There is a buzz about the necessity of enterprise software applications development and implementation. Let’s take a look why large companies may need enterprise apps and how to turn them into a benefit tool.
Enterprises usually seek how to automate, optimize and constantly upgrade their diverse and complicated processes. In this case, an enterprise software app can cover it all. But what application to choose, how to escape the risks related to the process of development of enterprise software, its implementation and usage are still deep forest for many. We will try to explore the topic to shed light on many troubling questions.
Types of enterprise software applications
The enterprise software applications can be divided in different ways. We attributed them to five main different types according to their primary function. Keep in mind that the majority of applications combine different functions these days.
Management software applications
Management software applications are the largest of the six types designed to help monitor, plan, organize and manage multiple business processes under one cover. The functions vary and depend on the business area the management application is designed for. Scheduling, cost control, budgeting, decision-making, and quality control are all about HR, ERP, CRM apps. Not to be naked, let’s see some examples:
- Enterprise resource planning (ERP) has been already used for decades by the world business giants: Nestle, Bosch, Renault Sport, Marc Jacobs, Thomas Cook Group, the list goes on. For example, SAP is a true enterprise level ERP along with AdaxaSuite, ADempiere, Apache OFBiz, Compiere are also widespread ERPs.
- Modern business values human resources as its primary asset. To optimize HR-department multi-layer work and integrate it into the whole system large business uses HR management apps: WorkBright, Namely, ClearCompany, Deputy, WorkStyle, Cezanne.
- Business process management apps increase the productivity of enterprises. Promapp, KiSSFLOW, Nintex, TIBCO BPM, Alfresco are showcases of business automation apps that transform management approach in large companies.
Image 1. Product searches template of Adaxa Suite (Open Source ERP)
Collaboration software app
Collaboration software apps is a typical choice for a modern enterprise with offices worldwide. Collaboration enterprise apps can be browser-based, feature-heavy, flexible, synchronizing, agile-focused, eliminate duplication of effort. They allow employees to be involved in a common project at work whenever they are located. It makes possible to assign users with different access rights hierarchically defined. You’ve probably heard about Slack, Liferay, Monday.com, Asana, Intraboom, Scoro. Yes, these are they.
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a must-have tool for the evolution of your business relationship: you stay in touch with your existing and potential clients, streamline processes and improve profitability. Zoho, Pipedrive, HubSpot CRM, Freshsales are the well-known apps of this type.
- Content management system (CMS) is irreplaceable when a group of people need to collaborate with each other while filling and managing digital content or need to work according to the scheduled workflow. Frequently used CMS: Third Light, Contentful, Drupal, Alfresco, Liferay.
Image 2. Liferay content management system
Automation enterprise applications
Any enterprise activity (sales, HR, accounting, production, etc.) gains from automation. Such apps relieve business of manual work, increase productivity and accelerate data exchange. Some notable examples are:
- Sales force automation (SFA) (GreatVines, Simplr Solutions, OracleSales Cloud Service solution, ForceManager);
- Online shopping systems (Shopify, Magento, YoKart, BigCommerce, Hybris);
- Accounting software apps (Freshbooks, Zoho Books, QuickBooks, Xero);
- Automated Billing systems (ABS) (Sage Intacct Subscription Billing, Scout Systems HQ, BillingServ, RReally Simple Systems CRM);
- Email marketing systems (MailChimp, Front, iContact Pro, ActiveCampaign, Marketo, Bpm’online CRM).
Image 3. Zoho Books automation enterprise software system
Analytic software applications and Business intelligence (BI) systems
Software analytic applications and Business intelligence (BI) systems. There are two things crucial for effective decision making in the marching-ahead business world. First, how to cope with the mass of data we have and second, how to leverage it. Analytical software apps read data, process it, extract and report. Decision making in enterprises is made on the basis of complex analysis (what-if analysis, scenario-modeling reports, root cause analysis, etc.).
- Analytic software applications that would serve you well: Avora, Sisense, BOARD, Dundas BI Software, ClicData.
Image 4. Sisense provides its users with the tools they need for joining, analyzing, and visualizing multiple big data sets
Storage software applications
Storage management software has storage capacity for the sheer volume of data. A classical example of storage software app is a document management system. Every enterprise faces the problem of storing and retaining business content. Storage software applications help store content in compliance with the standards and principles of the company and enable convenience of access and usage. Some typical software apps of this kind are HotDocs, Laserfiche, Alfresco, Dokmee.
