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Elements of RAD cost-benefits analysis

Ante Brkić, Lead Business Analyst/Product owner

In today’s fast-paced world, the software requirements of small to enterprise-level businesses have become so volatile that it has become challenging for developers to keep up. Usually, management is making decisions based on the ROI analysis. They can’t wait for lengthy project completion cycles as it means losing to the competition. That’s why Rapid Application Development has gained popularity as it provides a way for fast-paced software development with the added advantage of reduced cost for the customer.

Cost-Benefit Analysis in Software Development

If you’re embarking on a new software project, then you need to figure out how it’ll benefit your enterprise, given the capital you invested in it. Cost-benefit analysis (CBA) scrutinizes every action you take during software development to derive the cost and the expected financial gain. Actions can include the resources you allocate, the project timeline, the marketing strategy, and how much time you spend on testing. These costs add up during the project lifecycle, but to get an understanding of the worth of the project, they need to be compared with how the end product brings in revenue. Hence, metrics need to be determined like estimated sales or subscription volume, operation and maintenance cost, and the cost of upgrades.

If the benefits outweigh the cost, you have to take alternative software development paths to remain profitable. Alternatively, you may have to figure out ways to increase the product’s value, but that’s challenging and depends on the market you’re competing with. Reducing development costs then remains the only way to develop a suitable product.

How Does Rapid Application Development Reduce Costs for Businesses?

Its name summarizes what it does, but how does it work? Much like how 3D printers revolutionized the manufacturing industry with prototyping for rapid product development, RAD uses the same methodology to accelerate product development – an iterative process of continuous improvement for product development, relying less on customer requirements in the project’s opening phase.

It requires time to master, pushing project managers’ limits to communicate and coordinate with customer and dev teams. However, if a dev team gets accustomed to RAD, it gives them a competitive edge bringing in new clientele; hence, many may have to transition to this model to remain relevant.

seven benefits of rapid application development benefits
Seven benefits of Rapid Application Development benefits

Fast Deployment

Getting prototypes into the customer’s hand as quickly as possible leads to faster feedback and development of the end product. RAD employs regular focus groups like JAD sessions to gather requirements. JAD sessions have the added advantage of keeping the customer part of the build. In turn, the product can be deployed swiftly to perform its intended function. This also means that less time is wasted during those phases of development that lead to nowhere, hence maximizing resource management to only focus on the requirements.

Additionally, the RAD methodology is ideal for incorporating new features in older software versions as most of the product requirements are already outlined, just requiring further integrations of new components while the older version serves as a backbone.

Shorter Project Timeline

Developers may be forced to employ a Rapid Application Development model if they’re working on tight deadlines. It means that skilled developers must handle project constraints, working efficiently and smartly, but that comes at a cost. By reducing the project timeline, these costs become the same; however, fixed expenses become reduced.

Once the build starts, developers use any tools and techniques at their disposal to shorten the development lifecycle. They use computer-aided software engineering (CASE) tools for high quality and low cost, visual programming languages to keep the process simple and easy to understand, and code generators to introduce productivity and efficiency.

Sometimes, the client wants major changes to the project when so much work has already gone into it. Suppose developers were employing sequential models like the waterfall approach. In that case, they’d have to go over each phase to accommodate the changes, lengthening the project timeline more than planned and spilling over huge overrun costs for development. With RAD, significant changes can be incorporated into the final product quickly.

Smarter Technological Assistance

Businesses are not concerned with the kind of technology their software uses at its backend. They’re only concerned with the function it can provide. Using the RAD methodology, developers focus on incorporating those technologies that will aid the product, reflecting how the user views it from a business point of view. Moreover, it becomes easier to test multiple technological approaches, incorporating the one that gives the most cost-effective or efficient outcome, depending on client requirements.

The end goal when using RAD is to get parts of the build ready as quickly as possible and into the hands of the end-user. Prototypes that don’t make part of the final cut are thrown away or recycled; those that are accepted are built upon and incorporated into the final product.

Less Chance of Failure

With extensive prototyping done during the development phase of the project, chances are that errors and bugs can be fixed quickly during the initial stages with each block of the product, allowing fewer errors down the line and mitigating the risk of complete project failure. With traditional models, testing is usually one of the last phases that highlights product issues. Sometimes these issues lead to costly repairs that may drive up project costs. These additional costs are detrimental to software developers as they’ll come out of their profits so that they can stick to the project deadline, impacting product quality. In worst cases, the project may have to be scrapped altogether, leading to heavy losses for the company and the software developer.

Final Word

Using the Rapid Application Development methodology has clear advantages when cutting down on costs and shortening project durations. Be mindful that the software developer needs to have the pre-requisite development and management skillset to complete projects. If time or money isn’t a constraint, or the end product doesn’t require alterations in the long run, it may suit you to approach software development using a different model.

Let us know if you need any help with Rapid Application Development, we will be glad to help.

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