making it for them after all. 

Follow our list of dos and don’ts and make enterprise app development more manageable. Source: NaNLABS

Take a step-by-step approach to building enterprise applications

When broken down to its basic elements, creating an enterprise application starts to seem less daunting. With careful preparation your chances of success are far greater, meaning you get to enjoy all the benefits of having your own custom enterprise app.


To keep things simple, consider collaborating with a nearshore team like NaNLABS, who’ll be able to help you build a software solution that suits your needs and brings true value to your organization. 

Ready to build your own custom software with a team that cares about you and your processes? We’re not code monkeys, we care about you

Frequently asked questions about building enterprise applications

What is enterprise application architecture?

Enterprise application architecture is a set of patterns and methodologies that developers use to determine how enterprise software should be made. 

How much does it cost to build an enterprise app?

Custom software development pricing is highly dependent on what your organization needs from the software and the size of your organization. Typically, it ranges from $100,000 to over $1 million.

What are the four key enterprise applications?

The four key enterprise applications are: 

  • Enterprise resource planning (ERP)

  • Supply chain management (SCM) systems

  • Customer relationship management (CRM) systems

  • Knowledge management systems

What is an example of an enterprise application?

One example of an enterprise application is Blue Yonder. It’s a supply chain management system used to manage the flow of goods, data, and resources related to any product or service you sell, tracking it from procurement to delivery.

What is the difference between enterprise applications and desktop applications? 

The difference between enterprise applications and desktop applications is that the former is made for multiple, simultaneous users in an organization, while the latter is an application installed on a personal computer for individual use.

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