Image 5. Records management in Alfresco document management software
Enterprise security applications
There is a large pool of enterprise security apps of the utmost importance.
- Virus scanners (McAfee, Symantec, Kaspersky Anti-Virus);
- Vulnerability scanners (Nessus, Nmap Online Port Scanner, OpenVAS vulnerability scanner);
- Vulnerability identification and monitoring applications (Nagios, Zabbix, OpsGenie, Netwrix Auditor);
- Firewalls and brandmauers monitor and control incoming and outgoing network traffic;
- Load balancers, CDNs (content delivery networks), more specific anti-DDoS (distributed denial of service) are used to prevent flooding of the targeted machine or systems;
- Spam filters and ad blockers come in handy for emails and Internet surfing.
All the apps provide a business with cybersecurity, while the board of directors is gifted with a peaceful mind.
Image 6. McAfee enterprise security app
9 risks of enterprise software development
- Clarity of your goals
- Cost and transparency
- Vendor expertise
- Code quality
- Remote partnership
- Project management
- Quality assurance
- prevention-oriented efforts (at the Quality Assurance step);
- detection-oriented quality control (verifies that the project complies with documented requirements);
- product-oriented software testing (using a range of relevant manual and automated tests: smoke testing, acceptance testing, stress/load testing, regression testing.)
- Enterprise app security
You should have a clear understanding of what issue a software enterprise app will solve for your business and what benefits you will receive afterwards.
If you do not have the vision of every nut and bolt of an enterprise application development, you may end up with the app that will not cover the predetermined business problems. You will waste time to fix all the inconsistencies that may occur and the cost of developing enterprise software will rise many-fold.
To form client’s ideas, we at Aimprosoft draw up a Statement of Work (SoW). It is the best fit for you to leap over a few stages of tedious discussion and got your requirements documented in the SoW.
Companies that develop enterprise software quite often work with the raw ideas of clients and put them on the right track. The Statement of Work is a basic document here that turns a concept into an explicit guide to action. You can bring it to your vendor to follow it when developing your enterprise software or the vendor can create it themselves. It costs a thing.
Business is all about making money and spending them in expectation to recover the investments. It concerns all the business processes and software development as well. If you invest in a new enterprise software development for business, you expect every step of custom software development and implementation must be transparent.
Usually, the cost depends on functionality, app’s size, delivery time, and the type of software. When requirements are outlined, you get from an enterprise application software company a ROM (rough order of magnitude) that helps gain the understanding of cost needed to bring your concept into life. Nevertheless, a reason for approving a start of pre-development actions will be a detailed estimate with the min and max range of man-hours and total development cost indicated.
You may feel uneasy with it because the potential candidates for the role of your outsourcing vendor may be not what you think they are. How to check it? Certifications, proof of concept, testimonials, industry and functional experience are all indicators that should be part of your company’s scrutiny process before proceeding to contract.
It goes without saying that code must be of high quality. But it is not only truism, let’s imagine the situation when you want your enterprise application software to be developed by different vendors at different stages. In this case, the code has to be ideally clean and easy to understand by any other developers. Otherwise, countless hours and significant resources will be lost because of the poorly written code. You can’t be a fortune-teller and predict the future but to vet the outsourcing vendor and their references is a must.
Because of the time differences, an offshore outsourcing vendor usually works when a client sleeps and vice versa. Suppose a problem occurs that blocks the project progress but it is midnight in the homeland of yours and you are fast asleep. A reliable partner usually has a workable approach to that problem.
How we work at Aimprosoft. Firstly, we ask as many questions as possible to see the broader picture of the project issues, goals and all the relevant details. If such situation occurs, we immediately report about the problem and concentrate on the other issues we can solve. If the task is blocked on the client side and stays unsolved, we relentlessly remind about it.
And if everything is fixed, there is always something left for the development team to do beyond of high priority: code refactoring, unit tests, etc.
To manage the project in the best manner and minimize the risks related to software development, your outsourcing vendor must have PMs staffed with expertise in enterprise applications management. It is a common practice to have a project manager or responsible executive on the client’s side and dedicated one on the vendor’s.
To avoid project management risks, PMs perform continuous clarifying, identification and recording requirements during the process of enterprise app or desktop software development caused by unexpected technical or business reasons. Different methodologies can be applied to manage a project but project features vary and the PMs should be flexible to choose the most appropriate methodology (for example, Scrum, Kanban, Scrumban, iterative approach, or Waterfall). Experienced in risk management PMs decrease the influence of risks on a project deployment.
