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End-user development

End-user development (EUD) is a research topic within the field of computer science, describing activities or techniques that allow people who are not professional developers to create or modify a software artifact. A typical example of EUD is programming to extend and adapt an existing package (e.g. an office suite). There are two basic reasons why EUD has become popular, one is because organizations are facing delays on projects and using EUD can effectively cut the time of completion on a project. The second reason is that software tools are more powerful and easier to use. Other examples of End User Development include the creation and modification of:

Lessons learned from EUD solutions can significantly influence the software life cycles for commercial software products, in-house Intranet/Extranet developments and enterprise application deployments.

Cost-Benefit Modelling of End User Development

According to one analysis, EUD essentially out-sources development effort to the end user. Because there is always some effort to learn an EUD tool motivation depends on users' confidence that it will empower their work, save time on the job and/or raise productivity. In this model the benefits to users are initially based on marketing, demonstrations and word-of-mouth. Once the technology is put into use experience of actual benefits becomes the key motivator.

This study defines costs as the sum of:

  • Technical cost: the price of the technology and the effort to install it
  • Learning cost: the time taken to understand the technology
  • Development cost: the effort to develop applications using the technology
  • Test and debugging cost: the time taken to verify the system.

The first and second costs are incurred once during acquisition, whereas the third and fourth are incured every time an application is developed. Benefits (which may be perceived or actual) are seen as:

  • Functionality delivered by the technology
  • Flexibility to respond to new requirements
  • Usability of applications produced
  • Overall quality of the applications produced.

Other Aspects of End-user development

A major drawback with the implementation of End User Development is that it removes the end-users away from their daily task, decreases productivity and efficiency. Commentators have been concerned that end users do not understand how to test and secure their applications - "It’s simply unfathomable that we could expect security... from the vast majority of software applications out there when they’re written with little, if any, knowledge of generally accepted good practices such as specifying before coding, systematic testing, and so on.... How many X for Complete Idiots (where “X” is your favorite programming language) books are out there? I was initially amused by this trend, but recently I’ve become uneasy thinking about where these dabblers are applying their newfound knowledge.

In response to this End User Software Engineering (EUSE) has been defined as a higher level of EUD, whereby end users become motivated to consider security and verifiability when developing their solutions.

All the above approaches assume that the user is developing software using tools already approved by a central IT function where "the user is naive, with little understanding of data processing.... but users should no longer be considered universally ignorant of information systems. Moreover, sophisticated information center veterans, as well as microcomputer users, can and do contribute to system development. They are capable of preliminary experimentation with system requirements, in particular those related to user interface." In this case the assumption is that the tools have a high learning curve and require exceptional expertise to be deployed in a secure, reliable and scalable manner.

An alternative scenario is that end users (and/or their consultants) employ declarative tools that support rigorous business and security rules at the expense of performance and scalability. Though this is a valid separation of concerns it can lead to a situation where Requirements analysis and prototyping are substantially completed and documented by end users before business analysts have considered the limitations of a specific Application or Software framework. Senior management support for such end user initiatives depends on their attitude to existing or potential Vendor lock-in.

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