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

Listen to this article
enterprise software development

Different needs abound when it comes to software for enterprises and small businesses. Standard off-the-shelf software may work well for small companies, but large enterprises need custom solutions tailored precisely to their requirements.

Examining the unique features of each approach, this guide will tell you when to choose enterprise and standard software development.

What is enterprise software development?

Enterprise software is software that is designed to meet the complex needs of large organizations. This type of software handles tasks like resource planning, customer relationship management (CRM), billing, supply chain management, and more. Enterprise software is fully customizable and scalable to accommodate an enterprise’s growing data and performance needs.

Some hallmarks of enterprise software:

  • Customizable to each company’s processes and requirements
  • Scales up or down as needed
  • Integrates data across different systems
  • Advanced security features like role-based access
  • Analytics for deriving insights from data
  • Ongoing training and support from the software vendor

Examples of common enterprise software applications include ERP, CRM, supply chain management (SCM), human capital management (HCM), and content management systems (CMS). These systems are licensed to customers for a fee and do not involve upfront software development costs.

However, a typical enterprise software development project begins with a Software Development Agreement (SDA). This agreement outlines the project’s scope, requirements, objectives, and milestones and details how the team will execute their tasks. An effective SDA should also provide information about budgeting constraints and timelines.

What is standard software development?

Standard software development refers to building software products for the general consumer or business market rather than a single enterprise. These end-user applications perform helpful functions for everyday users.

Standard software can be broken down into two main categories:

Off-the-Shelf software

Off-the-shelf software is ready-made software that you can buy “off the shelf” and start using instantly. Examples include Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Suite, Sage accounting software, and QuickBooks. The advantages of off-the-shelf software are:

  • Lower cost – no development needed
  • Quick implementation
  • Regular updates and bug fixes.

However, off-the-shelf software offers little customization since it is designed for the mass market. Organizations may need to change processes to fit the software rather than vice versa.

Custom software development

Custom software is software built from scratch for a specific set of end-users. A business would typically hire a software development company to develop a custom solution. Examples include internal business systems like HR portals, inventory management, e-commerce sites, and customized CRM solutions. The advantages of custom software include:

  • It fits business requirements precisely
  • Scope to customize features and workflows
  • Competitive advantage over others using generic systems.

The downside is that custom software takes time and money to develop. It also requires ongoing maintenance, updates, and support.

Unlike enterprise software, standard software is not designed to scale to thousands of users. Standard software also does not offer the depth of configurability and seamless integration capabilities expected of enterprise platforms.

Key differences between enterprise software and standard software

To summarize, here are some of the main differences between enterprise and standard software development:

Enterprise softwareStandard software
Addresses complex needs of large organizationsFor general consumer/business use
Highly customizableLimited customization options
Built for data integrationStandalone systems
Role-based access controlStandard user permissions
Scales to thousands of usersSmaller user base
Ongoing vendor supportSelf-managed systems
Long development cyclesShorter development cycles
Higher development costLower development cost

Let’s explore some of these differences in more depth:

Purpose and users

Any type of enterprise software aims to streamline processes for large organizations. Standard software focuses on smaller businesses and individual users. For example, a corporation would benefit from an ERP, while an independent retailer may only need a POS system.

Enterprise systems have large, diverse user bases with varying needs. So, they require robust access controls. Standard software just needs to handle a few user roles.


Enterprise platforms allow extensive customization via configurations, plugins, and APIs. Standard software permits limited tweaks, like toggling certain features on or off.

Vendors work closely with each enterprise client during implementation to adapt the software. Oss-the-shelf Standard software just has set installation and training procedures.

Integration and scalability

Enterprise software is constructed to scale seamlessly with the organization’s growth. Standard software has much lower scalability thresholds before performance degrades.

Large enterprises also demand complex integrations between systems to synchronize processes and data. Standard software usually lacks mature integration capabilities.

Development effort

Enterprise systems take months or years of meticulous requirements analysis, design, testing, and incremental deliveries before they are ready for production. Standard software uses shorter Agile-style sprints.

Due to rigorous planning and large development teams, enterprise development can cost millions. Standard software requires less investment in total development costs.

Ongoing support

Enterprise software development companies have dedicated support teams and SLAs providing prompt troubleshooting and maintenance. Standard software is mostly self-managed after purchase.

Software development companies push regular feature updates, patches, and upgrades to enterprise users per support contracts. Standard software is updated at the vendor’s discretion.

When should you choose enterprise software over standard software?

So when does it make more sense to invest in custom enterprise software over standard off-the-shelf solutions? Here are some key factors to consider:

  • You have over 500 employees – Enterprise systems work better for large companies. Standard software may not scale beyond 500 users comfortably.
  • Complex, interconnected business processes – Pre-packaged tools won’t handle intricate workflows spanning multiple departments. Custom enterprise platforms can map to convoluted processes.
  • Need for system-wide data visibility – Enterprise software centralizes data for unified reporting and analytics. Standard software solutions have limited data-sharing abilities.
  • Highly differentiated business needs – Off-the-shelf software solutions cater to the average user. Enterprises benefit more from heavily customized processes.
  • Resources for high TCO – Enterprise software’s licensing, development, maintenance, and training costs are high. Standard software has lower TCO.
  • Need for vendor support – Enterprise software development companies are better equipped than standard software solution providers if you need dependable support SLAs.
  • In-house vs. packaged expertise – Evaluate if you have the expertise for standard software integration or would benefit more from vendor guidance.
  • Future scalability needs – Standard software can hit scaling and performance caps faster than enterprise systems designed for growth.

Successful enterprise software development relies heavily upon following a robust Software Development Guide (SDG). Staying competitive in today’s digital landscape requires businesses to create custom-made software. From project management to coding standards and deployment optimization strategies, SDGs are crucial for any organization that wants to build or improve its digital systems.

Determining if your organization needs enterprise-grade or standard software comes down to weighing factors like your headcount, budget, internal vs. vendor expertise, and appetite for customization. With the right approach, you can maximize business value while managing costs.

Related Posts

Roy M is a technical content writer for the last 8 years with vast knowledge in digital marketing, wireframe and graphics designing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *