..] is used to create forms for data input and display. (the) links to office applications (are represented by) a spreadsheet for the analysis and manipulation of numeric information or a word processor for report template creation. (the) report generator is used to define and create reports from information in the database."
The number of studies which actually reveal implications of RAD usage within online commercial operations is quite limited. However, when presented with the available materials, the reader can form several opinions relative to the feature. For instance, since the development cycles are reduced, the final product (or at least a working version of the final product) will be quickly presented to the user. This will consequently increase his satisfaction. Consider the basic example where a software company is contracted to develop and maintain a website for Wal-Mart. The contractor desires that the website presented their customers with all available information on products, promotions, contact information, service assistance and any other data they might find useful. Also, they will desire for the customers to be able to finalize online purchases. The development and maintenance of such a project using traditional or waterfall methods is quite time costly and requires the engagement of several resources. The usage of RAD however, guarantees that Wal-Mart will receive their website relatively soon. Then, they will be able to make sales, increase the customers' access to the company's products and services, increase and consolidate their market share and consequently register increased profits. In this context, the higher fee paid to the software company (relative to another company that would have requested less, but would have used another programming methodology and would have made a tardy delivery) will have made a desired return on investment.
Continuing the previous example, the new website built with the aid of rapid application development would have other benefits that would attract large numbers of users. In this order of ideas, two such advantages stand out. First of all, the website would be developed with the usage of multiple graphical elements. This would make it increasingly appealing. Secondly, not only would the website look good, it would also be highly easy to use by both novice and internet experts. This feature is basically possible through the integration of various interface methods, which make the project user-friendly.
The actual development of e-commerce pages is made significantly easier with RAD, mostly due to the various features and actions allowed by the methodology. In this order of ideas, the software engineer is able to drag various objects from several external sources and drop them onto the webpage he is working on. This reduces the time spent on creating or recreating the objects and it also makes his work simpler. But he does not have to drag and drop, he can create new and original objects or he can import them from other documents. "You can create your own custom objects, reuse objects from the organizational library, create your own library from various sources and even reverse engineer objects into your library from existing applications [...] if a link or a graphic or a component is broken or missing, it is easily visible in this graphical environment. It maintains development documentation and activity history. It allows you to develop component-based web applications through custom code libraries, reverse engineering and use of smart templates. It generates professional, server optimized, interactive web applications that look the same in all browsers."
Other features which make the rapid application development a beneficial addition to online commercial operations could be summarized as follows:
the websites are productive, but also easily developed and maintained all customer requirements can be met and adapted along the way (this is extremely important in online retail, where product names, characteristics or prices often change) the projects integrate automated management, which aid the client in improving their administrative operations the projects foster creativity and allow the engineers the freedom to create new and better features
RAD eliminates the image of broken down websites, divided into various objects, and creates the image of a unified whole the methodology allows a better control of all features being developed or needed to be integrated
RAD creates valuable basis, which can be further improved and readapted to even suit different goals the engineers can develop websites that can be run on multiple browsers they even allow the addition and improvement through smart templates the feature of automated publishing can also increase the productivity of the project
RAD allows the development of webpages specially designed for a particular web server the programming languages and codes used though RAD applications are generally simplistic and do not pose impediments for a formed programmer they offer the possibility to add unique features or any other elements and objects for a maximum customization and personalization of the web based application they also keep track of the operations developed and allow the user to redo or undo any activities the RAD methodology also supports projects with multiple target servers
Just like with any other business strategies, the successful implementation of the rapid application development depends directly on the skills and capabilities of the corporate leaders. Foremost, it depends directly upon their abilities to perfectly adapt and adjust the software project to the unique requirements of the company and the clients. A relevant example in the sense of methodology applied to unique tasks is given by CoRAD, customer-oriented rapid application development. The model was designed by the Cambridge Technology Partners and it "brings together a unique combination of technical, business, creative, and cognitive disciplines to implement high-impact, successful e-commerce solutions." The creators understood and implemented the idea of a unified image and the concept that the web based application would not represent a simple website, but an actual new distribution and communication liaison between company and stakeholders. The methodology implies five distinct stages: strategic planning, product definition, product development, product design and last, product delivery.
In the first stage, the Cambridge specialists support the client in identifying the most suitable e-strategy which will register the highest return on investment. Then, in product definition, the teams identify the characteristics of the target market for the desired product. In the third stage, the software architects will develop a secure, scalable and reliable infrastructure. They will then produce and actually deliver it to the final customer.
6. Advantages and Disadvantages of Rapid Application Development
The specialized literature has dedicated several studies to the identification of the core competencies and limitations of RAD and the RAD projects. These can be succinctly presented as follows:
increased flexibility and adaptability to changes along project development the development and delivery timelines and generally reduced, the final product or a version of it being quickly available to the customer the development of the RAD project requests the involvement of various users, increasing as such the chances for the products to be well received the project risks are generally reduced by the usage of rapid application development prototyping applications give users a tangible description from which to judge whether critical system requirements are being met by the system. Report output can be compared with existing reports. Data entry forms can be reviewed for completeness of all fields, navigation, data access (drop down lists, checkboxes, radio buttons, etc.)" other advantages include: "development conducted at a higher level of abstraction, greatly reduced manual coding, possibly fewer defects, possibly reduced costs (and) standardized look and feel"
when a software company engages in the development of a RAD project, they do not know the amount of time it will take for the project to be completed the success of the RAD projects depends directly on the involvement and feedback received from users, which may not come in time, negatively affecting as such the project the RAD projects require an already formed and specialized team of developers, who must be constantly trained; also, financial resources are required for the purchasing and maintenance of the necessary toolset and hardware; ergo, additional expenditure would occur the RAD projects provide limited control, are often less efficient and tend to lose the scientific precision there is a high dependence upon tertiary components, which could in the end delay the delivery, limit the desired functionality, add unnecessary features and generate legal problems other limitation of rapid application development include: "more defects, reduced features, standardized look and feel (undistinguished, lacklustre appearance) and successful efforts (may be) difficult to repeat"
The concept of rapid application development was introduced in early 1990s and it has since been developed and improved to fit various needs. The primary feature to be remembered about RAD is that it increases the flexibility and adaptability of a software project to meet the unique needs of each customer, and also to cope with the incurred changes. The methodology basically addresses a narrow line of objectives and the development is basically vertical.
Maner, W., 1997, Rapid Application Development, Bowling Green State University, http://csweb.cs.bgsu.edu/maner/domains/RAD.htmL. Ast accessed on June 16, 2008…