Rapid Application Development: What You Need to Know

Written By: Matt Lieberson
September 13, 2021
8 min read

The ever-growing need for the fast production of enterprise-ready applications has fueled endless creativity and innovation in software development. From process management to supply chain, businesses rely on apps to centralize their operations, improve access to actionable insights, streamline core processes, offer customer support, and build operational agility.

Consequently, the importance of quick application delivery can’t be overemphasized, especially due to the growing capabilities of low-code technology. The industry seems to already have the much-needed solution: Rapid Application Development (RAD). Coupled with citizen automation and development, rapid application development provides an adaptive approach to software development to ensure continuous innovation and fast turnaround.

Today’s fast-paced environment demands solutions that leverage reusable code, ready-made components, and templates for less manual coding. Rapid application development and citizen development platforms like Quickbase provide the exact functions that modern IT teams need, revolutionizing application development, scaling business-led creation, and turning business users into technologists.

With rapid application development, businesses can significantly reduce traditional software or app development delivery time, allowing them to test different features and functions quickly. The fun part is, organizations don’t have to wait for a complete end product to test functions. They can simply use prototypes to conduct tests while leveraging user feedback to change the core features and functions.

Let’s take a deep dive into RAD to help you understand its methodology, phases, benefits, and more.

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Benefits of RAD methodology

In application development, the primary barriers to quick delivery are lack of technical skills, time, and cost. The rapid application development model aims to address these detractors by delivering a seamless approach to app development. As a result, it offers several benefits to developers, project managers, and clients across industries, including:

  • Quick delivery: Traditionally, it takes weeks to months to get a prototype ready. With rapid application development, you get a prototype ready within days, thanks to low-code development platforms. RAD provides a highly iterative process that delivers results quickly with minimal resources.
  • Reduced cost: Rapid application development shortens development time by up to 90%, significantly cutting your development costs. Maintenance of apps is also quick with minimal planning and testing, lowing your expenses, too.
  • Fewer errors: The development process involves using reusable and independent components, resulting in fewer errors in the code. This also saves time in testing different functions and features.
  • Rapid digital transformation: Faster development means organizations can adapt to tech disruption and changing circumstances. Rapid application development allows businesses to evaluate, test, and try new technologies at today’s digital pace.
  • Seamless integrations: Rapid application development supports integrations throughout the development life cycle, allowing you to know how they’ll function early on. Early integrations within a prototype let you address complications or errors in advance for immediate corrective actions.

By utilizing rapid application development, organizations employ a solution that’s fast, flexible, and adaptive to today’s digital world. It delivers a fundamental building block to citizen development, continuous innovation, and operational agility.

RAD allows developers to deliver the highest-priority functions to end-users while managing risks and implementing feedback to build a business-ready app.

Phase 1: Requirements planning

While this planning phase is crucial, it’s not thorough and detailed like in the traditional development process. The rapid application development model only focuses on the broad requirements of the project to ensure flexibility. This process brings together key members, including team members, clients, and developers, to understand the scope, requirements, goals, and expectations.

In this phase, the team members discuss the potential issues and challenges they’ll need to address during the build. This is important to eliminate any detractors that might impact the realization of the project’s goals.

As such, techniques, such as form analysis, brainstorming, user scenarios, and task analysis, are essential in developing a complete structured plan for the project.

Phase 2: User design

This is the second phase of the rapid application development model, and it involves building several prototypes based on user feedback and outlined requirements. This phase takes a collaborative approach, with clients working closely with developers to ensure the design considers their specific needs. Developers focus on delivering customizable prototypes that support testing at each stage of the process.

The ability for clients to test prototypes allows developers to implement fixes and tweak models as they go. Plus, clients can decide what functions to keep and what to discard during the early stages of the development. In this phase, the collaborative approach, continuous interaction, and regular testing ensure no potential for errors or unwanted functions.

Phase 3: Rapid prototyping

Once all teams are content with the designs, developers use the prototypes and beta systems to build a working model. At this stage, developers build the model quickly because most changes and fixes were implemented during the user design phase. They use powerful tools to transform data models and processes into functional products.

