It’s no surprise that Rapid Application Development, or RAD, has become increasingly popular within the software development sphere. As an agile and accelerated approach to app design, RAD offers numerous benefits and helps to overcome many of the challenges associated with more traditional dev methodologies. Namely, it is faster, more cost-effective, less rigid, and more accessible. But what is behind these benefits? Let’s look at how rapid application development works, how low-code/no-code functions as its foundation, and the advantages of no-code-driven rapid application development.

What is Rapid Application Development?

Rapid Application Development (RAD) is a software development approach that leverages continual user feedback and multiple iteration cycles for greater flexibility and efficiency. This method, unique for its ability to rapidly create web-based and mobile applications, has become increasingly popular as the demand for new software tools and applications exceeds the supply of IT specialists. 

Moreover, RAD has been embraced within the IT world for its adaptability: compared to more rigid software development strategies, it allows for continuous changes and tweaks to be made—without going back to the drawing board.

In the end, rapid application development tools such as low-code/no-code are essential for businesses seeking to improve processes in a sustainable, cost-effective, and timely way. Whether it’s creating a RAD feedback/construction loop between users and dev teams, or putting the dev tools directly into the hands of citizen developers, low-code/no-code allows businesses to keep up with digitization and automation trends without making significant structural changes. 

RAD can be broken down into four steps. These rapid application development phases are: 

  1. Project requirements
  2. User feedback
  3. Construction
  4. Final implementation

In the first phase, the general scope of the application is decided by a small team consisting of managers, IT developers, and end users. Unlike more conventional software development methodologies, where most decisions are made in an initial stage, early RAD project requirements are looser and less set in stone.

The next phases, user feedback, and construction are really at the heart of the RAD process. This is where software developers and users collaborate to create and test app prototypes, respectively. In short, users provide feedback about each app iteration and developers implement their input in the next iteration. These phases are repeated continuously until both users and developers are satisfied with the final product. 

In the final implementation phase, IT developers fine-tune the prototype, put the app through more rigorous testing, and prepare the final product. The main difference between RAD and traditional software development is that the user (or client) is involved in the development process and there is a greater level of transparency throughout.

RAD Foundations: Low-code/No-code Platforms

Today, rapid application development is increasingly enabled by the emergence of low-code/no-code platforms. Low-code/no-code solutions, such as TrackVia, facilitate app development by minimizing the amount of code required. Manually writing code for traditional software development is incredibly time-consuming and requires a highly skilled IT team. Low-code/no-code, by contrast, provides an intuitive interface that enables developers of all skill levels to drag-and-drop various app functions into a streamlined workflow.

In the context of the rapid application development phases, low-code/no-code enables developers to accelerate iteration cycles by quickly developing app prototypes for user feedback and integrating changes based on user input. With low-code/no-code, dev projects that would normally take months can get off the ground in mere days. And changes that would typically require going back to square one—significantly driving up project timelines and costs—can be executed with ease. 

Ultimately, low-code/no-code makes RAD viable and can even enhance the quality of final applications. Developers have the tools to rapidly create app prototypes and are not impeded if and when changes are needed. 

While code-heavy software development processes must remain on track and within budget—which restricts how many tweaks and improvements can be implemented— low-code/no-code platforms enhance RAD’s agility and capacity for app optimization.

Two Types of Low-code/No-code Platforms

Low-code/no-code platforms on the market today generally fit into two categories. There are platforms purpose-built for professional developers and there are those designed primarily for citizen developers, who have no formal training in coding and software development. 

Low-code for developers

Some low-code platforms are designed for IT teams to streamline application development workflows by simply minimizing the amount of coding input required. These types of platforms require less manual coding than traditional development processes but still require deep knowledge and a technical understanding of coding. 

With this type of low-code solution, the approach to app development is accelerated but still heavily reliant on developers. Specifically, customers or employees within an organization must still submit a request to IT departments for an app they need and, when availability allows, dev teams build the app with input from users. 

Thanks to low-code, the development of the application itself happens rapidly, but the entire process can be significantly slowed by backlogs of requests submitted to IT teams. And, as many businesses will know, scaling IT departments to address this backlog is difficult due to skills shortages and prohibitive costs. 

No-code for citizen developers

Low-code/no-code solutions designed for non-developers offer an alternative and solve the aforementioned challenges associated with dev-oriented tools. These types of low-code/no-code platforms do not require extensive knowledge of coding and can thus be used by citizen developers. 

Citizen developers are employees within a business that—with the right rapid application development tools—can create custom applications to optimize and automate various workflows.

There are many benefits to implementing this user-friendly low-code/no-code approach. For starters, it empowers citizen developers to create and manage applications themselves. This in turn alleviates IT backlogs and enables professional dev teams to focus on larger, enterprise-level jobs. Citizen developers also have insights into their department’s processes that IT teams may not have. With low-code/no-code tools at their disposal, they can therefore solve efficiency problems independently and get apps up and running within weeks or even days.

Scalable, efficient app development

In the end, rapid application development tools such as low-code/no-code are essential for businesses seeking to improve processes in a sustainable, cost-effective, and timely way. Whether it’s creating a RAD feedback/construction loop between users and dev teams, or putting the dev tools directly into the hands of citizen developers, low-code/no-code allows businesses to keep up with digitization and automation trends without making significant structural changes.

Interested in learning more about rapid application development and citizen development? Check out the 2021 Gigaom report: Real-World Citizen Development, How to Achieve Sustainable Rapid Delivery

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