What Is the Difference Between ERP & SOA?

By Dennis Bortolus

Service Oriented Architecture can be found at the heart of an ERP system.
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There is a lot of confusion when it comes to software terminology. ERP and SOA are very different but may be used in the same sentence when referring to enterprise systems, which adds to the confusion.


ERP stands for Enterprise Resource Planning. An ERP system is a set of functional modules that perform business transactions such as payroll, accounting and purchasing. A true ERP will integrate these functions so they share information.


SOA stands for Service Oriented Architecture. SOA is a tool for developing software. The key principle of SOA is to write program code as few times as possible. Specific tasks that are performed in multiple programs are set up as "Service" objects. A program that handles a larger function can "Call" that individual task by sending input and receiving output, or by having that output stored in a database. Simple example: "Address" is a set of data common to multiple business functions. Within a database we store all types of addresses. Address data for employees, customers, vendors and contacts may all use the same program logic to validate and format the data. That set of code can be written once and shared by all programs. SOA makes future development easier and maintenance less painful.


Service Oriented Architecture can be found at the heart of an ERP system. ERP systems often store similar data, that is shared by various modules or functional areas, in a single place. They are not always in the same environment but SOA is more likely to be found in integrated systems.

Tool vs. Blueprint

ERP can be compared to a blueprint for building a structure, whereas SOA is closer to a tool belt used by the construction crew. They can be used together and the results will most likely be better, but they are not the same.

Terminology in the Systems World

When people throw around terms like ERP or SOA, they only belong together if you are in a highly technical discussion involving selection of software or development of new software. Those selling software or other technology tend to sprinkle industry buzz words into their marketing to make the buyers feel as though they are getting the latest and greatest product--even if they don't know what the product is.