Hackernoon logoHelping CEOs make Sense of the Modern IT 'Acronym Soup' by@sophie-zoria

Helping CEOs make Sense of the Modern IT 'Acronym Soup'

Sophie Zoria Hacker Noon profile picture

@sophie-zoriaSophie Zoria

The domain of enterprise software is littered with acronyms that may be intimidating even to seasoned managers. Things get even murkier for those seeking to develop their own mobile enterprise app and encountering design-specific terms. The fact that some of them are often used interchangeably also doesn’t help. So the best place to start figuring out these terms is to understand their similarities and differences and identify the areas where they overlap.

Acronyms in Enterprise Systems Context


ERP stands for enterprise resource planning – the process of managing business-related data. In the modern business context, the term refers specifically to software solutions that collect, process, store, and interpret data. The idea of ERP was introduced in the domain of manufacturing but has since expanded to cover:

  1. Supply chain management
  2. Human resources
  3. Accounting
  4. Sales
  5. Order processing
  6. Project management

In their early days of development, ERP systems were difficult to implement and operate, which is still considered a barrier by some companies. Nowadays, mobile developers leverage the potential of phones and tablets by integrating portable devices with the suite. In other words, a modern enterprise resource planning system is a scalable and flexible solution suitable for small businesses as well as corporations.


Customer relationship management, or CRM for short, is a system that handles data about the organization’s interactions with the customers. In its simplest form, CRM software collects and stores clients’ contact information and communication history. Modern solutions also allow analyzing customer-related data to improve customer experience.

Over time, the concept of CRM has outgrown its initial focus on data management to include other areas relevant to the customer-centric approach. Because of this, its functions may overlap with those of ERP. For example, both make use of order processing and sales information. On top of that, most of the information derived from CRM systems falls into the business intelligence category, so it is not uncommon to see these terms being used interchangeably.


Probably the easiest term from the batch but, paradoxically, also one of the most misunderstood ones. Thanks to the amount of hype it has generated in recent decades, artificial intelligence (also known as machine intelligence) is familiar to anyone with even a basic understanding of digital technologies. Strictly speaking, it refers to the idea of using machines for processes associated with human intelligence. There are three main roles of AI in enterprise systems:

  • Automation of routine tasks (the oldest and the most widely used by companies)
  • Analyzing and interpreting data to gain insight (fairly common and highly effective)
  • Assisting or augmenting interactions with customers and employees (currently in the early phase of development)

Notably, as the field expands, the term is used more liberally. Nowadays, it often refers to intelligent systems that work by combining AI with other technologies like big data analytics and IoT.


BI, or business intelligence, bears notable similarities to AI, which is probably the reason many people use them interchangeably. However, while there is a certain amount of overlap between the two, they are different at the core. Intelligence in AI stands for the capacity for learning and decision-making; in BI, intelligence is about gathering and processing relevant information. Think of it this way: BI provides historical data on business operations which can be then analyzed, either on your own or assisted by AI.

Aside from analytics, companies can use BI for several purposes:

  1. Performance benchmarking
  2. Business reporting
  3. Knowledge management
  4. Collaboration

Contemporary ERP systems often incorporate BI functionality, which allows for real-time monitoring and seamless insights on all levels of organizations.


Another pair of abbreviations that are often used interchangeably and, while having a lot in common, refer to distinct concepts. UX stands for user experience – literally the experience users have from engaging with a product or service. This can be anything from the functionality and convenience to aesthetic considerations and the perceived satisfaction of accomplishing one’s goal.

UI, on the other hand, stands for user interface – the combination of solutions that enable human-machine interaction. Nowadays, the term is almost exclusively used for elements of the graphical user interface, such as windows, buttons, and menus. In other words, the focus of UI is on usability, whereas UX involves the experience in general (of which usability is an important part).


Enterprise mobility management (EMM) is perhaps the most straightforward from the list in that it has a fairly specific narrow meaning. It refers to the management of mobile technologies and devices related to business operations. This may include anything from securing employees’ phones brought under the BYOD policy to the maintenance of corporate wireless networks.

The reason for such a field to have its own abbreviation is enterprise mobility – the increasing reliance on mobile devices in organizations. While offering a tremendous boost to productivity and employee engagement, this shift also introduced a host of security issues. Obviously, because mobile devices are usually integrated into CRM and ERP systems, these abbreviations are often used together in the business context.

Wrapping Up

Modern businesses are intricate interconnections of systems and processes. Fortunately, there is plenty of software to assist the management of business operations. These solutions often overlap in their functionality, which occasionally leads to confusion and frustration. However, such diversity should not be viewed as a sign of redundancy, but rather of limitless opportunities to bring value into the world.


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