Fortunately, the days are gone in which the end users were mysterious beings that hardly anyone from the development department ever met. But since it’s still not a matter of course that software professionals have the real end user in mind when the end user is meant, the question should be allowed: What is an end user? Or rather: What is he not?

An end user is the person for whom an application has been designed and developed. In the context of enterprise software, the end user is thus the person who performs business tasks using functions of this application for which this application has been created.

Perhaps to make the definition clearer, it would help to also define what an end user is not. The end user is not the same as the customer and is also not the developer of the application, the person who installs the application, or the system administrator.

Sometimes the short form user is used instead of end user. However, I prefer the latter as the short form canlead to misunderstandings.Users of the application are in fact also its developers and the subject matter experts, for example consultants or business experts. A developer coding new functions for the application will surely use the application to test these functions, and a business expert who checks the scope of an application before buying it is also using the application. If you were to ask them whether they use the application on a regular basis, their answer will probably be yes. Therefore, I recommend not to swallow the little word “end” and to always use it in conjunction with the term “user.”

Speaking of the addition “end,” what does it actually mean? One way to interpret it is that the end user comes at the end of a process that includes phases such as design, development, marketing, installation, and configuration. Another way to interpret this part of the term is to bring into play the “end goal” of the application, which is to empower the end user to conduct certain tasks in the system (preferably in an intuitive, efficient, and effective way).

Are you still unsure if you’re dealing with users or end users? Maybe the following 5 questions will help you differentiate.

  1. Was the application developed explicitly for these users? (yes)
  2. Do the users perform tasks with the application that the application was designed and developed for? (yes)
  3. Did the users develop the application? (no)
  4. Do the users have a high computer literacy? (no)
  5. Do the users turn to IT with questions concerning the application? (yes)

Of course, for your particular application your end users might actually be in the IT department (if you’ve developed an application that’s targeted at IT professionals), but in most business applications end users are not IT experts. Therefore, if you can answer the questions as indicated above the chances are high that you are in the lucky position of having identified a real end user.

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