For more than three decades enterprises have been using IT systems in order to facilitate and automate their business processes. Nowadays, these systems are ubiquitous and typically considered an integral element of enterprise infrastructures. The most prominent and widely used IT systems are enterprise applications like ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems and CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems. Enterprise applications are very popular both within large enterprises and within SMBs (Small Medium Businesses). Large enterprises tend to deploy and operate costly and sophisticated enterprise applications, which scale to their needs. On the other hand, SMBs adopt smaller scale solutions that are cost effective and flexibly customizable. SMBs are becoming increasingly dependent on enterprise applications, as the latter boost their agility and enable them to do more with less resources. As a prominent example, modern CRM and marketing automation tools enable small enterprises to reach wide audiences at global scale. Likewise, cloud-based office suites enable SMBs’ employees to work on documents regarding of time and their location.
Over the years, enterprise applications for SMBs have evolved in size and sophistication. In the past, enterprises had to dispose with a wide range of “siloed” applications that were provided by different vendors and could hardly interact with each other. Furthermore, in earlier years, SMBs had to develop and maintain in-house computing infrastructures in order to deploy and use enterprise applications. In recent years, SMBs are offered access to entire suites of integrated and interoperable applications. Furthermore, these applications can be accessed in the cloud, based on flexible utility-based (i.e. pay-as-you go) models.
Enterprise application suites for SMBs are usually characterized as business management software. The latter is an umbrella term that comprises a wide array of application programs which support businesses in optimizing and automating their processes. These application programs feature some common functionalities such as error checking, process improvement and reporting tasks. However, these programs are usually clustered into suites based on their functional relevance i.e. applications with pertinent functionalities are usually bundled together in the same suite. Typical examples of commonly used packages and suites are:
These are certainly more and different types of suites, other than the ones listed above. In several cases enterprise application suites bundle together applications from more than one of the presented categories. Also, there are cases of enterprise suites that combine functionalities from more than one type. For example, there are suites that integrate project management functionalities with finance and accounting functionalities, towards keeping track of the contribution of each project in the annual revenues and turn-over of the company.
Read Also: Enterprise Applications Integration: Making the right choices
SMBs are nowadays offered with a wealth of enterprise applications options, which vary in functionalities, quality and cost. Thus, selecting the most appropriate suite can be a challenging task, as the selection has to consider and balance many and diverse factors. The latter may directly relate to the number and type of tasks that need to be supported and automated. In this context, the following factors must be considered:
Read More: Are Mobile Enterprise Apps Realizing Their Potential?
Enterprise suites for SMBs are nowadays more and more versatile than ever before. In several cases they constitute one of the main pillars of an SMB’s productivity. Small and medium businesses should therefore make a careful selection of their enterprise applications, through considering not only cost, but also criteria linked to functionality, learning curve and quality of customer support. Regardless of their ultimate selection, SMBs should also allocate effort in customizing the applications to their business processes, in order to make the most out of their selection.
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