The latter is typically referred to as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems.
A typical ERP platform would encompass all major functions in an organization such as Operations, Inventory & Stores, Accounting, HR, Payroll, etc. Most clients tend to purchase an off the shelf product, and contract a software deployment specialist to make the required customizations to the platform and adapt the system for use at a particular company.
I was involved with the specific deployment of an ERP system at a ceramics manufacturing company with roughly 1300 employees. The company was migrating from a legacy FoxPro based system to an MS .net based client-server ERP system, which would encompass all departments and be written in the newer Microsoft .net framework with a user friendly Graphic User Interface (GUI) as opposed to the text based interface for the legacy system.
The specific departments that the ERP presently covers is Accounts, HR, Payroll, Inventory & Stores, Commercial Department, Sales, and Fixed Asset Control. The Manufacturing module is being developed and will be integrated into the ERP system over the next 10 - 12 months.
The ERP platform, in its present state controls virtually every business process in the company. A closed loop workflow ensures tight knit integration between departments with electronic authorizations and checks at every stage of the process. Global connectivity of the system with users in 2 factories and 4 sales offices meant that user groups had to be able to interact with the system in a secure environment to manage workflows in these remote locations. For the factory locations, the company decided on connectivity through leased lines with direct point-to-point connectivity. However, with the geographically diverse locations of the 4 sales offices, leased line connectivity was not feasible. The company decided to utilize Internet based connectivity using Virtual Private Networks (VPN) to be establish connectivity from these remote locations to the main server housed in the corporate office.
Connectivity to the system was a critical requirement for all remote locations. In the factory environment, the only way for the factory warehouses to check-in and enter fresh production into inventory is by utilizing the Stores & Inventory module to generate an inward bound Material Note. The Warehouse in turn is required to generate the Material Receipt Note to complete transactions. Similarly, when the Warehouse receives an electronic request to dispatch new products to one of the four remote sales locations, it uses the system to create a Material Dispatch Note that is closed once material is received by the remote location and the ticket workflow is closed in the system electronically. In case of an unplanned system downtime or a network outage, the company's operations come to a standstill since workflows cannot be completed. One of most critical workflows that get affected is the inventory process. No inventory can move in and out of any warehouse of the company until the system electronically updates its records.
The company had to put in exception handling for these circumstances, which involve emailing data packets to update inventory and complete workflows when there is scheduled maintenance of the system, or where longer system shutdowns may be required.
System security was another important aspect of the system.