Enterprise Level Software Development vs. Regular Development: What’s the Difference?

Has your organization outgrown its current systems? For a solution that’ll scale alongside your business, you’re going to need enterprise level software.

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by Matias Emiliano Alvarez Duran


Paying for off-the-shelf enterprise software is all well and good but it’ll never suit your business needs as well as software you developed yourself.

But where to start with enterprise level software development? And how is it different from standard software development?

In this article, you’ll also get a step-by-step breakdown of enterprise software development and tips taken directly from our experience.

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 is enterprise level software vs standard software?

Enterprise level software is built with large-scale organizations in mind, whereas standard software is made for individuals or smaller businesses. That means they need to be built a little differently. 

What is standard software?

Standard software is used at a general consumer level and is split into two categories:

  1. Systems software. This could be operating systems like Windows or macOS.

  2. Application software. This is used for one specific purpose i.e. Pages is an app used for word processing.

What is enterprise level software?

Enterprise level software is used by larger organizations to streamlinebusiness processes and centralize large amounts of data. To analyze this information, enterprise level software has more complex functionality and automation features. It’s built with scalability in mind so it can grow alongside the organization.

What’s the difference between enterprise and non-enterprise software development?

The difference between enterprise and non-enterprise software development can be summed up in one word—complexity.Enterprise software development is much more complex in its:

  • Number of operations supported. You need to design and build the architecture to support a large number of concurrent users performing transactions at the same time. 

  • High-Level security. You might need to dedicate entire teams to auditing the software and performing security checks (like penetration tests).

  • Automation. For the number of complex tasks involved you need to set up numerous automations to cut down on manual labor. 

  • Infrastructure.Enterprise application software tends to be used by large organizations located in different countries. As a result, you need to place software servers in different locations to improve response times and bandwidth availability. 

Enterprise software development: 8 Factors to consider

Consider these 8 crucial factors before entering enterprise applications development to avoid headaches later.

1. Interoperability

Enterprise software needs to work well with other apps and share data using API integrations. For example, ClickUp (a project management app) can send notifications about tasks to Slack channels via an integration.

Interoperability also applies to how people sign in to the software. With Single Sign On (SSO) users can log on to various web applications with just one username and password. SSO falls under the umbrella of a Federated Identity Manager (FIM).  

FIM is an arrangement that can be made between multiple organizations allowing users to sign into different platforms with the same account—like when you log in to Facebook with your Gmail account.

2. Customization

Enterprise levelsoftware needs even more robust personalization options to meet the needs of the business. If a single user can customize their Whatsapp background that’s a great bonus, but an organization needs to have an app that can match its brand from top to bottom. 

3. Storage

Enterprise level software is built to handle massive amounts of data so you have to decide where you’re going to store it. You can store data locally or use a cloud service like:

4. Complex configuration

The whole point of building enterprise applications is to try and solve multiple problems business-wide. This means your software will have a complex configuration. To make things easier you should pinpoint the particular type of enterprise software you want to develop. 

Key types include:

  • Customer relationship management (CRM)

  • Enterprise resource planning (ERP)

  • Business intelligence (BI)

  • Supply chain management (SCM)

5. Scalability 

As your business grows, the needs of your application will too. Whether we’re talking about increased data storage, more users, or new functionality, the software needs to support major growth. 

6. High availability

If the Facebook mobile app isn’t working, it’s annoying for the end user. But if your enterprise level software goes down you could lose clients and thousands of dollars. Develop your enterprise software to maintain high availability with infrastructure resilience that can mitigate, adapt, and respond to stresses on your software.

7. Cost

Because of its complex nature, developing enterprise software costs much more than regular software. Set out a clear, realistic budget for development to keep costs under control.

8. Security

As Uncle Ben said, “With large amounts of sensitive data, comes great responsibility.” Your enterprise level software is going to have a lot of confidential information, so develop with strong cyber security in mind.

