We live in times of cut-throat competition, where the delivery time of a product may decide the success or failure of a product or business. In such a scenario, rapid application development has gained a lot of attention and importance, especially in the software development field, where change is said to be the only constant.
The term 'rapid application development' was first coined by James Martin in the year 1991.
According to James Martin : Rapid Application Development (RAD) is a development life cycle designed to give much faster development and higher-quality results than those achieved with the traditional life cycle. It is designed to take the maximum advantage of powerful development software that has evolved recently.
RAD methodology enables quick development of software products by using Computer Aided Software Engineering (CASE) tools, in combination with methods of iterative development and rapid prototyping.
It aims at reducing the time involved in the planning phase. It drastically reduces the time required for software development, usually taking somewhere between 30 to 90 days for the complete development life cycle.
RAD is a combination of a well-defined methodology, dedicated and trained staff, and proper and efficient management practices. Such a fast-paced approach, may, at times, come with its own set of compromises in terms of product features and scalability. However, the advantages of rapid application development greatly surpass these few drawbacks.
Faster Delivery Time
The primary advantage of RAD is a faster development life cycle, and a better turnaround time of the software product. This is achieved by rapid prototyping, and by using automated tools like Computer Aided Software Engineering or CASE tools.
CASE tools enable the developers to re-use previously generated codes, thus saving the time needed for manual coding. The CASE software tools are a major contributing factor in reducing the delivery time in the RAD methodology.
Although the RAD process may imply some compromise in terms of scalability and the range of features in the product, it still leads to a better overall quality of product being delivered.
RAD enhances the product quality by meeting the requirements of the customers, and by providing a considerable reduction in the errors due to the use of automation tools and prototyping. Errors and omissions are detected in the early stages of development, thereby preventing any extra effort or cost.
Customers are willing to pay more for a good quality product delivered in a short time frame. RAD involves the use of existing reusable components, leading to a lower cost of production. Automation results into a lesser number of resources being required for the development of the software.
According to statistics, 65% of the IT budget in a company is spent on the maintenance of already existing systems. Updating these traditionally developed software is usually a very tedious and time-consuming process. RAD allows for software solutions to be built in a way that facilitates better maintenance and upgrading of applications.
Greater Customer Satisfaction
The RAD methodology involves active participation of the customers and end users in all stages of analysis and development of the application. It is especially helpful in scenarios where the user requirements are uncertain, or not fixed.
The development team offers a series of functional prototypes to the end users, and integrates customer feedback at every stage of development. This cycle is repeated until a series of such prototypes result into a fully-integrated final product.
RAD uses a process called time boxing, which offers a method of controlling the features to be released in the current, as well as the future versions of a software product. This helps in releasing the product version in a shorter frame of time, by including only the essential features in the current version.
Time Boxing aims at dividing the project into sub-modules called time boxes, and allocating fixed deadlines and budgets for each time module.
Better Project Management
In RAD, there is active participation of the management, the development teams, as well as the business owners and end users. As a result, there is a better collaboration between all stakeholders, and hence, a better understanding of the client requirements and expectations. Also, the project receives better visibility and support from the management.
Due to the iterative approach and prototyping, testing and integration of end user feedback happens at each stage of product development. Hence, the end product has lesser number of changes and defects, thereby minimizing the risks involved in the project. There is little or no testing effort involved.
All these advantages clearly indicate why rapid application development is a fast and efficient methodology for software development, delivering great quality in a cost-effective and timely manner.