February 17, 2012

Enterprise application software, past and present

I recently wrote a long post on the premise that enterprise analytic applications are not like the other (operational) kind. That begs the question(s): What are operational enterprise applications like?

Historically, the essence of enterprise applications has been data management — they capture business information, then show it to you. User interfaces are typically straightforward in the UI technology of the era — forms, reports, menus, and the like. The hard part of building enterprise applications is getting the data structures right. That was all true in the 1970s; it’s all still true today.

Indeed, for many years, the essence of an application software acquisition was the database design. Maintenance streams were often unimportant; code would get thrown out and rewritten. But the application’s specific database structure would be adapted into an extension to the acquirer’s own.

Examples that come to mind from the pre-relational era include:

A shining relational-era example is SAP’s inclusion of workflow as a central aspect of 1990s application design.

The resulting apps, however, are cumbersome — very cumbersome. They’re cumbersome to use. They’re cumbersome to install. They’re cumbersome to change. People who use enterprise applications feel trapped in a bureaucratic hell. That is why I agree with the sentiment that operational enterprise applications are the verge of significant change.


2 Responses to “Enterprise application software, past and present”

  1. The future of enterprise application software : DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on February 17th, 2012 1:38 am

    […] Enterprise application software, past and present Categories: Software as a Service (SaaS), Text, salesforce.com  Subscribe to our complete feed! […]

  2. Application databases | Software Memories on August 7th, 2015 9:58 am

    […] parts of that subject before, including in a 2013 post on data model churn and a 2012 post on enterprise application history, both of which cite examples mentioned below. Still, there’s a lot more that could be said, […]

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