4-step enterprise software development process: a detailed guide

16 min read
June 14, 2024

Do you want to build enterprise software and improve your business but don’t know how?

We’ve got you covered.

In this article, we’ll share our 4-step enterprise software development process and discuss everything you need to know about building enterprise software.

We’ll also give you some key tips to ensure it’s a success.

Let’s dive in!

What is enterprise software?

Let’s start with the basics – what is enterprise software?

Enterprise software is software that’s built to meet the needs of large businesses and organizations rather than individual users.

It’s used to manage business tasks and processes, like managing your supply chains or human resources.

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And that’s why it’s usually more complex and more expensive to build than a standard, customer-facing product.

Here’s a more thorough overview of the key differences between standard and enterprise software development:

Standard vs. enterprise software development

Category

Standard software development

Enterprise software development

Purpose

Meets general needs for a broad user base

Tailor-made for specific organizational processes

Customization

Usually limited

Highly customizable to meet precise business needs

Scale

Designed for individual use and simpler tasks

Designed for large businesses and complex tasks

Complexity

Simpler and more straightforward

More complex business logic and large data volumes

User base

Targeted towards the mass market and individual users

Targeted towards specific businesses or market niches

Security

Standard security, usually handles less critical data

Enhanced security, handles critical business data

Cost

Less expensive

More expensive

Development time

Shorter development cycles

Longer development cycles due to complexity

Maintenance

Lower maintenance costs

Higher maintenance costs

In short, enterprise software is customizable, more complex, and requires a bigger investment to build.

But, building it can significantly benefit your business by improving your organization’s operational efficiency.

Just automating repetitive tasks across different departments can reduce your overall costs by 10 to 50%.

And that’s why building enterprise software is a good idea – next, we’ll show you how to do it, step by step.

Enterprise software development process: step-by-step guide

The enterprise software development procedure is a bit different from standard development.

And that’s because of scope and complexity.

Enterprise projects can be much more complex, so gathering requirements takes longer. The same goes for development cycles.

But, the basic development process is the same.

Here’s the enterprise software development process we use here at DECODE:

DECODE software development process

First, we start with product discovery to validate your idea and make sure it’s both feasible and meets your needs.

Next, we move on to product design and make sure your product has a top-tier user experience (UX) before we start building the minimum viable product (MVP).

Then, we build the MVP and make sure it meets strict quality standards before we launch it.

Finally, after launch we work with you on new iterations and improvements to make your product even better.

Now, let’s discuss each step in more detail.

Product discovery

Product discovery is the process of researching your market and validating your product idea before developing it.

It’s the best way to ensure your idea is actually viable and that your enterprise software development process ends up successful.

During product discovery, you usually do:

You should do discovery even if your enterprise software is meant only for internal use.

In that case, you won’t need to do market research – but, you still need to make sure it’s a worthwhile investment and that end-users, i.e. your employees, can successfully use the software.

So, after you’re done with discovery, you’ll have:

  • An initial set of requirements
  • A prioritized feature set
  • A cost estimate
  • A delivery plan

DECODE’s Android team lead, Ivan Trogrlic, went into more detail about why that’s important from an engineer’s perspective on our podcast, The Roadmap:

A clearly defined delivery plan and requirements will make your design and development teams’ lives easier and help you keep development on track.

And that’s why you need product discovery.

Product discovery outcomes

  • A clear understanding of users’ needs and pain points – product discovery is all about talking to your users and meeting their needs and a successful discovery process will give you a clear picture of what they need and problems you can solve for them
  • Initial requirements and prioritized features – after you finish discovery, you’ll have your initial set of requirements and features which will form the core of your MVP
  • Cost estimation and delivery plan – at the end of discovery, you’ll have an estimate of how much your product will cost to build and a delivery plan to follow in the next steps

Who’s involved and why

  • Product manager 

The product manager is in charge of the whole discovery process and keeps everyone involved on the same page. 

Also, they’re in charge of feature prioritization and ensure the product aligns with both your business goals and user needs.

