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Rapid Application Development
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Get used to the rapids rather than chasing waterfalls. For continuous iteration and faster software delivery, explore rapid application development.

Around the world, rapid application development has become one of the most widely adopted development processes. In addition to ensuring fast and smooth application development, this application development process allows the developers to meet their goals more efficiently.  According to a recent market report, the global rapid application development market is expected to reach $46.2 billion by 2023. What’s the reason for its popularity? Or, what does rapid application development mean? All of these topics will be discussed in detail in this blog.

What is Rapid Application Development?

Rapid Application Development (RAD) emphasizes rapid prototyping over long development and testing cycles. It is possible to make multiple updates to the software without starting over every time with rapid application development. As a result, the result is more quality-focused and aligned with the needs of the end users.

The Waterfall model dominated software development in the 1970s and 1980s. Projects are broken down into sequential maps of several steps, where each step depends on the completion of the previous one.

Waterfall models have the disadvantage of not being able to revisit the core features and functions once the product has entered the testing phase. As a result, teams end up with software that may or may not meet the evolving needs of end users.

The concept of Rapid Application Development (RAD) was conceived in the 1980s, so it isn’t a revolutionary concept. However, it is not singular like the waterfall model. This is a continuous evolution of development philosophies according to the requirements at the time.

During the 1980s, Barry Boehm, James Martin, and others realized that software was not a raw mineral resource. They recognized the infinite malleability of software. In designing their respective development models, Boehm and Martin took advantage of software’s inherent pliability. Eventually, rapid app development evolved into agile development and other forms.

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4 Steps in Rapid Application Development Methodology

RAD methodology involves four phases of application development while achieving a quick turnaround time (TAT).

1. Determining Requirements

During the first phase, all participants (managers, IT employees, users, etc.) determine the project’s needs, scope, challenges, and requirements. It sets broad requirements for staying flexible over time, which differentiates RAD from other models.

You can break down the planning phase into the following steps:

  • Researching and identifying the current problem
  • Identifying the project’s requirements
  • Finalizing requirements specifications and sharing them with stakeholders
  • Obtaining approval from stakeholders

This stage allows teams to avoid confusion, minimize costly changes, and understand stakeholders’ needs transparently.

Due to RAD’s principle, requirements can change during development, so the planning phase is kept short. The goal is to gain a concise understanding of the project.

2. The Design Phase

Developers and users work together to develop a prototype covering the outlined requirements. It is a continuous process in which users provide feedback on the prototype until the final product is approved. In such prototypes, the main system requirements are covered by the main features of the system. The success of the final product depends on this phase.

The developers deliver customized prototypes that facilitate testing at each stage.

By allowing clients to test prototypes, developers can fix bugs as they are implemented. In addition, clients can decide what functions to keep and what to discard at the beginning of the development process. This phase ensures no potential errors or unwanted functions through collaboration, continuous interaction, and regular testing.

3. Constructing Rapidly

Input from the user forms the basis of this other continuous phase. The goal of this step is to implement the feedback provided by the users through coding, testing, and other development tasks. Until the product is approved by the users, the 2nd and 3rd phases feed into each other.

Developers, programmers, and testers build workable applications in less time because many issues, tweaks, and changes are addressed in the design phase. To accommodate any alterations and ideas, you must stay in contact with the client throughout this process.

A quick breakdown of the rapid construction phase can be done as follows:

  • Making preparations
  • Development of applications
  • The coding process
  • Testing and integration of units

Clients may discover some concepts in the design phases that don’t function as expected during the rapid construction phase. To resolve such problems, you can return to prototyping. Upon receiving positive user feedback, move on to the next step.

4. Implementation Phase

Upon approval, developers add some finishing touches such as testing, conversion, interface, and user training. A product is ready for delivery once it has been properly assessed for factors like stability and longevity.

Team members optimize applications in a live production environment to ensure stability and maintainability. Before handing over the final product to the client, the implementation phase includes documenting, completing maintenance tasks, and providing user training.

How does RAD Methodology different from Agile Development?

In software development, rapid application development and Agile are both terms used to describe iterative processes. The goal of either approach is to solve the problems associated with traditional development methods, such as the Waterfall approach. Even though the two terms are often used interchangeably, there are some subtle differences between them.

Agile development is a set of practices and methods based on iterative development, where solutions and requirements are refined by collaborating between teams. Among its practices are stand-ups, test-driven development, pair programming, and sprints, as well as frameworks like Scrum and Extreme Programming.

