Don’t go chasing waterfalls—get used to the rapids. Explore rapid application development for faster software delivery and continuous iterations.

Header illustration for rapid application development, showing arrows forward that make a circle at the center point

If you’re looking for a faster method of application development, you’ll want to choose something other than the Waterfall methodology, which requires sticking to a planned schedule and doesn’t allow for continuous iterations. That means you’ll end up restarting the development from the beginning every time the client suggests changes.

Instead, consider the rapid application development (RAD) approach, invented by James Martin in 1991. Though it’s been around for a while, the RAD approach is still popular among those looking for agile methods of application development to keep pace with growing business and client needs.

What is rapid application development, and what are its benefits?

Rapid Application Development (RAD) is a form of agile software development methodology that prioritizes rapid prototype releases and iterations. Unlike the Waterfall method, RAD emphasizes the use of software and user feedback over strict planning and requirements recording.

Some of the key benefits and advantages of RAD are:

  • Enhanced flexibility and adaptability as developers can make adjustments quickly during the development process.
  • Quick iterations that reduce development time and speed up delivery.
  • Encouragement of code reuse, which means less manual coding, less room for errors, and shorter testing times.
  • Increased customer satisfaction due to high-level collaboration and coordination between stakeholders (developers, clients, and end users).
  • Better risk management as stakeholders can discuss and address code vulnerabilities while keeping development processes going.
  • Fewer surprises as, unlike the Waterfall method, RAD includes integrations early on in the software development process.

5 steps or phases in RAD

Phases or steps in RAD

Step 1. Define and finalize project requirements

During this step, stakeholders sit together to define and finalize project requirements such as project goals, expectations, timelines, and budget. When you have clearly defined and scoped out each aspect of the project’s requirements, you can seek management approvals.

Step 2: Begin building prototypes

As soon as you finish scoping the project, you can begin development. Designers and developers will work closely with clients to create and improve upon working prototypes until the final product is ready.

Step 3: Gather user feedback

In this step, prototypes and beta systems are converted into working models. Developers then gather feedback from users to tweak and improve prototypes and create the best possible product.

Step 4: Test, test, test

This step requires you to test your software product and ensure that all its moving parts work together as per client expectations. Continue incorporating client feedback as the code is tested and retested for its smooth functioning.

Step 5: Present your system

This is the final step before the finished product goes to launch. It involves data conversion and user training.

Is your team RAD-ready?

Here’s a checklist that will help you determine your team’s RAD-readiness:

  • Do you need to develop a software product within a short span of time (two to three months)?
  • Do you have an experienced team of developers, coders, and designers who can carry out the work on your timeline?
  • Is your client open to adopting RAD, i.e., will the client be available for collaboration throughout the software development process?
  • Do you have the right tools and technology to implement RAD?

Next steps

Adopting a new process requires buy-in from everyone involved, including your team and your client. If you’ve decided the RAD approach is right for you, here’s what you should do next:

  • Make sure your team has an all-hands-on-deck mindset. Talk to your team about the benefits of the new approach and listen to and address their concerns.
  • Ensure that all stakeholders are willing to adhere to the project timelines.
  • Explore application development software and tools. Invest in one that fits your business’s budget and requirements to be able to effectively apply this methodology.

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