  • Product designer 

The product designer is in charge of user research, user interviews, and creating user personas.

During discovery, they also create low-fidelity wireframes to validate specific design concepts and user journeys.

  • Solution architect 

The solution architect is responsible for designing your product’s software architecture and choosing the best tech stack and platforms to use during the development.

They’re also in charge of identifying and mitigating feasibility risks and developing a delivery plan.

Pro-tip for product discovery in enterprise software development

  • Build a cross-functional discovery team – You need to make sure that your product discovery team is cross-functional i.e. that it’s a group of people with different functional expertise. This way, you’ll bring together different perspectives and ensure you’re building a well-rounded product.

Product design

Once you’ve validated your idea, the next step in the enterprise software development process is designing your product.

A great design will make it more usable and significantly improve its UX – this can mean the difference between a successful and failed product.

So, what does the product design process look like?

Here’s a closer look at the design phase of our development process here at DECODE:

DECODE software development design phase

When designing an enterprise product, here’s what you’ll be doing:

Having a comprehensive design system is key when designing enterprise products – your product will have a consistent look and feel and future design updates will be easier to do.

And once you’re done, you’ll have a fully defined, development-ready design you can hand off to your development team.

Product design outcomes

  • Defined UX/UI design – at the end of this stage, you’ll have a defined UX/UI design which is ready to be handed off to your engineering team
  • Design system – a collection of reusable components (color schemes, typography etc.) that ensures your product has a consistent look and feel
  • Design documentation and guidelines – in-depth documentation that details design standards and decision to help guide your product’s development

Who’s involved and why

  • Product manager 

The product manager oversees the design process and makes sure it aligns with your product vision and business goals.

They also coordinate between the design and development teams and ensure that the design can actually be made into a working software product.

  • Product designer 

The UX/UI designer creates your product’s user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) design and makes it development-ready.

Their job is to create a design that’s both visually appealing and easy to use.

Pro tip for product design in enterprise software development

  • Iterate based on user feedback – At every step of the design process, you should test with and get feedback from real users. This way, you’ll identify usability and UX issues before they become a costly, hard-to-fix problem.

Software engineering

This step in the enterprise software development process is where the magic happens.

Your development team will take your product’s requirements and design and turn them into a working software product.

It goes without saying that you have to nail this step if you want a successful product.

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So, how can you do that?

Before you start, you need to use the right development methodology and make sure you integrate quality assurance (QA) from the start – we’ll cover that in more detail later.

And you need to make sure your team follows coding best practices like:

  • Frequent code reviews
  • Writing clean, maintainable code
  • Building a CI/CD pipeline
  • Using version control
  • Writing detailed documentation

This way, your team will work more efficiently and write better code – and because enterprise software handles business-critical data, quality matters.

Once your team is done with development and your product is bug-free, you can launch it.

Software engineering outcomes

  • Tested and validated software – software that’s been thoroughly tested for bugs, performance issues, and security vulnerabilities
  • Deployment-ready software – a fully developed software product that’s ready to be deployed in a production environment and launched
  • Technical documentation – detailed technical documentation that describes the uses, functionality, and architecture of your product

Who’s involved and why

  • Project manager 

The project manager oversees the software development process and makes sure it stays on track, within budget, and meets deadlines.

They also make sure everyone is on the same page during development and manage resources.

  • Software engineer 

Software engineers make the magic happen.

They write your product’s actual code and are responsible for building the software according to design specifications and technical requirements.

  • QA engineer 

QA engineers make sure your product is bug-free and performs well.

They create test plans and do manual and automated testing to ensure your product meets quality standards.

Pro-tip for software engineering in enterprise software development

  • Build your software with modular architecture – A modular architecture means your product is made up of a number of smaller, independent components which you can individually upgrade and scale without affecting the overall performance of your product.

Continuous product improvements

Your enterprise software product’s launch is just the start.

You need to make sure to continuously improve it if you want it to be viable in the long term.

