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Rapid Application Development (RAD): What is it and when should you use it?

Updated: Oct 13, 2022

By: Katherine Ina Fuentes, QuickReach Digital Transformation Consulting Associate

There are many ways of developing software, but one method gaining traction is Rapid Application Development or RAD. What makes RAD a better way of developing software?

Rapid Application Development (RAD) focuses on software that is usable and developed through the reuse of codes where possible. This ensures a speedy delivery that is up to date with users’ needs. How does this happen?

1. Requirements Gathering

In the first meetings, the managers meet with the developers and business analysts to discuss their needs and view the prototype of the software to determine whether it fits their needs or if there are other changes that need to be done. To make the meeting more effective, the managers can also bring in the end users to describe minute details that are crucial to their own workflow.

2. Prototyping

The business analysts then meet internally with the developers to map the process and create a prototype. Developers and business analysts work together to determine which processes can be reused and tweaked to minimize writing code from scratch.

3. Iteration

The developers and business analysts then continue to work on and improve on the prototype until it becomes a full-fledged system. Rapid application development emphasizes constant collaboration with customers and users to ensure that the final product to be delivered is delightful. Part of the iteration is continuous testing to ensure user acceptance and functionality in all possible use cases.

Compared to traditional software development, rapid application development allows for smaller projects that departments can tackle and implement on their own. Since the systems being developed with rapid application development (RAD) are not too complex, these systems are easier to implement and adjust as needed. This can lead to a quick win towards better efficiency for the team.

While development teams work on the prototype, users can immediately see how the whole software would work. With this immediate feedback loop, developers can adjust and revisit the user’s needs in a matter of days instead of weeks. This also addresses user training as the users already have a general idea of how to use the system. Since testing occurs with the development of features, users are ensured that the software captures their evolving needs.

RAD also enables users to define their own data tables. Systems developed with this method allows users the flexibility to pull data from various sources of the system and compile them into custom reports. This is difficult to do with traditional systems that must have a pre-defined template to go with in order to create reports.

When should you go RAD?

As mentioned earlier, rapid application development (RAD) is ideal for when you need software that is not too complex and implemented immediately and ideally to a small group of users first. RAD is not appropriate for developing custom systems such as core systems, ERPs, and accounting systems. These kinds of systems take intensive business analysis and coding time depending on how complex the processes need to be.

However, RAD is very much helpful for automating processes that can be replicated and tweaked accordingly. Most of these processes that can be done on RAD are simple workflows such as reimbursement and leave applications. At its core, these processes share the same features: an employee submits a form, a supervisor approves the request, and the request gets processed by a department. While the contents of the form may vary and the routing may be more complex, components in the code can be replicated for as many steps as needed. This is why most systems developed using RAD are known as “low-code” systems: codes are reused and tweaked accordingly. This makes for faster development cycles between 30 to 90 days.

Another process that RAD can be utilized for would be accounts payable. Similar to reimbursement and leave applications, the process Submit-Evaluate-Process can be extended to suppliers. Suppliers can submit their invoices via a mobile app or email, a purchasing officer can evaluate and match the invoice, and the finance department can then process the payment. Throughout this process, the supplier has visibility on their own receivables from that client. This builds better transparency and supplier relations which would be more beneficial to both parties in the long run.

Rapid application development (RAD) is only beginning to gain traction, but more and more companies are beginning to realize the value of software that is developed quickly and in a more scalable manner. RAD can help these companies align their strategies with technology tools in order to deliver better value to their customers while reducing the headache and cost of managing their business


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