Rapid Application Development Model: How and When To Use It In Your Software Project
Software development is a highly dynamic field that is changing constantly. Moreover, for some projects and market requirements, it’s highly important to implement changes in the product quickly or develop the product itself in the fastest term. Here rapid application development over-performs any other methodologies and models of software development.
Though the rapid application development framework could be considered one of the types of agile software development approaches, it differs. It focuses more on ongoing software projects and implementing user feedback or clients’ requirements right in the process rather than following a strict plan.
It becomes clear that such an approach can be quite beneficial for a lot of companies, so let’s move ahead and discover rapid software development in detail, and why it might matter for your product.
Rapid Application Development Features
One of the most common problems for software development teams is spending a lot of time on planning, iterations stages and not delivering the product in time. Therefore, according to the Wellingtone survey, over 32% of organizations never or sometimes complete the project on time.
The RAD methodology can help to solve this problem.
The main benefit of RAD is the vision of treating our software projects like clay, rather than steel. It is the idea that they should always be malleable. As you learn more about the RAD definition, you should remember that aspect of it.
RAD methodology first made an appearance in the 1980s and came from the Agile approach. It may not be new, but it is still popular for teams looking for an agile approach of application development that can allow them to keep pace with increasing clients, users and business needs.
What you need to know is that rapid application development prioritizes prototype releases and iterations. They emphasize the use of software and user feedback over strict planning and requirement recording.
The Rapid Application Development Model
RAD is a powerful alternative for the traditional waterfall model of development that isn’t always the most effective. From the very beginning, rapid application development came from the spiral model.
But over time, rapid application development changed. It was adapted to fit developer time constraints while retaining some core development guidelines. The RAD meaning becomes clearer when you see that speed is always of the essence where this model is concerned.
Rapid Application Development Process Phases
For decades, project management teams stuck with the traditional software development process that includes strict planning, process, and documentation.
Any discussion of rapid application development pros and cons should mention that it focuses on minimizing the planning stage and maximizing prototype development. It reduces planning time and emphasizes prototype iterations.
This way, RAD allows project managers and stakeholders to arrange all project changes in real-time and implement them immediately. This allows greater efficiency, faster release and time-to-market, and effective communication.
Phase One: Requirement Planning
According to the mentioned above study around 34% of projects, schedules aren’t baselined. Baselining, in other words, approval of project planning documentation should be of the planning stage, which allows tracking the software development progress against plans.
In the rapid development planning stage is like a project scoping meeting that results in creating a scoping document in the result. During this stage, developers, stakeholders, and team members communicate to define the goals for the project. They also review current and potential issues to be addressed during the build.
Tip: This stage includes:
- Researching the current problem
- Defining project requirements and specifications
- Approval of those requirements by stakeholders
- Everyone can evaluate the goals and expectations for the project and weigh in
Phase Two: User Design and Prototypes
After this first phase, it’s time to jump right into design development. This involves building the common stages of the design process. But for the RAD model, the main goals on this stage is to develop the customer journey and wireframes applying the main UX deliverables and finalize the design version through various prototype iterations.
During this phase, clients work closely with developers. In such a way, they can discuss the project requirements that are met at every step of the design process. It’s similar to customizable software development where the users test each prototype of the product at each stage to see if it meets their expectations.
All the kinks and bugs are worked out through iterative means. The development team designs a prototype, and the client and users test it. Then, all the issues are discovered and comments are considered in the next design version. This method lets developers tweak the model as they go until they devise a satisfactory design.
Tip: At the end of this stage you have the final tested design version that you implement into software.
Phase Three: Rapid Construction
This phase's main task is to put the design prototypes into beta systems and then into a working model.
As the majority of the problems are discovered and changes are made through the iterative design phase, now. Developers can now construct the final working model more quickly than they could by following a traditional project management approach.
Tip: This phase includes:
- Preparation for rapid construction
- Program and application development
- Unit, integration, and system testing
This third phase is vital because the client still has the opportunity to give input. They can suggest changes or new ideas that will solve problems as they arise.
Phase Four: Cutover
This is the implementation phase when the finished product is launched.