This step includes everything from regular maintenance and bug fixes to building new features.

And it’s the best way to ensure your enterprise software stays relevant and up to date, which will maximize its return on investment.

So, how should you approach this?

The answer is simple – continuous product discovery.

Teresa Torres, product discovery coach and author of Continuous Discovery Habits, defined it like this:

“At a minimum, weekly touchpoints with customers by the team building the product, where they’re conducting small research activities in pursuit of a desired product outcome.”

Here’s how continuous discovery works:

Continuous product discovery

At its core, continuous product discovery is about setting up a feedback loop.

The sooner you get to the feedback loop, the sooner you can give users what they actually want.

Marko Strizic, DECODE co-founder and CEO

Regularly updating your product based on user feedback will enable you to consistently improve it and deliver value to your users.

And with enterprise software, that means it will consistently deliver value to your business.

Continuous product improvement outcomes

  • Regular updates and improvements – ongoing improvements, new features, and updates that ensure your product stays up to date and functional
  • Reduced number of bugs and vulnerabilities – continuous maintenance and bug fixes that reduce the number of bugs and vulnerabilities, keeping your enterprise software reliable and secure
  • Improved user satisfaction and retention – a product’s that’s kept up to date and continuously improved will have much better user satisfaction and user retention rates

Who’s involved and why

  • Product manager

The product manager prioritizes new features and updates based on user feedback, business goals, and market trends.

In short, they ensure that any updates align with the broader product strategy.

  • Software engineer

Software engineers implement the updates and new features.

Also, they make sure the improvements are technically sound and can be seamlessly integrated into your product.

  • QA engineer 

QA engineers test any new updates and improvements to make sure they’re bug-free and meet quality standards.

They’re also in charge of maintaining your product’s reliability and performance.

Pro-tip for continuous product improvements in enterprise software development

  • Implement a feedback loopBuilding a feedback loop will help you continuously receive, analyze, and implement useful feedback from users which will help you improve your product to better meet their changing needs.

Key tips for the enterprise software development process

Now, we’ll give you some key tips you should follow for a successful enterprise software development process.

Use Agile methodologies

Using Agile methodologies to manage your enterprise software development process is the best way to make it a success.

And these aren’t empty words – Agile projects are on average 28% more successful than projects using traditional development methodologies.

There’s a simple reason why they’re so successful – Agile methodologies like Scrum emphasize quick iteration and allow you to be flexible during development.

If you want to learn more about why you should use Agile, here’s what DECODE co-founder and CEO, Marko Strizic, had to say about it and why we use it:

You’ll need to adjust them a bit if you’re building enterprise software.

Take Scrum, for example – usually, Scrum works by dividing your development cycle into smaller (2-4 week) iterations called sprints which are like mini development cycles.

Scrum sprints

But, when you’re building enterprise software, your sprints will be longer, just like your development cycle.

That’s because enterprise software is more complex and so each stage of the sprint will take longer to do.

However, Agile is still your best bet because your team will work more efficiently and build your product faster.

And that’s exactly what you should be looking for.

Prioritize security

Prioritizing security in your enterprise software development process should be your priority.

Your enterprise software will handle sensitive, business-critical data and information and making sure it’s safe is an absolute must.

And that’s especially important in a world where cybercrime is getting more sophisticated and widespread.

Here are a few key cybercrime stats that show the extent of the problem:

Cybercrime statistics 2024

And it’s not just financial damage you should be worried about.

If your enterprise software has poor security, you risk losing your entire business due to reputational damage – 60% of companies end up going out of business after suffering a data breach.

So, what are some security best practices you should follow when building enterprise software?

You should:

  • Use strong encryption methods
  • Implement multi-factor authentication (MFA)
  • Do regular security audits

Also, it’s a good idea to invest in AI cybersecurity systems like Crowdstrike’s Falcon Platform and Darktrace.

Darktrace UI

Both have a wide range of cybersecurity tools and offer end-to-end protection.

