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What is Enterprise Software Engineering

Mar 31st, 2024

Enterprise software engineering, or ESE, is a field within computer science that's primarily concerned with creating and managing business solutions at scale. It's multi-disciplinary. It brings together knowledge in software engineering, data management, business processes, and information systems into a cohesive whole to construct software for large-scale enterprise systems.

So why the emphasis on large-scale systems? The vast volume of transactions processed by enterprises requires reliable and scalable systems to manage and process them. It's also crucial because any downtime can cause severe impacts economically and operationally. This is the juncture where ESE comes into play.

Enterprise software engineers are responsible for designing, developing, testing, and implementing efficient and scalable software applications that are suited for large corporations or businesses. This involves building complex system architectures, implementing security protocols, and data management strategies that ensure seamless processing of large industrial tasks.

One particular characteristic of ESE is the application of engineering methodology. It's not merely about writing code. It aims to design, build and maintain complex systems in an organized and systematic way based on engineering principles. The use of engineering methodology allows for risk management and optimal project manageability. 

As an enterprise software engineer, your role might involve integrating various business applications to form a unified system. For example, integrating data processors, customer relations management (CRM) systems, supply chain modules, and financial systems into one functional and coherent enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.

You can find enterprise software applications in action across various industries. From BFSI (Banking, Financial services and Insurance), Healthcare, Retail to Manufacturing, wherever there is a need to manage complex processes with numerous stakeholders, you can bet an enterprise software application is running in the background.

So why am I outlining this, all of the above sounds reasonable, enterprise is scale, simple enough. All too often I see developers in communities talk about what is and what is not in the enterprise category. The bulk of their arguments are completely wrong. They focus on code itself, on frameworks, on monoliths, on DB engines, on community etc. In all the years I have worked with enterprise systems these are rarely things that warrant any discussion. Enterprise is focused on scale, thousands of transactions per second. They are focused on talent locations, not due to skill, but more so due to cost. They are focused on reliable small components that can be swapped out, shut down, and scaled. Enterprise software engineering is about building small things that can handle large traffic loads, and go through a gauntlet of security assessments.

The reason there are so many roles and categories of roles in enterprise software development is more about agility and being able to scale up people who grow with knowledge and soft skills and drop those who are not keeping up. The reason enterprise companies like contractors and offshore is lower cost, and if the software is reasonably architected then it can handle having teams with frequent turnover.

Developers who love code as an art form are often more content in a smaller team size in a midsize company. Enterprise, can offer growth but its often in management itself, very few people in an enterprise organization actually design the scalability of the codebases and infrastructure. There are also quite often constraints on what you can and cannot do in an enterprise role, whereas in a smaller organization you often wear many hats.

Overall, enterprise software engineering is the meeting ground of technology and business. If you're early in your career it can give you a perspective on scope, lots of people to work with and a focus on your growing developer skills. However, as your career continues you will likely move toward management and have to handle people and deliverables more than code and architecture. If you're a passionate developer who wants to make the world a better place, then it may be wise to keep your eyes focused on smaller companies or start-ups to grow with.