Rapid Application Development In A Nutshell

RAD was first introduced by author and consultant James Martin in 1991. Martin recognized and then took advantage of the endless malleability of software in designing development models. Rapid Application Development (RAD) is a methodology focusing on delivering rapidly through continuous feedback and frequent iterations.

Understanding Rapid Application Development

In a competitive market demanding the fast delivery of products satisfying client needs, RAD is a useful tool for many businesses. RAD allows project managers to measure and communicate progress in real-time to stakeholders. With more awareness of evolving issues and changes, projects are more transparent and run efficiently.

It’s important to note that RAD is a precursor to modern agile project management. It emphasizes rapid prototyping and iterative release cycles driven by user feedback. There is little to no emphasis on the rigid and often costly scheduling that is common to the waterfall model.

The four phases of Rapid Application Development

There are several ways to approach RAD, but many businesses choose to follow four main phases:

Phase 1 – Requirements planning

Phase 1 is somewhat condensed when compared to other agile frameworks, but it is nevertheless a critical step. During this phase, stakeholders come together to set goals and expectations and brainstorm potential issues that may arise during development.

Each stakeholder must approve the project moving forward. This helps avoid costly changes because of a lack of communication.

Phase 2 – User design

In the second phase, user design must be built out via prototype iterations. Here, clients work closely with developers to ensure needs are met at every stage of the design process. In other words, the developer designs a prototype that the client tests. 

Then, they come together to discuss what worked and what needs improvement. Close and iterative collaboration during the user design phase is unique to RAD, helping it deliver on a promise of fast turnaround time.

Lastly, each party must approach user design with rigor to ensure that nothing important is overlooked.

Phase 3 – Rapid construction

Prototypes and systems from the previous phase are then incorporated into a working model.

This involves:

  • Rapid construction preparation.
  • Application coding.
  • System testing.
  • Unit integration.

Software and applications are once again thoroughly tested, but during phase three there is more of a focus on refining the interface, functionality, or other aspects of the product. If new challenges are identified, then new ideas must be formulated to overcome them. 

Clients may also find that theoretical ideas do not work in practice. In this case, the developer must resume prototyping or move to the final step if the feedback is completely positive.

Phase 4 – Cutover (transition)

At this point, the product goes to launch and the development team moves components to a live production environment. Once this is achieved, any testing, data conversion, or user training takes place.

In the background, coders continue to look for system vulnerabilities.

Key takeaways:

  • Rapid Application Development is a popular agile project management strategy with a focus on fast project turnaround.
  • Rapid Application Development encourages rapid prototyping and iterative release cycles. This is achieved by the close collaboration of the developer and client at every stage of the design process.
  • Successfully implementing Rapid Application Development largely depends on the ability of the project manager to communicate effectively with team members and stakeholders in real-time.

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