What is enterprise? Definition and meaning

The term Enterprise has several meanings. 1. A human skill: eagerness to do something new and clever, despite any risks. 2. A business, as in “This is a business enterprise; our aim is to make a profit.” 3. A difficult or important challenge, as in “Her latest enterprise is to swim the English Channel.

The term first appeared in the English language in the early fifteenth century with the meaning ‘an undertaking’. It originated from Old French (12th century) enterprise ‘an undertaking’ and entreprendre ‘undertake, take in hand’.

Over the centuries, the concept of enterprise has expanded, reflecting the spirit of innovation and the evolving complexities of economic and social ventures.

It was not until the 15th century that it had the abstract sense of ‘readiness to undertake challenges, spirit of daring, adventurous disposition’.

USS Enterprise
The famous starship in the extremely successful science fiction series Star Trek was willing to go “Where no one has gone before.” (Image: Wikipedia)

When enterprise refers to a human skill

A person with this skill is enterprising – he or she is an entrepreneur. He or she is willing to:

Take Risks: anybody who has done it will tell you that setting up a new business is fraught with risks. No matter how carefully one researches the market, there is always the possibility that customers may not like the product, or some other problem emerges and and the business does not make a profit.

Make Things Happen: a true entrepreneur has the energy, determination and drive to overcome the hurdles and possible pitfalls associated with launching a new business.

Try New Things: an enterprising person has the imagination and astuteness to identify business opportunities that will satisfy consumer needs and fill gaps in the market.

Enterprising People
Four famous entrepreneurs: (Top Left) Bill Gates, (Top Right) Steve Jobs, (Bottom Left) Mark Zuckerberg, and (Bottom Right) Richard Branson.

Creative thinking is a feature every enterprising person has. They come up with new ideas or approaches to business. A new idea might include a new product, such as Steve Jobs’ creation of the mouse, which revolutionized the way we use computers. Creative thinking and fresh ideas give companies a competitive advantage and help make their products or services stand out.

Tutor2U describes an enterprising person as:

“A person who takes the initiative is someone who ‘makes things happen’. He or she tends to be decisive. A business opportunity is identified and the person does something about it. Showing initiative is about taking decisions and being bold – not everyone is like that!”

In the rapidly changing digital landscape, an enterprising individual continuously adapts to technological advancements to maintain a competitive edge

A type of business

A commercial enterprise is a business – a company or firm. However, we cannot use the term interchangeably with a business or company. For example, we cannot say “The enterprise where he works employs 10 people.”

However, a company that belongs to the state can be called ‘A state-owned enterprise’.

It is unusual to use the term without preceding it with a word that describes what it does or how big/small it is, such as a ‘commercial enterprise’ or ‘SME’ (small and medium enterprises).

What is enterprise software?

Enterprise software, also known as EAS (enterprise application software), is computer software aimed at businesses or organizations rather than individuals.

Enterprise application software is used by schools, companies, interest-based user groups, charities, clubs or governments. EAS is an integral part of a computer-based information system.

EAS is used for a wide range of computer-based and Internet activities, such as online payment processing, online shopping, automated billing systems, IT service management, customer relationship management, business intelligence, human resource management, etc.

The British software development expert, Martin Fowler, says in his book – Patterns of Enterprise Application Architecture:

“Enterprise applications are about the display, manipulation, and storage of large amounts of often complex data and the support or automation of business processes with that data.”

Enterprise – vocabulary and concepts

There are many terms in the English language that contain the word “enterprise,” such as “enterprise zone.” We call them compound nouns. A compound noun is a term that consists of two or more words. Let’s take a look at some of them, their meanings, and how we can use them in a sentence:

  • Enterprise Architecture

A strategic framework that defines the structure and operation of an organization.
Example: “The company’s enterprise architecture was designed to facilitate rapid expansion into new markets.”

  • Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)

Integrated management of main business processes, often in real-time and mediated by software and technology.
Example: “They implemented an ERP system to streamline their operations across all departments.”

  • Enterprise Zone

An area where economic incentives are offered to businesses to stimulate economic growth and development.
Example: “The enterprise zone attracted numerous startups, thanks to its tax breaks and grants.”

  • Enterprise Software

Applications that provide business logic support functionality for an enterprise, typically designed to interface or integrate with other enterprise applications.
Example: “Their new enterprise software allows them to better track inventory and sales metrics.”

  • Enterprise Content Management (ECM)

A set of defined processes, strategies, and tools that allow a business to effectively obtain, organize, store, and deliver critical information to its employees, business stakeholders, and customers.
Example: “The organization improved its data retrieval times by adopting a robust ECM platform.”

  • Social Enterprise

An organization that applies commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being, rather than maximizing profits for shareholders.
Example: “Their social enterprise focuses on providing clean water technology to underdeveloped communities.”

  • Enterprise Agreement

A contractual arrangement between an employer and a group of employees that outlines terms and conditions of employment.
Example: “After lengthy negotiations, the workers and the management finally signed an enterprise agreement.”

Three Videos

These three educational YouTube videos come from our sister channel, Marketing Business Network or MBN. They explain what the terms “Enterprise”, “Entrepreneur”, and “Business Acumen” mean using easy-to-understand language and examples:

  • What is (an) Enterprise?

  • What is an Entrepreneur?

  • What is Business Acumen?