What is software?

Software is a general term that describes various kinds of programs used to operate computers and other similar devices.

Software is often divided into application software, which includes programs that users are interested in, and system software, which includes operating systems and any program that supports application software.

Software can be purchased or acquired as shareware (software sold after an initial free trial period), liteware (shareware with some capabilities disabled), freeware (free software with no restrictions), public domain software (free with no restrictions) and open source, which is software where the source code is adapted and improved among users who agree not to limit the distribution of these improvements.

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Enterprise software, also known as enterprise application software (EAS), is computer software used to satisfy the needs of an organisation rather than individual users. Today, there are many examples of these enterprise applications in use.

Artificial intelligence

The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) may seem a daunting prospect on the surface. In truth, however, this rapidly developing technology presents a wealth of opportunities for businesses looking to upskill their workforce and transform the user experience. It’s popularity is such, that Gartner predicts AI will be in every software product by 2020.

Machine learning

Machine learning is one of the newest software technologies that enterprises are embracing. It comes from the world of automation and is helping organisations break new ground in enhancing internal operations and delivering innovative customer experiences.

Big software

Canonical coined the term “big software” to represent the new class of at-scale software which organisations now rely on to stay ahead. Any innovating organisation must expect to ingest and rely on growing amounts of big software.

Customer relationship management (CRM)

CRM software is used in all aspects of enterprise engagement with customers in both sales and service-related queries. It also applies to business-to-customer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) interactions. It tracks information in relation to contracts, clients, contracts, sales, leads and more.

Effectively, CRM deals with front-end information, helping businesses understand prospects and clients, manage relationships and sales pipeline, and up sell and cross-sell products.

It helps give organisations the relevant data to help identity services or products that customers want, provide better customer service, help sales teams to cross-sell and up-sell more effectively and better understand the customer’s needs in general.

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CRM is essential in personalising customer offerings, tailoring them to the individual client’s needs. Of course, for an effective CRM system, the quality of data needs to be high.

Some have claimed that CRM is dead due to the notion that most CRM solutions can’t keep up with the instant, real-time demands that clients expect with the emerging technology on offer. In some people’s view, the usability of CRM was not a key part of the software, which often resulted in failed software projects, largely attributed to undue complexity.

Vendors have since attempted to neutralise this issue, and make CRM as easy to use and intuitive as possible.

The big benefit of CRM is that it centralises all business data. Before, data was spread across different departments and very hard to access coherently. Ultimately, CRM systems help organisations develop a 360 view, which creates an efficient automated processes to improve business processes.

The enterprise can further streamline business processes and boost productivity by integrating CRM with enterprise resource planning (ERP).

Enterprise resource planning (ERP)

ERP is business process management (BPM) software, which allows an organisation to use a system of integrated applications to manage business and automate back-end functions related to technology, services and human resources.

ERP software handles critical backend processes; including purchase history, billing and shipping details, accounting information, financial data, and supply chain management details. It integrates all aspects of an organisation’s operation in a single database, application and user interface.

>See also: Does software quality equal software security? It depends

It’s in the name, but ERP was designed to be used in larger business, and requires dedicated teams to handle its installation and maintenance. The aim is to improve the flow of data throughout a business.

There are new ERP trends, but some have been slower to adopt than other, like Mobile ERP and Cloud ERP.

There are a number of ERP vendors. Gartner’s annual market share reports put SAP, Oracle, Sage, Microsoft and NetSuite among the top vendors. But Capterra’s data suggests that SAP and Oracle are easily the biggest two, with Epicor, Infor and Microsoft on their heels in a shifting line-up. The top small business ERP vendors includes names like NetSuite, Exact Max, Epicor and Syspro.

Human capital management (HCM) software

The term HCM system has begun to displace human resource management system (HRMS) and HR system as an umbrella term for integrated software for both employee records and talent management processes.

HCM is an approach to employee staffing that perceives people as assets (human capital) whose current value can be measured and whose future value can be enhanced through investment.

It is essential to keep track of employee data, and it’s common that most companies at present have a core human capital management system that’s focused purely around areas such as payroll, compliance and admin.

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However, in an employee-led job market, core HR functions need to increasingly combine with talent management. HCM helps HR become more strategic and ensure the right systems are in place to support employees, while still ensuring admin processes work seamlessly.

Business intelligence software

Business intelligence software is designed with the primary goal of extracting important data from an organisation’s raw data to reveal insights to help a business make faster and more accurate decisions.

It is a type of application software designed to retrieve, analyse, transform and report data for business intelligence.

The software typically integrates data from across the enterprise and provides end-users with self-service reporting and analysis. BI software uses a number of analytics features including statistics, data and text mining and predictive analytics to reveal patterns and turn information into insights.

Enterprise information management (EIM)

EIM is a particular field of interest within information technology. It specialises in finding solutions for optimal use of information within organisations, for instance, to support decision-making processes or day-to-day operations that require the availability of knowledge.

>See also: Software agnostic: how the CIO is transforming in the application economy

The digital enlightenment being experienced by different organisations across the public and private sector requires the efficient use of integrated information platforms, where that data can be processed in real-time to derive conclusions and predictions to impact the overall organisation’s goal and drive innovation.

Product lifecycle management (PLM)

PLM software is an essential cog in the business machine to help drive the innovation required in an increasingly disrupted world, in a sustainable way. PLM software can be used to automate the management of product-related data and integrate the data with other business processes such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) and manufacturing execution systems (MES). This ultimately, allows for savings through the original use of product data, instead of having to generate new data from the same product. There is a range of business value that can be gained from this type of software.

Supply chain management (SCM)

SCM software refers to the software tools or modules used in executing supply chain transactions, managing supplier relationships and controlling associated business processes. While functionality in such systems can often be broad – it commonly includes: customer requirement processing, purchase order processing, sales and distribution, inventory management, goods receipt and warehouse management and supplier management/sourcing. Again, like other software mentioned here, there are a range of vendor options.

>See also: What to look out for when choosing the right legal software

Enterprise content management (ECM)

ECM systems help companies organise, manage, store, capture, preserve and deliver unstructured content like documents, images, health or accounting records, surveys, product information, emails, and web pages.

Companies can utilise this software to store, track, edit, and collaborate on content creation and other information-related projects, while maintaining predefined and appropriate security levels.

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...