Developers, Decision Makers, Strategists or Just End-users? Redefining End-User Computing for the 21st Century: A Case Study

Developers, Decision Makers, Strategists or Just End-users? Redefining End-User Computing for the 21st Century: A Case Study

Sandra Barker (University of South Australia, Australia) and Brenton Fiedler (University of South Australia, Australia)
Copyright: © 2011 |Pages: 14
DOI: 10.4018/joeuc.2011040101


The acceleration of technology in business since the 1980s suggests that traditional management techniques, systems, and strategies employed in a business environment should be challenged. As a consequence of this acceleration, end-user computing (EUC) and end-user development (EUD) have also grown. Definitions of EUC developed in the 1980s continue to be used by contemporary researchers without regard to the changing technological environment, user experience, and user needs. Therefore, the authors challenge traditional definitions of EUC developed and used by researchers to ascertain whether they meet the needs of management for the 21st century. There is a conflict among traditional definitions that has not been addressed since the early 1990s (Downey & Bartczak, 2005). In this regard, the authors proffer that the management strategies for end-user (EU) systems development in the 21st century should suggest a different and proactive role for users. This paper summarises key traditional definitions from the literature and evaluates their consonance with the technology and business system environment. The impetus for researchers to rethink the traditional definition of EUC is provided through a real world management project involving the development of a university staff workload database that investigated the role of end-users in system enhancement and development.
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Traditional Euc Definitions

The evolution of EUC definitions has been relatively slow compared to the evolution in technology. There have been many definitions of EUC in the literature, most of which tend to involve the interaction of managers, professionals, and operational level users of application software within their own departments (Torkzadeh & Doll, 1993).

Alavi (1985, p. 171) stated that EUC could be defined as “…the user of the results of the computing also creates the software specifications necessary to effect the computing itself”. This early definition of EUC is indirectly affected by the technology of the time. At this time, businesses had not committed to major investment in personal computers (PC) and very few users were directly involved in ‘hands-on’ computing. However, users were responsible for computing output and therefore prerequisite input into the specifications of the applications and the reports generated. On evaluating this early definition it can be seen that the impact of technology and technical competence of the user has been significant and as such these elements needs to be considered in any contemporary definition.

Davis and Olson (1985, p. 421) defined EUC as “… the capability of users to directly control their own applications and computing needs.” This definition is passive in the sense that it provides for the capability of managing rather than actively enhancing information systems for improved personal and corporate objectives.

Brancheau and Brown (1993, p. 439) broadened previous definitions by concluding that EUC is the “… adoption and use of information technology by personnel outside the information systems department to DEVELOP software applications in support of organisational tasks.” This statement implies initial development without considering the enhancement of existing applications. The definition has a focus on the technology rather than the task and thereby falls short of linking with corporate strategic directives.

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