In fact, you risk if your outsourcing vendor does not insist on quality assurance. The main goal of QA is to prevent possible defects and ensure the quality of software development. To go further, the quality assurance should include Quality Control and Testing. The unity of the two provides quality protection at different levels.
Building enterprise applications, you should have an exhausting test plan and define the acceptance criteria. This plan covers a scope of testing tasks, strategy, object description, schedule, specific knowledge requirements, and risk assessments with potions to resolve them.
When you hire the software vendor, pay attention it has the QA specialists in the team that carry your project to the ultimate success through the three stages of testing:
Your enterprise app must be protected from viruses, cyber exposure, untrusted external network, denial-of-service attacks, and many others we listed in the Enterprise Security Apps clause above. The security risks are impossible to eliminate by your in-house development team, but there are software security companies that specialize particularly on protection. They provide security audit and services.
Another strategically important practice is launching a bounty hunting program. When white hats (ethical computer hackers) are hired to find the vulnerabilities in your software system in order to upgrade security to a higher level. What an enterprise vendor who develops your app can offer is ensuring the software is relevant and does not have some particular vulnerabilities. We comply with trustworthy OWASP recommendations for web application security and highly recommend you to adopt the OWASP Top 10 security risks for your protection. Your vendor is the one who responsible for secure code.
Ineffective design can lead to the poor functioning of an enterprise and financial losses. It may result in a user-unfriendly and non-intuitive interface. To exclude these threats a thorough UX analysis should be conducted by mutual efforts with your vendor on the early stage of development of enterprise software. It will help define the users of the app and carefully examine their needs.
Some companies do not conduct any analysis and end up going bust as employees will have difficulties using a faulty app. As the stakes are great for the enterprise, it is better to assign this huge and time-consuming task to the vendor’s web design team experienced in UX/UI cycle development. It will be easier and less expensive than to conduct the whole research on your own or hire an analytics company.
The areas of focus to build an effective enterprise software
The user journey
How willingly the users utilize an enterprise app, how much time they spend on their tasks, and eventually, how their performance influences business processes in the company, depend on convenient user journey.
It is your area of primary concern to understand what the users want when they interact with your corporate web app: their feelings, needs, convenience, steps taken to achieve their goals in a few clicks. And it is the area of responsibility of your outsourcing vendor to deliver it.
There is a lot of uproar around human-centered design. The buzz is for good reason. Steve Jobs understood its importance in good time:
Still, it is not evident for many companies. They underestimate or neglect users’ experience and consequently create ineffective app design.
What approach can be adopted to understand your users deeper?
The Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford suggested a Design Thinking concept to the better user journey creation. The reliable outsourcing vendors usually adopt this approach for their work.
It can be figuratively divided into 5 stages:
Empathy allows switching from your own assumptions about the app to the users’ needs.
When you do it without the help of the vendor, be prepared to invest time and money into a thorough investigation. UX designers should take part in the investigation because they are the creators of the app design and notice the details vital for making it user-friendly. When people who do not create an app design conduct investigation, there is a great chance you will get an inconvenient app design or you will have to return to the empathizing stage again and again after completing any of the following stages of Design Thinking.
Ideally, the empathizing stage is taken by the team of UX designers of your outsourcing vendor. They start with the empathizing stage and lead it to the end of the Design Thinking process.
2. Defining the problems
At this stage, the UX design team can put together the information they have gathered during the first stage and analyze it to define the core problems in a human-centered manner. Here, they shape the course of human-centered approach as the app is created for their convenience.
The UX team comes to this stage with a human-centered problem statement. It is challengeable because the team should free themselves from the conventional way of thinking and yield as many fresh ideas as possible. For this reason, they gather for observation sessions, look at the problem at alternative ways and come with their ideas to make the app user-friendly, employees more productive and the business processes optimized.
A great chance there will be a few gems between them. Easier said than done. To expand the way of thinking, they use multiple techniques such as Brainstorm, Brainwrite, Worst Possible Idea, SCAMPER.
At this stage, the vendor’s UX design team generates some specific features or a prototype of the app.
It is tested between the team members or the test group of people. The prototype of app undergoes investigation, improving, accepting or rejection on the basis of the users’ experiences. At this stage, the constraints of the app are better seen. The design team gets a better vision of how real users would behave and feel. This app prototype can be tested and its constraints are identified.
Some companies skip the last stage of the Design Thinking concept. However, it is necessary because the results of testing lead to a revaluation of the problems and the app’s design enhancement.
