Information Systems Development

This chapter focuses on the concepts surrounding the development of information systems. It begins with a discussion of software development methodologies, then covers programming languages and tools, and finishes with a review of implementation methodologies. As you read, reflect upon all the different pieces that must come together in order for a system to be developed.

Rapid Application Development

RAD Methodology

Rapid Application Development (RAD) focuses on quickly building a working model of the software, getting feedback from users, and then using that feedback to update the working model. After several iterations of development, a final version is developed and implemented.

The RAD methodology consists of four phases.

  1. Requirements Planning. This phase is similar to the preliminary analysis, system analysis, and design phases of the SDLC. In this phase the overall requirements for the system are defined, a team is identified, and feasibility is determined.
  2. User Design. In the user design phase representatives of the users work with the system analysts, designers, and programmers to interactively create the design of the system. Sometimes a Joint Application Development (JAD) session is used to facilitate working with all of these various stakeholders. A JAD session brings all of the stakeholders for a structured discussion about the design of the system. Application developers also participate and observe, trying to understand the essence of the requirements.
  3. Construction. In the construction phase the application developers, working with the users, build the next version of the system through an interactive process. Changes can be made as developers work on the program. This step is executed in parallel with the User Design step in an iterative fashion, making modifications until an acceptable version of the product is developed.
  4. Cutover. Cutover involves switching from the old system to the new software. Timing of the cutover phase is crucial and is usually done when there is low activity. For example, IT systems in higher education undergo many changes and upgrades during the summer or between fall semester and spring semester. Approaches to the migration from the old to the new system vary between organizations. Some prefer to simply start the new software and terminate use of the old software. Others choose to use an incremental cutover, bringing one part online at a time. A cutover to a new accounting system may be done one module at a time such as general ledger first, then payroll, followed by accounts receivable, etc. until all modules have been implemented. A third approach is to run both the old and new systems in parallel, comparing results daily to confirm the new system is accurate and dependable. A more thorough discussion of implementation strategies appears near the end of this chapter.

As you can see, the RAD methodology is much more compressed than SDLC. Many of the SDLC steps are combined and the focus is on user participation and iteration. This methodology is much better suited for smaller projects than SDLC and has the added advantage of giving users the ability to provide feedback throughout the process. SDLC requires more documentation and attention to detail and is well suited to large, resource-intensive projects. RAD makes more sense for smaller projects that are less resource intensive and need to be developed quickly.