Consider these 8 factors now before they become problems later in enterprise software development. Source: NaNLABS.

What skills does an enterprise software development team need?

Like standard software development, your team needs to be skilled at:

  • Communication. Forget the stereotype of isolated programmers knocking out code. Effective development relies on a team that can communicate clear and concise updates across all departments.

  • Time management. Quality software relies on rock-solid code, not buggy lines the devs rushed out to meet a deadline. Team members need to be able to manage their time well to meet deadlines and maintain a high level of quality.

  • Collaboration. Teams need to work together, sharing their findings and best practices. Code reviews and pair programming are great ways to keep things collaborative.

  • Security practices. Staff need to be up-to-date on the latest security practices like DevSecOps—a trending practice that involves introducing security earlier in development.

That said, developing enterprise software is more complex than regular development. Look for developers with proven previous experience in:

  • Architecture design

  • Multiple programming languages

  • Integrations with third-party software

  • Test automation

  • Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Development (CD) pipelines

  • Performance optimization

  • Cloud concepts

  • Working in an Agile way

If you don’t have the skill in-house, augment your team with experienced developers from an agency like NaNLABS. We bring the expertise and experience you need to scale your business with enterprise software, and we’ll fully integrate with your existing communications methods and workflows.

What are the stages of enterprise software development?

Like any development project, custom software development starts to look a lot more digestible when divided into stages. Here’s how we recommend you break down the process. 

1. Scope the project

Start by working out what problems you need the software to solve by gathering data from all major stakeholders (operational staff, customers). This helps to establish the enterprise software solutions and features you need and the size of the project.

2. Establish timelines

Enterprise development can spiral out of control without a clear timeline in place. Establish realistic achievement milestones peppered through your timeline so you know things are going to plan. This also gives the team direction and gives you the chance to adjust things if necessary.   

3. Estimate the costs

If you don’t establish a well-defined budget early on then the already expensive investment of custom enterprise software development will get out of hand. Consider the cost of:

  • Third-party integrations

  • Team training or augmentation

  • Server space

  • Testing

  • Post-launch support

4. Appoint a team

Now it’s time to assemble your dream team, Avengers-style. Roles you’ll need to fill include:

  • Project manager

  • Business analyst

  • System architect

  • UI/UX designers

  • Backend and frontend developers

  • QA engineers

  • DevOps engineer

5. Review existing software

If you’ve already developed software for your organization, it might be less risky and more cost-effective to reuse some of it. This’ll make it easier for your new enterprise solution to communicate with your older software and speed up the development process.  

6. Design enterprise software

This is the stage where you establish the technical and artistic design of the software. Everything, from large-scale decisions about architecture to the type of font you want, should be fully laid out.

7. Develop enterprise software

Working under a project manager, developers code the enterprise software in modules (i.e. an individual part of the software). Because enterprise software is so elaborate this is the most time-consuming and challenging part of development.

8. Test enterprise software 

QA engineers need to test the enterprise software to see if it’s ready for launch. If you’re working with the Agile methodology this step and the previous one are happening at the same time, feeding into each other. The types of testing you should be performing are:

  • Unit-testing 

  • Functionality testing 

  • Performance testing

  • Load testing 

  • Stress testing

  • UI testing 

  • Compatibility testing

  • Usability testing

  • Security testing

Remember that if you’re using an Agile methodology some of these stages will be happening concurrently. Source: NaNLABS

Everything we’ve learned about enterprise level software development

At NaNLABS, we’ve developed enterprise level applications for clients in all kinds of fields, including cyber security, ecommerce, sales enablement, and creative media. Here are a few things we’ve learned along the way.

4 Enterprise software development challenges you may face 

In all our years developing enterprise software, we’ve faced a bunch of challenges (so you don’t have to).

1. Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) mechanisms

Enterprise software tends to use an RBAC mechanism to support different role permissions on what each user can or can’t do. This requires a lot of business knowledge and it can take time to set up who has what roles and permissions. So make sure this information is well documented. 