In Agile development, specific features of a project are delivered in sprints over the development cycle. Contrary to rapid application development, rapid application development focuses on iterative prototyping that is improved through feedback.

Furthermore, rapid application development emphasizes functionality over user interfaces and user experiences. While agile focuses on the design of a project, it considers it a vital part of it.

Also Read: A Comprehensive Glossary of Digital Transformation Terms

Advantages and Disadvantages of Rapid Application Development(RAD) Model

Rapid application development has many benefits for businesses, but it also presents some challenges. Before adopting the RAD model, it’s crucial to understand its advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages of RAD Model Disadvantages of RAD Model
With fewer employees, more productivity is achieved Suitable only for short-term projects
Ensures that customer feedback is encouraged and prioritized Working with large teams is not possible
Since it integrates from the beginning, integration is not a problem Rapid application development can only be used for modular systems
It is possible to change requirements at any time Collaborative teamwork is essential
There is a short time between prototypes and iterations Compared to other models, it is more complex to manage
There is a drastic reduction in development time The product must meet the needs of users throughout its life cycle

Rapid Application Development Lifecycle

The four stages of RAD are heavily influenced by the systems development lifecycle (or SDLC, for short), and could even be viewed as a condensed version of SDLC. Let’s have a look at the general outline of the stages:

Planning

This is the first stage of the Rapid Application Development lifecycle, where you evaluate the scope and goals of the project, features, solutions, functionalities, as well as the associated roadmap.

Analyzing

This stage is concerned with identifying what needs to be developed based on the current situation and project goals.

Designing

During the design stage of rapid application development, an outline or flow diagram is created. This describes the general design of the product, screen layout, workflow, program rules, methods, and so on.

Implementation

The implementation and environment cycle is concerned with the progression of the product through various stages of development until it is ready for end-user use.

Testing

As part of the Rapid Application Development process, the product is examined on different levels to identify any bugs and resolve them.

Evaluation/Maintenance

After training and transitory periods, the software is maintained and regularly evaluated to assess any shortcomings or potential improvements.

Rapid Application Development Tools

Rapid application development emphasizes rapid prototyping and the development of workable solutions rather than hardline planning. With no-code development platforms, you can reduce the amount of code you have to write, create prototypes more quickly, and reduce the amount of time you have to dedicate to the development process.

No-code development platforms

A no-code development platform allows businesses to develop software quickly and easily without coding. It is possible to build and design business applications using a WYSIWYG editor or by dragging and dropping components.

Rapid application development can be practiced by developers as well as non-developers who can customize workflows and functionality. There is a significant difference between these tools and low-code development platforms in terms of the level of customization that can be achieved.

Compared to low-code development platforms, no-code platforms provide relatively less customization and functionality. Instead of having to access or modify the source code, no-code development provides more tools for organizing information.

Example of Rapid Application Development

Developing software quickly is particularly useful for small businesses that require software quickly, but wish to have a great deal of input in the development process.

As a developer familiar with rapid application development and agile development methodologies, Centric Consulting was approached by a client who needed software to interface with its customers. This client had more than 35,000 employees, to procure, invoice, and pay for them.

Using agile and rapid application development methodologies, Centric Consulting quickly understood the client’s needs. By using open source infrastructure and Ruby on Rails, they kept costs low and sped up development.

Customer input was sought throughout the development process. These functionalities were added as and when requested, and ultimately, the client received the product.

Ultimately, Centric Consulting was able to meet the needs of their client and grow their business in addition to meeting their demands.

When you should choose the RAD model?

There are many factors to consider when choosing an application development approach. If you receive a positive response when you ask these questions, you should consider the RAD model:

  • Do you have a client who is open to RAD and willing to collaborate with your team throughout the project?
  • Are you able to navigate the rapid application development process while ensuring strong communication with your development team?
  • Does everyone on the project team agree with the project’s schedule and timeline?
  • Can you navigate the rapid application development process with the right tools and software? Are you able to procure them if not? 
  • Are there any technical risks?
  • Is there a deadline for delivering your project?

Choosing the rapid application development approach is possible if you answer all questions positively. However, there are some things you should keep in mind.

As an example, development teams can work at different speeds when working together. Rapid application development might take longer than expected because system integration can happen when both teams complete their work.

A difference in logic and programming styles can further complicate system integration.

Before proceeding with rapid application development, these parameters need to be carefully planned and adjusted.

Takeaway

As Rapid Application Development technology has become more widely adopted, choosing the right service provider has become more challenging. The market is flooded with application development services, so it’s difficult to tell which one will achieve your product goals. By understanding the process better, you will be able to make an informed decision.

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