What is Rapid Application Development (RAD)?
Rapid Application Development (RAD) is one of the most widespread software development methods. It refers to an agile development technique that focuses on rapid prototyping, breaking a large project down into smaller modules which can then be independently assigned to individuals or separate teams. Once complete these modules are then combined to form the final product.
This approach to software development enables developers to rapidly make amends, updates and iterations without needing to start an entirely new development schedule each time.
Difference Between RAD Model & Waterfall Model
The RAD process is an alternative method to the waterfall development model, a linear-sequential life cycle model whereby each phase must be completed fully before the next phase can begin. Developers became frustrated with the waterfall method because once the software reached the testing phase, it became extremely difficult to change its core functions and features. This often resulted in products that were either inefficient or out of date (sometimes both) by the time they were actually finalised and released, which is why RAD was born.
The main difference from the waterfall model is that RAD development focuses on speed and developing the finalised product in less time. However, it also focuses on quick feedback and keeping the end user or client involved throughout the entire stage of the process.
Rapid Application Development Processes & Stages
The RAD process can generally be split into 4 phases: Requirements Planning, User Design, Rapid Construction and Cutover.
Stage 1 – Requirements Planning
The planning phase is vital to ensuring the project is a success. It is here where developers, team members and end users/client establish the goals and project expectations as well as discuss any potential issues that might need to be addressed during development.
Unlike other software development models, RAD doesn’t require you to give specific requirements at the initial planning stage. Instead, it asks for broad requirements. You can then provide more specific requirements at different points of the development cycle.
Stage 2 – User Design & Feedback
Once the planning stage is complete, the next step is to develop a number of prototypes with different features and functions. The developers and the client work collaboratively to make sure their requirements and requests are being met at every step – users can test each prototype iteration at each stage to ensure it meets their expectations.
If any bugs or problems are found, the developers can tweak and resolve as they go until a satisfactory design is produced. This approach ensures that any feedback from the client is actioned and removes the potential for any issues to slip through the cracks.
Stage 3 – Rapid Construction
The next stage of the RAD process is to actually develop the prototypes into the working model. Developers are able to construct the final working model much quicker than other development models, such as the waterfall model, because the vast majority of changes were addressed in stage 2.
Programmers, coders, testers, developers and anyone else in the software development team work together during this stage to ensure everything is working as it should be and to make sure all of the client’s expectations are satisfied.
The client may still suggest alterations or changes at this stage so new components may be required.
Stage 4 – Cutover
The final stage of RAD is to implement and launch the finalised product. This is when full-scale testing of the independent modules developed by separate teams can take place, as well as data conversion and user training.
Rapid Application Development Advantages & Disadvantages
RAD Advantages –
- Development time is quick.
- Regular communication between the development team and the client increases the efficiency of the design and build process.
- As the client is involved in every step of the process, they’re able to suggest changes throughout the project to ensure they’re satisfied with the finalised product.
- The project can be split into smaller, more manageable tasks.
- Each phase prioritises functionality to the client.
- As developers build the exact systems the client requires (and nothing more), the budget is spent efficiently.
RAD Disadvantages –
- Requires strong team collaboration and communication otherwise the development cycle can slow down and direction can become misaligned.
- Can be more complex to manage than other models.
- Highly skilled developers and designers are needed.
- Client involvement is required throughout the entire cycle.
- It’s only suited to projects that have a small development time and systems which can be modularised.
- Developers and clients have to commit to frequent meetings.
Rapid Application Development Tools
There are a number of tools out there that can facilitate and support RAD.
Tools such as InVision and Mockplus are useful tools for designing and prototyping, helping teams to create interactive designs at impressive speeds.
And for the development phases, low-code tools can be incredibly valuable. OutSystems, for example, is a low-code platform that enables developers to bundle development elements like APIs, languages and UI components into a single coherent suite of tools for building applications visually.
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