After the production stage, a designer surveys users. According to the results, we can see how convenient the enterprise app prototype is and make the design enhancements. When the system goes live, we conduct the survey and test it in a month.
The refinements and alterations are iterative. If a client wants to add a new feature to the app, we have to make sure these changes are positive for the users. Testing is planned depending on how many actions a user has to take to perform a particular task with the help of the application. Sometimes, it takes up to 6 months or more to receive explicit results and decide what improvements to make if they are still needed.
How to develop an enterprise software system?
The growth of IT spending becomes sharp in the last 3 years (2017-2019). In 2018, spending on enterprise software is expected to reach 405 billion U.S. dollars; in 2019 — 439 billion acc. to Statista.
Image 7. Information technology (IT) spending on enterprise software worldwide, from 2009 to 2019 (in billion U.S. dollars). Statista
The figures show that integrating enterprise software into big business becomes more and more popular every year. The reason is it is profitable. But how to build useful enterprise software so that it recovers quicker and generates maximum profit for an enterprise?
We tried to smooth your way by clarifying how to build enterprise software system by distinguishing the stages you have to go through:
- Analysis of the existing business processes must be done to understand what processes need optimization and/or automation.
- Identify your goals. They must be clear and quantifiable because you need metrics to measure success.
- Vet the potential outsourcing partners. Conduct thorough research on the vendors to choose a reliable enterprise software development company with applicable expertise.
- Pre-estimation discussion. You already defined what you want and have the initial details of the project. So, discuss it with the vendor to form the ground for the future estimation.
- Rough estimation will be prepared by the vendor on the basis of your requirements. With its help, you will get a clear view of how much time and investment are needed for the project.
- Statement of Work. At this stage, your vendor gathers the data, conduct domain research and survey your business stakeholders in order to define what the product should achieve. Based on the findings, the vendor prepares a document called Statement of Work (SoW). Usually, the same vendor develops the app. However, you can come with your own SoW already available. In this case, you will discuss it and the vendor starts working on its basis.
- After that, you will approach detailed estimation. It may be divided into a few stages in turn:
- At the early beginning of the project, it is hardly clear if it is successful. To test the feasibility of the project, we at Aimprosoft develop Proof of Concept (PoC) that is a demo set of features based on UX prototyping with outlined UI.
- Technical functional specification contains the entire list of technologies, third-party integrations, features, configuration peculiarities, all will be specified there.
- Full-fledged UI mockups are prepared to liven up with frontend efforts.
The vendor’s DevOps prepare a ready-to-use environment for project development. It includes setting up servers infrastructure and starts live operation of working services (Git, bug tracker, VPN) along with monitoring system and automated deployment.
- Stage releases. The vendor delivers a number of intermediate releases during the development process to show you the progress of the project: minimum viable product (MVP), alpha, beta versions of the product or concerted features.
- Project management. Methodology, rules on changes are chosen for well-coordinated management. We, at Aimprosoft, consider the project characteristics and possibilities depending on the client (their time, finances, experience) and according to that use agile or non-agile methodology for successful deployment. It is a common practice for development companies to agree with product owners on the client side on keeping records, working with tracking systems, creating user stories, and explain technical aspects, features, and constraints of the project.
- Quality check. This stage is devoted to checking the project at the end of the intermediate stages. Quality control reports are based on the specifications including check conditions and criteria, the actual versus expected results and assessments of the quality of system whether it meets the acceptance criteria.
- Product launch. Prior stage releases in the form of different product versions are introduced before product launch. Team Lead or Delivery Manager executes moving code to the production environment. Before go-live we have a code freeze and 2-3 weeks of user acceptance testing during which our team fixes bugs only; no changes are permitted. As a result, the client has a project deployed on his servers.
These issues can be resolved by the team of your developers in-house but it is more convenient when the same vendor that develops the enterprise app performs it all. The vendor usually makes regular backups, automated deployment tools, and notifications about emerging issues. The same vendor can also maintain the server. When we provide maintenance and support to our clients, we also create a change request paper for advanced updates desired to be implemented.
Image 8. Enterprise software development at Aimprosoft
As statistics reveals, despite all the objections, more and more enterprises improve their business operations by implementing enterprise software applications. They use EAS as a tool to pave the way for further development and growth. But to make EAS work, you have to know your goals, carefully choose a reliable software partner and follow the steps above. We have tried to share our insights in enterprise software solutions development and smooth your way to the success. If you want to clarify it further, please contact us.
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