Asking the question, “What is enterprise software?” or, “What is enterprise software designed to do?” will get you an infinite number of answers. I know, because I’ve asked this question again and again. But whether the answer is “to perform business functions,” “solve major problems,” or my favorite answer, “to provide value to our customers,” I’ve been asking a new question that’s getting a much more precise, and agreed upon answer.

When I ask, “How is enterprise software built?” the answer almost always includes the word “innovation.”

The enterprise is changing. To be honest, it is constantly changing, but not at the rate we’re seeing today. I believe the sole reason for this change is, in fact, innovation. From the technologies that developers, testers, and IT departments are using, to the methodologies and practices these individuals believe in, to their level of input and decision making throughout the entire SDLC of a product—innovation can be attributed to any of these radical shifts that have occurred.

The fact is, if you’ve created a truly innovative piece of enterprise software, innovation played a role at every step of the build. And if it didn’t—perhaps your product isn’t as innovative as you thought.

InformationWeek’s Peter Gallagher calls out the need for IT professionals in particular to keep up with the demands of innovation in the “hybrid enterprise” that we’re seeing lead many successful operations today. No longer does IT control the familiar in-house reigns of operations—not because control has shifted elsewhere, but because rarely is the enterprise limited in any way to on-premise boundaries. Gallagher writes:

The new Enterprise now depends on all types of integrated partners, from suppliers, to intermediaries, to colleagues, to customers, to citizens, directly and indirectly participating in combining data that turns into some kind of information or activity. This integration now happens within systems that are increasingly made up of composite services inside and outside the old business IT boundary and that are increasingly shared across agencies.

Gallagher goes on to point out that government agencies, once thought of being slow to develop or innovate anything, are speeding up their own hybrid enterprise development. He uses words like “insightful,” “flexible,” and “groundbreaking,” but what I find fascinating, is that all of the words ultimately mean the same thing—and Gallagher makes note of this. We’re seeing “a continuously evolving multi-dimensional hybrid Enterprise that is organic and alive.”

The enterprise is not only innovative, organic and alive—it’s more and more agile by the day.

Some may not necessarily think of agile on its own as being all that innovative (the agile manifesto does after all turn thirteen next month, wow!) but I couldn’t disagree more. You don’t ever reach agility. Agile is a constant journey that truly forward-thinking experts will continue to innovate upon year after year—while maintaining the focus on simplicity, satisfied customers, and working software built by motivated individuals.

I would argue that the road to innovative enterprise software follows, and will always follow, a similarly continuous journey.

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