Bear in mind that the client’s role in this phase is still indispensable — clients still need to give input throughout this phase. They can provide feedback on the functionality, interfacing, and aesthetics of the model. Developers will need to implement the feedback to ensure a successful model that meets the specific needs and requirements of the client.

Is the RAD model right for your team?

Rapid application development is truly a game-changer in application development. Its ability to develop apps within minutes or days transforms how organizations respond to ever-growing business needs. The RAD approach is an excellent solution for projects with a short time span, less technical risk, known requirements, and end-user involvement throughout the life cycle.

Still, you need to consider different factors before implementing it.

  • Knowledgeable and experienced team: You need a dedicated team of coders, developers, and engineers to focus on the ongoing development. While the process involves using reusable components, you’ll need the input of experts at some stages of development.
  • Commitment: For a successful project, both the client and your team must commit to following the RAD approach. Commitment from all the involved parties will ensure seamless communication and implementation of feedback. Bear in mind that the success of RAD projects largely depends on feedback implementation.
  • Proper tools and software: The RAD models eliminate extensive hand-coding, which impacts development times. As such, you’ll need the right tools that streamline the process. For example, a low-code platform like Quickbase offers an intuitive visual development platform for optimal collaboration and productivity.

In essence, the rapid application development methodology is an ideal solution for projects that require quick delivery, including a customer-facing portal and an internal business tool. It’s perfect for projects that require short iterations and quick development of a final product. As such, it’s vital to understand the requirements and goals of any project before picking a suitable development approach.

Common RAD Questions

What is the RAD methodology?

Conceived in the 1980s, rapid application development methodology is a software development approach that focuses on fast application delivery while leveraging user feedback. It cuts out costly and detailed planning while emphasizing rapid prototyping to deliver enterprise-grade solutions.

By reducing planning time, some of the advantages of rapid application development are that it allows developers, project managers, and clients to work closely, communicate in real-time, and measure progress for successful development. This process results in improved productivity, greater efficiency, and faster development.

What is the difference between RAD and agile?

In traditional software development, it’s typical to draw a comparison between different methodologies to understand their applications and efficacy. In the case of RAD vs. Agile, the two approaches share similar values, such as quick application delivery and improved flexibility. However, it’s important to note that RAD is a methodology, while agile is more of a philosophy.

Agile development is basically a set of practices and methods based on iterative development, where solutions and requirements evolve through the collaboration of different teams, according to Agile Alliance. It’s an umbrella term for frameworks, such as Scrum and Extreme Programming, and practices like stand-ups, test-driven development, pair programming, and sprints.

The critical difference is that Agile focuses on specific project features, which are delivered in sprints over the development cycle. In contrast, rapid application development focuses on developing successive prototypes, which are improved over time through feedback implementation.

Further, rapid application development is more focused on functionality than UI/UX. Agile, on the other hand, considers the design a vital part of the project.

While the two options are great alternatives to the waterfall model of software development, their application depends on the nature of your project and the kind of developers on your teams.

What is a rapid application development environment?

As the name suggests, a rapid application development environment is a structure or ecosystem that supports rapid application development tools, processes, principles, and approaches. It encourages feedback from end users and facilitates seamless communication throughout the different phases of development for speedy prototyping and iterations.

For successful application development, project managers must provide such an environment while considering the needs and requirements of clients and the skills of every team member and end user.

A great RAD environment should be agile and adaptive to accommodate changes in the requirements or conditions of the project at any time.

More importantly, an effective rapid application development environment should provide reliable tools that streamline and simplify the entire development process. For example, providing visual development tools, such as Quickbase, allows non-technical users to take part in the process and implement ideas quickly.

Additionally, the right tools should support or enable automation, data migration, integrations, and cross-platform compatibility. Quickbase allows for safe, fast connection of disparate data across systems, all within Quickbase’s comprehensive internal integration platform.

Matt Lieberson
Written By: Matt Lieberson

Matt Lieberson is a Content Marketing Manager at Quickbase.

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