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Combining RAD and Lean Methods

Can RAD and Lean Development Models Work Together for Your Business?

There are numerous software development models suited for developing different types of systems or applications, based on your business specific needs. Picking up the right model is extremely important for delivering the expected results within the defined time limits, inside the approved budget. To select the right approach to develop your software, you need to understand the differences between the standard software development models out there.

In this post, we explain two of the widely used software development models: Rapid Application Development and Lean methodology, the development process followed by each and how combining both the methods could benefit your business.

Rapid Application Development (RAD)
Also known as Rapid Application Building (RAB), it is one of the adaptive software development approaches which evolved to challenge the traditional Waterfall development practices. RAD places less emphasis on planning and more on the adaptive process. It focuses on rapid prototyping and user feedback over stringent and costly planning and requirements recording.

While Rapid Application Development de-emphasizes rigid planning, like any other software development methodology, it involves some specific steps which can be broadly classified into the following four phases:

1. Planning requirements:
Figuring out the scope of the project and what it is supposed to accomplish is the first stage. It begins by outlining the set of required elements because the key principle of Rapid Application Development is the authorization to change the needs at any point in the cycle. All the users, developers, designers, IT staff members, and managers discuss and agree on business needs, project scope, timeline, estimated budget, constraints, and system requirements.

2. User Design (Prototyping):
At this point, user’s interactions are analyzed to develop models and prototypes that replicate the processes, inputs, and outputs. Efforts are put in to build working models of the system that satiate the requirements of the client. User feedback is heavily used to determine the system’s architecture. User Design is an interactive process which is carried out through the cycle to understand, modify, and ultimately approve a prototype of the system that meets their needs.

3. Rapid Construction:
Following the user design, actual application coding, testing, and integration take place during the construction phase. Users continue to participate and suggest changes or improvements while actual screens or reports are being developed. Change requests and new requirements are incorporated to meet the needs of the project.

4. Cutover or Transition:
This is similar to the implementation phase in SDLC which involves data conversion, testing, the transition to the new system, and user training. The development team moves the components to a live production environment to conduct full-fledged testing. Training sessions are imparted to the team as required.

Lean Methodology
Lean software development emphasizes on optimizing efficiency and minimizing waste in software development. Lean had its origins in the manufacturing industry, pioneered by Toyota’s Production System that identified and reduced wastes to improve overall customer value. The methodology offers a robust conceptual framework, practices, and values derived from experience which makes it an integral part of the agile community. Lean aims to streamline every aspect of software development lifecycle by managing wastes at all levels to improve
efficiencies.

Lean software development is built around these seven principles:

1. Eliminate waste:
Waste elimination is the guiding principle in lean software development. Anything that doesn’t add value to the customer is a waste, which should be recognized and removed. Examples include additional processes, wait time, product defects, partially done work, and so on.

2. Amplify learning:
Instead of detailed documentation and exhaustive planning, Lean method encourages gathering user feedback through short sessions. Testing and trying codes in iteration could lead to new ideas by throwing more light into domain problems.

3. Decide as late as possible:
There is always some uncertainty associated with software development, but better results can be achieved through “options-based” approach. Decisions should be based on facts and not on vague assumptions. When decisions are bound on facts, it gives more ability to adapt to changes. Any mistake discovered post the project release is very costly and affects the quality of the product delivered.

4. Deliver as fast as possible:
Only the fastest survive in this era of technological disruption. What a customer needs today may not be the same as yesterday. In the terminology of “speed”, decisions can be delayed, not the delivery. Customers accept you only if you can deliver a quality product at a rapid pace.

5. Empower the team:
The lean approach follows the agile principle “find good people and let them do their job”.
Beyond receiving a list of tasks assigned to them, people need motivation, access to resources, and a practical purpose to work for. This will motivate them to stay committed and deliver their best.

6. Build integrity in:
A customer’s perception of integrity is based on their whole experience of the system you have designed, developed and delivered, its intuitiveness, its price, and how well it could solve the customer’s problems. The system should do what the customer expects it to do.

7. See the whole:
Software development doesn’t happen in silos. It’s a sum of many tasks- small and big- performed at different stages of development and also a result of the multiple interactions that occur between different vendors, teams, and components. Optimizing the whole process increases the speed of value delivery.

Developing applications using RAD and Lean


It’s not necessary that Rapid Application Development works the same for every project and hence shouldn’t be used indiscriminately. You can use the RAD approach in specific scenarios like the following:

 You need to create a working application more quickly due to a tight deadline.
 When your client is available to review the development process regularly and suggest constant improvements
 When you want to eliminate any chances of expensive errors in the software creation process
 When you have the budget to hire more technology experts who can quickly give life to your ideas

Is Lean an alternative to Rapid Application Development?
Many software development companies resort to Lean methodology when they find RAD too expensive to fulfill their requirements. What makes Lean desirable for many is its ability to focus on reducing waste throughout a project. The lean model allows you to scrap unwanted features at an earlier stage and places your team’s autonomy on your customer’s needs.

Combining Rapid Application Development with Lean Software Development is best-of-breed because if one focuses on rapid prototyping based on user feedback, the other is keen working on a thin budget by reducing waste. RAD offers a flexible and adaptive development experience when Lean makes the development process highly sustainable.

How both work for industries
It’s interesting to note the way SMBs use rapid application development principles and lean model together. Take the case of an enterprise’s IT team that is developing an employee onboarding application. They could start the process using RAD, where they sit and discuss with the company’s management, HR, recruitment and onboarding team and develop something close to what they require. Then using the lean method, the new application can be optimized to perform the way it should because lean is the one word for Build-Measure-Learn.

A case in point is Genpact’s addition of Mendix to its partner ecosystem. Genpact is a global leader in digitally-powered business process management and services. The organization is well-known for its “Lean Digital approach” that’s powering its digital transformation. Mendix is a leading application platform-as-a-service (PaaS) provider, recognized for its “low code rapid application development model” that allows businesses to collaborate, innovate, differentiate, streamline costs, and deliver new applications faster. By adding Mendix to its partner ecosystem, Genpact aims to develop an innovative solution for improving model compliance operations.

Another case of linking RAD and Lean comes from healthcare. One of the primary challenges faced by clinicians is that they have limited input in the fundamental decisions on care delivery.

Very often, initial decisions are taken based on the existing facilities that they have. Various studies reveal that 30 to 40 percent of healthcare production is waste and rapid prototyping is a method that can enable healthcare providers to eliminate waste and streamline operations during a project.

Demands evolve with time. Desktop and web application development has now given way to mobile app development and cloud. When the project requirements get sophisticated, you need a highly optimal application development model or a lucrative combination of models to accomplish the feat. Our consultants and development teams at Toobler understand this very well, and we optimize the software development life cycle in a whole new way for our clients.

Contact Us to know more about our services.

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