Traditionally RAD has referred to Rapid Application Development, a way of building applications that contrasts with the more formal Waterfall model. As you would expect, RAD produced results quickly using tools that generated the application code from a high-level description or definition (in other words ‘software design specification’). Readjusting the design specification meant the application could be regenerated, thus saving time needed to rebuild the application to accommodate business changes. So, as a corollary, RAD supported Enterprise Agility.
Shortcoming of Rapid Application Development
Such code (re)generation from a model or specification was done using code-generating tools* that focused on database applications – and that includes a lot of applications. The generated code was rarely as good as the code written by a skilled human programmer. But really, many applications did not need hand-crafted code.
The perceived need for highly performant code confined RAD tools to protoyping, and away from final production (real-life) applications. The generated code was hardly readable and very difficult to maintain. Neither could such code be taken into professional development tools (the modern day IDE) for enhancement. This was a real blocker for writing production-grade applications.
Code-generation was really a tradeoff between how quickly one can hack an application together and the resources it needed at runtime. Indeed, the need for constant business innovation was changing the speed at which enterprise applications were being thought up and written.
RAD for live apps gaining acceptance
Two important factors have started to tilt the balance in favor of RAD or generated code: (1) consumerization of IT or increasing importance of user interface (experience), and (2) adoption of the cloud model or scaling through commodity hardware.
1. UX Factor. Good UX can be the main difference between a hugely successful app and a complete failure of an app in the hands of intended users.
Good UX balances amazing looks, engaging experience, and ease of use. These are not easy for developer teams to build into apps, neither is it natural for them. But with the changing profile of employees and customers, most enterprises are realizing the importance of front-end focused applications, and tools that could help achieve good results quickly.
2. Cloud model. Crashing cost of compute and storage means the primary concern of software development is no longer hardware scarcity and optimized resource utilization. Cloud platforms built on commodity hardware and horizontal-scaling designs have further relaxed the need for handcrafted and highly performant code.
Rapid Application Delivery is the new RAD
The factors that lead to increasing acceptability of Rapid Application Development (RAD) point us to the inclusion of Rapid Application Deployment as an important supplement. This changes RAD to Rapid Application Development and Deployment (RADD), or simply Rapid Application Delivery (the new RAD).
This renewed interest in RAD is reducing time to deliver new apps – the time between when a business feels the need for an app and the time it is ready to use. A successful RAD platform may have to focus on all 3 elements involved in delivery of applications: Development, Integration and Deployment. Also, RAD tools need to assist in getting the UX to finish.
* Quoted from the book “Code Complete” By Steve McConnell. More here at Chapter 30.