"The problem is enterprise-wide," the consultant said to the company CEO, "and unless your department managers work together to find a solution, it will be the downfall of your entire business." Reading this sentence, you can't help but wonder what the problem is; it's impossible to know without more information. But one thing you can tell for certain is that the problem exists throughout the company — in every department and with every manager — because "throughout the business" is an "enterprise-wide" synonym.


Enterprise-wide means "throughout the business," meaning the issue at hand affects all departments and employees to some degree.

An enterprise is an activity someone undertakes that is not a simple one; in fact, it may be rather difficult and usually has several parts to it. In business terms, "enterprise" is used to describe businesses that have several or many departments and employees. In fact, "enterprise" is widely used synonymously with "business," but it's not used to describe all kinds of businesses. Merriam-Webster dictionary gives several examples for an enterprise synonym: business, company, firm and establishment.

A roadside produce stand is surely a business because money is exchanged for products. Some might describe the owners as enterprising because of their initiative in setting up the stand in a corner location, their willingness to work from sunup to sundown and their talent for rotating displays of produce in attractive ways. Yet, no one would call the stand an enterprise. For example, in explaining the stand's location, if someone said, "You'll find the enterprise on the corner of Sunshine Lane and Orange Blossom Trail," you'd be looking for a rather large business on that corner.

Examining the Meaning of Wide

When you don't know the meaning of a word, it often helps to substitute a portion of the word with one you do know. For instance, you may not be familiar with "enterprise-wide," but how about the word "worldwide"? If you read the sentence, "It's a trend that's occurring worldwide," you'd know the trend is happening throughout the world. Therefore, adding "wide" to a noun means "throughout" that noun.

Substituting "enterprise-wide," which is sometimes written "enterprise wide" or "enterprisewide," you can deduce that it's occurring throughout the enterprise. Since two of the synonyms for enterprise are business and company, you can say it's happening business-wide or company-wide, meaning throughout the business or throughout the company.

Understanding an Enterprise-Wide System

Now that you know the meaning of enterprise-wide — throughout the company — you can apply that to the phrase "enterprise-wide system" and know that the system is used throughout the company. Although that is accurate, the phrase "enterprise-wide system" gets a bit tricky from here on.

An enterprise-wide system could refer to any process or way of doing things that is used company-wide. If a business only accepts one way of completing expense reports or has a central point person for ordering supplies to pool resources, those could be called enterprise-wide systems.

Enterprise systems also refer to computerized applications that are used throughout the company to share data and resources and minimize the number of manual operations employees use. Examples include resource planning and sharing and supply chain management software, but the term can also include the hardware (e.g. the computers and other components that make up the system). Such enterprise systems make the business more efficient and can save the company money by reducing repetitive work and the purchase of new resources that could have been shared.