2. A large number of APIs

Enterprise level software is often connected to a large number of external APIs that do a similar job but in a different way. Developers need to:

  • Design their code to reuse as much as possible while keeping it simple to maintain.

  • Build monitoring systems to notify you when any integration fails. 

  • Keep logs for traceability and error diagnosis. 

3. Complex business logic

Enterprise software tends to solve huge enterprise level issues. Sometimes the solutions have several steps with different levels of complexity along the way. Prepare for this complexity in advance by planning development carefully.

4. The ramp-up process

Ramping up is when a developer joins an ongoing project. Enterprise level software has dense architectures and getting up to speed can be time-consuming. If you’re augmenting your development team be sure to give the new developers as much documentation about the project as you can.

8 Tips for successful enterprise software development

We asked our most experienced team members for advice on successful enterprise software development. Here’s what they had to say.

1. Use DevOps/DevSecOps practices 

DevOps is a set of practices used to encourage faster, better development and faster release of software. DevSecOps is an evolution of DevOps that integrates security at every phase of the software development lifecycle. Specific DevOps practices include:

  • Continuous development

  • Continuous testing

  • Continuous delivery

2. Establish autonomous teams

Build autonomous, relatively small teams that have ownership of certain modules or pieces of your software. These teams are fully accountable for their modules. They should be able to define, build, test, and deploy their software. 

These teams are fully accountable for their modules. Working in this way increases productivity and reduces time-to-market.

3. Follow an enterprise level software-specific methodology

Follow methodology specific to enterprise software development, like SAFe. SAFe stands for Scaled AgileFramework and was designed specifically for implementing Agile software development practices at an enterprise level.

4. Use an Infrastructure as code (IaC) approach

An IaC approach allows you to manage software infrastructure very quickly. It also provides a coding environment that’s very similar to the one the software will run in during production. This reduces several common integration issues and errors. 

5. Follow architectural standards

The architecture of a software project determines its success or failure. It’s best to combine different architectural patterns rather than trying to create a unique architecture. This will save time and keep things simple during enterprise software development.

6. Work on having a good development experience

In a project as big as enterprise level software development you need to have a proactive, holistic environment. Focus the development team on developing solutions, not just fixing issues that are directly related to them.

7. Set up deployment ecosystems early

Get all the deployment ecosystems working from the start, rather than waiting for launch day. Invest time in having the whole development process working smoothly early on and you’ll save yourself a lot of time and hassle in the long run. 

8. Apply best technical practices

It sounds obvious but is often disregarded. If you apply and follow the best technical practices it improves not only the quality of the platform but also the team and business agility. Some best technical practices include:

Enterprise app development in a nutshell  

For all the advantages of custom enterprise software, it’s a much bigger development commitment than standard software. But just by reading this article, you’ve already taken the right first steps. Here’s how you should move forward:

  1. Scope the project

  2. Establish timelines

  3. Estimate the costs

Once these things are in place you’re ready to appoint a team and start the groundwork of development. If your devs don’t have the skills or experience necessary, consider hiring a nearshore development team like NaNLABS. We can offer you consultancy services and team augmentation to develop the software you need and up-skill your team while we’re at it.

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 enterprise level software development

  • What does enterprise software development have to do with web development?

    Enterprise software development is related to web development in that it builds software for organizations that can be web, desktop, or mobile applications.

  • What is the difference between a system and a program?

    The difference between a system and a program is that a program contains instructions that a computer follows and a system is a device you use the program with. For example, MS Word is a program and a laptop computer is a system you use to interact with it. 

  • What is an enterprise software developer?

    An enterprise software developer is someone who is experienced in creating complex software for large organizations.

  • What are the different levels of developers?

    The different levels of developers are:

    1. Trainee developer

    2. Junior developer

    3. Mid-level developer

    4. Senior developer

    5. Lead developer

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