Also, since they use AI, they learn after every encounter with a threat and become better and better over time.

And that’s a pretty compelling reason to invest in them.

Integrate QA from the start

One of the smartest moves you can make when building enterprise software is integrating QA from the start.

And there’s a simple reason for that – it will save you a lot of time and money.

Here’s a striking stat – poor software quality costs U.S. companies $2.42 trillion every year.

And here’s another – the longer you wait to fix bugs and issues, the more expensive they are to fix.

A bug or defect you find after deployment can be up to 100x more expensive to fix than if you found it when writing your requirements:

Cost of defects

So, QA is absolutely essential – but, how do you do it right?

For starters, you need an in-depth testing strategy.

This will make it easier for your QA team to plan tests and work more efficiently.

Also, make sure they use a range of different testing methods like:

  • Unit testing
  • Load testing
  • Performance testing
  • Integration testing
  • Regression testing

This way, you’ll be able to cover all your bases and build a high-quality, high-performance product.

And that’s exactly what you should want.

Choose the right software development company

If you’re outsourcing your enterprise software development, there’s one thing that’s key if you want it to be successful – choosing the right software development company.

If you make the right choice, you’ll both speed up development and save money.

On average, outsourced development is 53% cheaper than in-house development:

In-house vs. outsourced development cost

That’s because you eliminate a lot of administrative overhead and hiring costs, you simply sign a contract with a vendor who assembles a team for you.

So, how do you make the right choice?

Here’s a few steps you should take when choosing a development partner:

  • Read their case studies
  • Evaluate their tech stack
  • Check their reviews
  • Review their development process
  • Look into their pricing

The most important steps here are reading their case studies and checking their reviews.

Their case studies will show you if they have the experience and necessary expertise to build your enterprise software.

And their reviews will tell you what it’s actually like to work with them, beyond self-congratulating reviews and testimonials you might find on their website.

DECODE Clutch reviews

Reviews on third-party sites like Clutch are independently verified, so you can be sure of their accuracy.

And they’ll help you find a company that’s both easy to work with and has the know-how to build a high-quality enterprise software product.

Enterprise software development process: FAQs

There’s no simple answer to this question, because it all depends on the type of enterprise software you’re building and its complexity.

But, a general range is from 6-9 months for simpler enterprise software, like a basic HR management system, all the way to 2-3 years for complex enterprise resource planning (ERP) software.

There are several reasons why enterprise software development usually takes longer:

  • Stricter testing and code quality guidelines
  • Longer sprints and development cycles
  • More detailed requirements 

But, this also means the software you build will be high-quality and free of bugs and performance issues.

How much your enterprise software’s development will cost depends on a number of factors, from its complexity to the tech stack you use.

But, here’s a rough average estimate of enterprise software development costs:

  • Small-scale enterprise software – $100,000-$250,000
  • Medium-scale enterprise software – $250,000-$500,000
  • Large-scale enterprise software – $500,000+

Some of the top benefits of building enterprise software for your business are:

  • Improving organizational efficiency
  • More advanced data security
  • Improved data management
  • Better decision-making

Need an enterprise software development partner?

Do you need help building your enterprise software but haven’t found the right software development partner?

Well, you’re in the right place.

We can help you build your enterprise software from the ground up, from validating your idea all the way to growing and updating your product post-launch.

If you want to learn more, you can read more about our services and feel free to get in touch with us and we’ll set up a quick call to discuss your needs in more detail.

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Written by

Mario Zderic

Co-founder and CTO

Mario makes every project run smoothly. A firm believer that people are DECODE’s most vital resource, he naturally grew into the role of People Operations Manager. Now, his encyclopaedic knowledge of every DECODEr’s role, and his expertise in all things tech, powers him to manage his huge range of responsibilities as COO. Part developer, and seemingly part therapist, Mario is always calm under pressure, which helps to maintain the office’s stress-free vibe. In fact, sitting and thinking is his main hobby. What’s more Zen than that?

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