Application Software 101

What’s the difference between an app and an application? Yes, there is one! Read on to refresh your memory on some of the basics.

Key Concepts

Application Software

Application software is a type of computer program that performs a specific personal, educational, and business function. Each program is designed to assist the user with a particular process, which may be related to productivity, creativity, and/or communication.

Functions of Application Software

Application software programs are created to facilitate a variety of functions, including but not limited to:

  • managing information
  • manipulating data
  • constructing visuals
  • coordinating resources
  • calculating figures

Examples of Application Software

The most common application software programs are used by millions every day and include:

  • Microsoft suite of products (Office, Excel, Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, etc.)
  • Internet browsers like Firefox, Safari, and Chrome
  • mobile pieces of software such as Pandora (for music appreciation), Skype (for real-time online communication), and Slack (for team collaboration)

Business Application Software

Business application software is a subset of the application software. These programs are built to facilitate certain business functions, improving the accuracy, efficiency, and effectiveness of operations. Business application software programs achieve measurable objectives such as saving work time and enhancing productivity.

Below are some popular examples of applications that are commonly used by organizations:

Enterprise Resource Planning

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) is a type of business software used by companies – usually via a bundle of integrated applications – to solicit, review, store, manipulate, and analyze data derived from a variety of business operations.

Customer Relationship Management

Customer relationship management (CRM) is a type of business software used by companies – usually via a bundle of integrated applications – to solicit, review, store, and analyze customer data, and also to manage customer interaction and facilitate the sales process and relevant partner relationships.

Project Management Software

Project management (PM) software is a type of business software designed to plan and execute projects, and to manage the resources associated with those projects. PM software assists users with functions such as scheduling, assigning tasks, managing budgets and costs, documenting progress, and reporting results.

Business Process Management Software

Business process management (BPM) software is a type of business software designed to facilitate the rapid development and automation of strategic processes. It often uses web-based modeling, rule creation, and a simple interface to enable the user to perform business functions more quickly. Usually optimized for mobile devices and offering total visibility into operations, BPM software is helpful in managing and analyzing complex data, content, and processes across the enterprise.

Word Processor

A word processor is a piece of application software that allows the user to create, edit, format, and print written documents.

Spreadsheet

A spreadsheet is a computer-based document that displays data in a grid format and allows the user to enter and manipulate data, and to perform accounting functions.

Database

A database is an electronic arsenal of data that a user builds in order to later access, review, and update particular pieces of information in a rapid and coherent manner.

Resource Management Software

Resource management is a type of business software that facilitates the management of multiple projects and resources and ensures that everything is allocated effectively in real time.

Productivity Software

Productivity software is a type of business software that helps users do their jobs more efficiently and complete work-related tasks in a timely manner. Categories of productivity software include:

  • document creation
  • database management
  • Accounting
  • Collaboration

Applications that an organization uses for overall productivity are sometimes referred to together as a software or application stack.

Scheduling Software

Scheduling software is a type of business software that helps an organization allocate resources, assign shifts, and understand exactly who is working and what individuals are paid for that work.

Time Management Software

Time management software is a type of business software that tracks how an individual’s digital systems are used, including how long the user spends working in certain applications.

Educational Software

Educational software is a type of software that facilitates the teaching and learning of new content, concepts, or processes.

Key Questions

What is the difference between an app and an application?

An app is a piece of software designed for a single purpose or a single function. An application, however, is a piece of software that performs a variety of related functions. Typically, if an app breaks, life goes on, while applications are considered critical to normal business function and are therefore considered to be of higher value.

Additionally, apps are typically associated with mobile personal-use, whereas applications are associated with use on all devices and typically serve personal and business needs.

App Application
single purpose Performs a variety of related functions
Not critical for business function Critical for business function
Mobile First Can be used with full features across many device types
Typically associated to with personal use only Typically associated with personal and business use

What is the difference between on premise and hosted application software?

On premise:
On premise application software is implemented at an organization’s physical location, leveraging the hardware, IT infrastructure, and support of that organization. The company’s IT department typically maintains and solves problems related to the software.

Hosted:
Hosted application software, also called software-as-a-service, is software that is owned, delivered, and managed remotely via the cloud by a provider separate from the purchasing organization. Hosted application software is sometimes referred to as being cloud-based. Many organizations license these programs at the same time, and organizations typically pay per user or via a subscription. One advantage of on premise software is that it can be customized to the individual company’s needs more easily. However, hosted application software programs generally allow users to scale up more quickly.

On Premise Hosted
Managed at organizations physical location Delivered Remotely
Pay for license Pay per user via subscription
More customizable Scales more quickly

What is the difference between application software and an application platform?

Application software is an end-user program typically divided into two classes; applications software and systems software. Systems software provides an operating system and utilities that enable applications software such as database programs, spreadsheets, web browsers, and more to run.

An application platform provides services to an application, and is comprised of the set of tools an application relies on to run. Virtually every application relies on other software to run, from database management software to the cloud. This group of software together is what we call an application platform. An application platform should support an application in every style, from single-user applications on a device to thousand-user applications in the cloud. Application platforms typically include the following services: an operating system, execution services (such as libraries for running software), data services, cloud services and development tools.

Application Software Application Platform
Single end-user program Group of software and services an application relies on to run
Database programs, spreadsheets, web browsers, etc. Group of services to support use of database programs, spreadsheets, web browsers, etc.

How is system software different than application software?

System software is a computer program that runs a computer's hardware as well as application programs and interfaces between actual hardware and applications. An example of systems software is an operating system, which manages all other programs on a computer.

How is system software different than application software illustration

How should I select the right application software?

Conduct A Needs Assessment - Selecting a solution that’s best for your organization should begin with a needs assessment in which you solicit feedback from managers, colleagues, partners, and providers.

You’ll want to first understand the problem the application software must solve, the type of tasks and processes the solution should positively impact, and the target user for the solution. Some of the things to consider as part of a needs assessment are:

  • Functionality Needed
  • Implementation
  • Support
  • IT Infrastructure
  • Global expertise
  • Pricing & Return on Investment

Explore this detailed article to learn more about each of these factors.

Phased Or All-At-Once Implementation - You should have a solid handle on implementation, including how the new solution will be rolled out (phases versus all at once, enterprise-wide versus single business unit, organized training versus self-directed training), how you will offer support, and how you will measure short and long-term success, before you sign on the dotted line.

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