In industries that consider physical products a prototype is typically a small-scale object made from inexpensive material that resembles the final product to a certain degree, some characteristics, details or features being completely ignored (e.g. the inner design, some components, the finishing, etc.). Building several prototypes is much easier and cheaper than building the end product, they allowing to play with a concept or idea until it gets close to the final product. Moreover, this approach reduces the risk of ending up with a product nobody wants.
A similar approach and reasoning is used in Software Engineering as well. Building a prototype allows focusing at the beginning on the essential characteristics or aspects of the application, process or business model under consideration. Upon case one can focus on the user interface (UI) , database access, integration mechanism or any other feature that involves a challenge. As in the case of the UI one can build several prototypes that demonstrate different designs or architectures. The initial prototype can go through a series of transformations until it reaches the desired form, following then to integrate more functionality and refine the end product gradually. This iterative and incremental approach is known as rapid evolutional prototyping.
A prototype is useful especially when dealing with the uncertainty, e.g. when adopting (new) technologies or methodologies, when mixing technologies within an architecture, when the details of the implementation are not known, when exploring an idea, when the requirements are expected to change often, etc. Building rapidly a prototype allows validating the requirements, responding agilely to change, getting customers’ feedback a d sign-off as early as possible, showing them what’s possible, how the future application can look like, and this without investing too much effort. It’s easier to change a design or an architecture in the concept and design phases than later.
In BI prototyping resumes usually in building queries to identify the source of the data, reengineer the logic from the business application, prove whether the logic is technically feasible, feasibility being translate in robustness, performance, flexibility. In projects that have a broader scope one can attempt building the needed infrastructure for several reports, to make sure that the main requirements are met. Similarly, one can use prototyping to build a data warehouse or a data migration layer. Thus, one can build all or most of the logic for one or two entities, resolving the challenges for them, and once the challenges solved one can go ahead and integrate gradually the other entities.
Rapid prototyping can be used also in the implementation of a strategy or management system to prove the concepts behind. One can start thus with a narrow focus and integrate more functions, processes and business segments gradually in iterative and incremental steps, each step allowing to integrate the lesson learned, address the risks and opportunities, check the progress and change the direction as needed.
Rapid prototyping can prove to be a useful tool when given the chance to prove its benefits. Through its iterative and incremental approaches it allows to reach the targets efficiently