Tip: At this stage, you need to care about:
- Data conversion
- Getting client feedback
- Finalizing your system
In addition to what we discuss, here is a very helpful video by Stefan Mischook where he summarises the RAD process flow:
RAD Model Pros & Benefits
Well, now you know the main phases of this type of methodology development. Let’s make a quick overview of what benefits rapid software development has for your project:
- High flexibility and adaptability. Requirements can be changed at any time. The developers are able to make adjustments quickly during the development process.
- Optimized team efficiency. Thanks to RAD methodology you can divide the project down into more manageable tasks and measure the software efficiency more effectively.
- More focus on development. With a shorter planning phase, the team has more focus on iterative design construction and development.
- Reduced development time and faster delivery. The time between prototypes and iterations is shortened.
- Encouragement of code reuse. This means less manual coding, less room for errors, and shorter test times.
- Increases the reusability of components.
- A focus on customer satisfaction. RAD uses client feedback for further iterations and allows for high-level collaboration and coordination between investors.
- Reduced risks. Stakeholders can discuss and address code vulnerabilities while keeping development processes going.
- Fewer surprises. Unlike the waterfall method, RAD includes integrations early on in the software development process.
- Integration is easy since it is involved from the inception of the project.
RAD Model Cons
Certainly, as other ones the RAD model has some disadvantages that should be critical to know about before your choosing it:
- Requires skilled developers and designers.
- There is a high dependency on modeling skills.
- It’s more complex to manage when compared with other models.
- It’s only suitable for systems that are component-based and scalable.
- User requirements throughout the lifecycle of the product must be calculated.
- RAD is object-oriented and matches best for modularized systems.
- RAD isn't designed to work well with smaller projects. It requires using automated code-generated tools, which makes it suitable for projects with minimal development time.
- Features are often eliminated to fit time limits. Some functions developed on the later versions to fast up the first release of the product.
- Scalability is a challenge when using RAD as the prototype evolves into a finished application.
- Hard to track progress and software issues because of little to no documentation.
RAD vs. Other Software Development Models
The critical difference between RAD and other models is how rapid application development focuses on speed. Other models are usually focused more on bringing a working product to the customer, regardless of how long that takes.
Rapid application development benefits from having a single team without too many members. This allows for fast communication, frequent meetings, and the quick transfer of information. While for other development models it differs, for example, the agile team model prefers having larger teams divided into different specializations.
For rapid application development, it’s critical to keep the end-user involved throughout the entire development process. Other models typically limit by users’ research only at the beginning and the users testing at the end of the development cycle.
Rapid Application Development vs. Agile
Agile is one of the most common software development methodology thought it was developed after RAD appears. There are the next main differences between these two models:
- RAD is a predecessor of Agile, but Agile encompasses far more than a development model.
- The RAD model doesn’t set up a particular timeline for iterations. Instead, focus on development speed is clearly emphasized.
- Unlike Agile, feedback from the end-users is critical to the RAD process.
- RAD principles are focused on functionality and user satisfaction. Agile emphasizes the technical side and sound design.
- RAD doesn't limit itself to a team structure as Agile does.
When to Use RAD
For sure, the RAD model is not applicable to every project and team. But in some cases, it might be quite beneficial. So for the last point let’s discover in what cases the rapid application is helpful to be used:
When You Can Reliably Test Your Prototypes
Do you have the means to test your design prototypes by users who can give full feedback on the prototypes you make? If so, then rapid application development is a great model to follow.
When You Have the Budget
Compared to other development models, RAD is relatively inexpensive. There are always outlying instances, though.
When You Need a Project Done Rapidly
If you have a tight deadline, rapid application development is your best bet. If you’re under pressure to deliver something that works, then opting for a RAD platform is always suitable.
Here are a few more cases when RAD approach can fit your goals, discovered in the video below:
Now you know about the RAD process, and you know when to utilize it. As you look at rapid application development advantages and disadvantages, think about your project. You should be able to determine whether this methodology will work for you. Besides, if you still hesitate whether it is suitable for you or not, you can always get our team free consultation on the project management to set the approach that fits best for your case.
Remember that the rapid application development model in software engineering will only succeed if it meets your project goals and is run in the right way.