The Fallacy of Enterprise Software

Smaller businesses are getting screwed by a fictitious concept

Jamie Robinson

Founder of Mashoom and a mechanical engineer. Passions include teaching, questioning the status-quo and working too hard.


6 min read

I’m writing this because it’s a particular bug-bear of mine. I’ll cut right to the chase. The part that annoys me the most is that we, as consumers, accept that there are more expensive pricing packages called “enterprise software solutions”, when in fact there’s no need for this to be the case. Bear with me while I walk you through this….

So, you know when you are looking at a website for a software package, and you click on the Pricing page, you are probably used to seeing a few different options, each with a different price tag and each with different access to features. On the far left it may be a free package with just access to very basic usage. The option on the far right is usually called Enterprise Package (or similar) and that’s usually the most expensive one by far, with access to more features, allowing more users and so on.

Now here’s the kicker. As a developer I can tell you that with modern technology 99.9% of “enterprise” features don’t cost more money to develop or provide; it’s used today as a software brand image or basically a marketing/sales gimmick. The roots of this approach come from when multi-user software was expensive both to develop and deploy, but this hasn’t been the case for at least 15 years. However, the brand image lives on and leads to small business and lone traders not having access to a range of software solutions simply because it would stress their smaller budgets. The bigger players can afford to access all the features, yet there isn’t an economical reason to make these features more available. So, doesn’t it seem like we’re asking the smaller businesses to compete with one hand tied behind their back?

The Fallacy

The word “enterprise” is an incredibly powerful and deeply ingrained brand concept. It splits the software world splits into two sections: “enterprise” which means it’s for the serious players, and the non-enterprise packages (freemium, starter, budget etc) are for those who are not yet grown-up enough. If it’s not enterprise grade, then the solution isn’t powerful, it’s not reliable nor scalable. Basically, just for sharing pictures of cats. Looks pretty, but not solid enough for a dynamically growing business.

It’s completely understandable that a start-up or small business starting out might use a lighter package to begin with. I don’t take issue with that. What I do object to is withholding the most useful features unless you’re able to pay the premium. It feels like there’s a hint of shaming going on here – if you can’t afford the full solution then are you a serious business?

The implication is that enterprise software is “proper software”. It’s highly technical, costs a lot of money and it’s OK if the look and feel of it is awful, because it’s here to be functional and serious, not sexy. It’s got lots and lots of features, some of them baffling, and if you are confused it’s probably because you (the user) just don’t get it. You can schedule a call with the support team or read the FAQ blog section. The problem is not the software nor a possible mismatch with your needs. The problem must be you, dear user.

Speaking of which, enterprise solutions are really very robust. So, we can’t expect a non-expert such as yourself to understand how to use it. Consultation is needed, perhaps an installation project and training of all users. It can be an onerous process and businesses who go through that understandably will not have much appetite to do that again anytime soon, so they are likely to continue using the solution way beyond the time it is useful in their business.

What I see happening a lot is that the smaller businesses who can’t afford the enterprise solution package try to find a way to have their needs met, usually by going for a patchwork of several different freemium or lower priced micro-solutions stitched together. And this brings in another load of complication in their world. Adding up all the individual subscriptions may still end up costing a pretty penny. More importantly it creates a chaotic, disjointed and inefficient tech stack – and severely limits the scalability or agility needed as the business grows. It’s like being tangled up in multiple knotted strings – and it becomes almost impossible to upgrade or change any one string because of how it affects all the other aspects of business.

So whereas I don’t begrudge any business from having a good commercial strategy, I do believe there is a better way than the elitist enterprise approach. Would there not be a case for making the pricing model more equitable and then going for higher volumes? There is a hungry market out there. If the solution is a good one, we don’t need trickery to hook and lock in the market.

Our Solution

This post isn't just to have a whinge and then do nothing about it. I strongly believe that all businesses and all users should have access to the features and solutions that they need. We don’t try to predict a configuration of features into different solution packages with differencing prices. Simply use what you need, as often as you need, as much (or little) as you need, as many users as you like and pay only for what you use. And if you hardly use anything in a given month, you won’t pay anything at all.

We see our purpose is to enable other businesses to perform at their best. Our pricing covers our costs and allows us to be commercially viable – we are a business too. I hope that not only will readers of this article go onto our website and sign up to the platform (no fees for that, no tricks), but also that other software companies like ourselves will take a similar approach. I would be happy if our competitors used a similar pricing model to ours. Let’s change this outdated enterprise pricing model – it doesn’t and shouldn’t fit our business reality.

We can do better than that.