End User Council – What is it?

By April 2, 2021April 6th, 2021Blog

Contributed by John Mark Walker, Capital One (CDF Member)

Want to listen to this instead? Listen to the Podcast episode instead! Jacqueline Salinas interviews sJohn Mark Walker on this exact topic on “The Pipeline: All Things CD & DevOps” podcast.

Who or what is an “End User”?

An “end user”, in the simplest definition, doesn’t sell a product, but uses it. It *sounds* easy to define, but in this complex world of alliances, collaborative development, and frenemies, it’s not always easy to distinguish. In some contexts, a technology vendor is an end user of a given product, and sometimes an end user starts to take on the role of vendor and technology influencer. 

I prefer a more general rubric of: “Is this area of technology important enough to you that you will invest engineering effort into defining and shaping it?” If the answer to that is “yes”, then you’re not a classic end user. And if you’re not actually selling a solution, then you fall somewhere in that nebulous in-between space. This makes our world both exciting and also incredibly difficult to navigate because now you need to take into account the context of an interaction with other entities: are they acting as an end user, vendor, or collaborative partner in this specific case? Using this rubric, the best way to define “end user” is simply “non-vendor”, but as I hope I’ve shown, that’s an incomplete definition and doesn’t take into account the nuance of the technology landscape.

What’s the CDF End User Council? 

The End User Council was an acknowledgement that the world of continuous delivery (CD) is exceedingly complex. Whenever commercial entities come together to collaborate on technology, there’s always the risk that vendors will enter the picture and try to tilt the conversation towards their particular approach or solution. The OpenStack Foundation was just one example of vendors entering the picture and polluting the original vision of the project. This doesn’t mean that vendors don’t play a role—they’re often the primary drivers of a given technology, so they have to. But the areas where they collaborate need to have a clear vision of their mission and what they want to achieve. 

The End User Council is one way for the Continuous Delivery Foundation (CDF) to maintain a clear communication channel with end users or to use the above definition: non-vendors. A Foundation or neutral collaborative community has to take those most impacted by its decisions into account. I see the End User Council as an explicit pathway by which non-vendors can influence direction, even if they are unable to fund a massive engineering effort that reflects their priorities. It’s also a good way for non-vendors to keep track of what’s happening in this technology space and stay informed.

The CDF End User Council provides the opportunity for end-user organizations to have context-rich discussions on how various organizations pursue their modernization efforts in the most effective way. Topics covered include:

  • Improving developer productivity with automation
  • Enhancing security in delivery pipelines
  • Technology modernization in highly regulated industries
  • Measuring success of efforts

What Does the End User Council Discuss?

So far, we’ve had a few End User Council meetings that focused on metrics and measuring success. In fact, that’s the first topic we’ve addressed at the End User Leadership Forum last week. There are some broad areas of agreement that seem to drive all of the conversations, whether the topic is metrics, developer tools, or otherwise. The topics of conversation where we tend to land are around visibility—What are the tools doing? How are people using them? Do they actually help, or are they a hindrance to productivity?—And then there’s a general segue into a discussion about complexity, in that creating a continuous delivery system is a mix of technology, process, and culture. If it were only a technology challenge, it would be easy. But the topic of CD is inseparable from the culture and politics of the company that implements a solution. This is why everyone addresses the problems differently, even though they all want the same thing (e.g. seamless automation of their technology). This is where the End User Council becomes essential: we can discuss various points of view and lessons learned and hopefully come to an agreement on direction, which we hope will help others beginning their CD journey. If we can then infuse what we’ve learned into the development of the tools themselves, well… we can dream, right?

What about the End User Council’s Editorial Calendar?

Thanks to the leadership of Tracy Miranda, CDF Executive Director, we have come up with a quarterly calendar of topics to tackle, the first of which is the subject of metrics and measuring success or progress. Other later topics include, in order, developer productivity and experience, tools and platforms, and governance and compliance. Frankly, all of our discussions have touched on all of these topics, regardless of which ones we focus on. Also, within the context of all of these topics, there’s the implied subject of accountability and customer satisfaction. In reality, those are the guiding topics no matter what the area of focus is.

Can I join the End User Council?

Thanks for asking! The first place to read the End User Council Plan and then go is the End User Council page, where you can fill out a form to join. The discussions are lively, and I always learn something. Because it’s a small group, there’s an intimacy to the conversation that I appreciate.