As more businesses and mid-to-large enterprises undertake a digital transformation, it’s become increasingly clear there’s a strong desire for an easy way to build multi-channel web applications, automate workflows, streamline databases, and generate reports. Developers should make the most of rapid application development tools to help them get the job done as quickly and effectively as possible.
What Are Rapid Application Development Tools?
Traditionally, developers and programmers used a specific language to code software. This required extensive knowledge of several languages, as different applications required features best developed by specific software packages.
This approach places the focus on the code and not the end product. That’s not an effective or efficient way to build user-friendly applications.
Rapid application development tools place the focus on the logic, the workflows, and the interfaces. Visualization tools make it possible for IT people and business people to collaborate on a product, even if the business team member lacks IT experience.
These tools quickly build prototypes to deliver to users to provide feedback that corrects deficiencies and improves the product. Think of them as pre-built technology building blocks.
These prebuilt components go together like Legos or any other building block. For example, one tool might be used to create the user interface and control the information displayed. Another tool might segment customers to create marketing effectiveness reports.
Get the idea?
So, whether you need a way to automate report generation or create an entirely new app for internal use or even for sale, rapid application development tools help you get the job done right and get the job done quickly.
When you combine these tools with the minimum viable product (MVP) approach, you iterate and improve the application faster and for saleable products, you get to market quicker.
When to Use Rapid Application Development Tools?
Rapid application development tools aren’t for all instances. But they can be used in most cases. For example, if your web app or back-office automation must be 100% flawless the first time it sees the light of day, these tools and this approach isn’t for you.
But if you are creating mobile and web apps and are open to rapid prototyping, development, and feedback solicitation then these tools are perfect for the task at hand.
For example, say you are developing an app that needs to recognize organizational hierarchies to safeguard against unauthorized access and ensure users only get access to data for which they are approved. This is a perfect use case for an access control list tool. It’s the building block that secures data and allows users and administrators to set access levels. Why code this over and over when you can just use the access tool?
Or maybe you need to import or export data for your app. That’s a perfect use case for a rapid application development tool. It’s like plug and play, but for an application.
Are You Getting the Idea?
Let’s say you need to add on a powerful in-application search engine. Why give the glory to Google when a rapid application development tool can do the same thing but on-app and faster? You wouldn’t. You would make use of a search tool building block from a rapid application development platform.
Why Use Rapid Application Development Tools?
The obvious answer to the question why is the ability to do more and do more faster. And many times not only do you do more faster, but you do more faster and cheaper.
But that’s just scratching the surface. Rapid application development breeds collaboration because the end-user is more involved in the development process. As a result, they have a higher investment in making sure the end product works well and works as they intend.
And because programmers don’t need knowledge of specific programming languages it’s possible for a wider variety of team members to participate in the development process. When you increase your potential developer population, it’s like increasing your workforce without hiring additional people.
When flexibility is key (and when is it not these days) this method makes each stage of the cycle a bit more flexible. When people expect an iterative process, they are more receptive to changing requirements. This decreases developer frustration and improves end-user satisfaction with the product. That’s because stakeholders are engaged throughout the product life cycle.
Finally, these days every product should be responsive for any device (laptop, smartphone, or any other mobile device) and browser. Coding these by hand is tedious. Rapid application development tools effortlessly make sure users get a great experience no matter what interface they use.
Who Uses These Tools?
Developers use these tools to create enhancements to existing applications or develop new applications. These may be for internal use or made available to the public.
For example, Akeneo is a product information management and product data intelligence product built with rapid application development tools.
Akeno is used by major brands to manage their product experience across multiple channels with a centralized hub. Launched in 2013 after development using rapid application development tools, it quickly grew and is used by over 70,000 customers. Because of the core application’s modular design, they easily react to customer demand for new functionality.
Marello is a digital platform to manage omnichannel commerce. It was also developed using the rapid application development process and open-source rapid application development tools. Falco van der Maden, a Marello founder, calls these tools key to saving their precious time and resources when developing their business application. Because the rapid development tools are included as part of the application, Marello can be operated in a stand-alone environment or layered on top of existing solutions.
Internally, these tools are used to automate back-end processes to improve efficiencies, improve the buyer experience, and manage operations more effectively. For example, a developer of an eCommerce website might use rapid application development tools to automate the Request for Quote process to free sales staff from manually responding to these requests. The sales team member assigned to the project doesn’t need to be a programming expert to describe how the workflow should work internally. The IT team member doesn’t need to be a sales expert to use rapid app tools to create the workflow.
These examples should just prime the pump of creativity within you. Once you start using rapid application development tools, you will be hard-pressed to go back to the old way of doing things.