7 March, 2024

What is the Rational Unified Process – RUP?

In this video I want to answer the question, what is the Rational Unified Process, RUP? And how does it work?

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The Rational Unified Process

The Rational Unified Process (RUP) is an agile software development and project management framework.

It is used to build complex systems and covers the entire software development life cycle (SDLC) and was developed by Rational Software, now a part of IBM. It is the most widely-used specific variant of the generic unified software development process or unified process.

The Principles of the Rational Unified Process

Unified processes are iterative and incremental. Iterations are timeboxed cycles of work that each produce a working version of the software that can be demonstrated to, and used by, users or clients. Much of RUP takes from this generic framework. RUP is agile because various components can be adjusted, and phases of the cycle can be repeated until the software meets requirements and objectives.

RUP puts a strong emphasis on gathering and understanding user requirements. We need to know what they want the final product to be able to do before we can plan our project, to create it.

In software terms, RUP takes an architecture-centric approach. This means that we create an overall design for the software, before we write a single line of code. This means our final product will be well-structured and easy to maintain.

A final principle of RUP is ‘component-based development’. This means building software systems from pre-existing components or modules, rather than from scratch. It reduces risk and speeds up development, producing more reliable code.

The Rational Unified Process Life Cycle

In RUP, the project life cycle has four phases with activities activities taking place during them. These are: inception, elaboration, implementation, and transition. It also offers a structured approach to assigning tasks and responsibilities in a team.

We can visualize the process with a time dimension on the horizontal axis with phases and cycles, iterations, and milestones.

On the vertical axis is the process dimension. These are the activities, artifacts, and processes

The Rational Unified Process

The Rational Unified Process Phases

Below are the phases of the Rational Unified Process (RUP) for software development and project management.

Inception Phase

During the Inception phase, we:

  • Determine the project’s goals
  • Align our stakeholders around them
  • Assess the project’s viability and suitability – this may mean we need to create a high-level requirements model, to define the project’s scope. We might also develop a prototype of the user interface.
  • Carry out an initial risk analysis to find potential major risks to the success of your project.
  • Develop a business case and secure funding
  • Develop the structure and high-level plan for the project

Elaboration Phase

During the Elaboration phase, we analyze the project’s requirements and architecture in depth, to fully understand the end-product and so develop the software architecture.

We also aim to:

  • Mitigate any high-risk aspects of the project.
  • Ensure the project team builds a comprehensive, shared understanding of the system.
  • Elaborate and refine the users’ requirements
  • Create a preliminary design

Implementation Phase

This is the phase where we develop the software system. The principle we follow is to construct it, as far as possible, from pre-existing, tested components. Where features need something new, this is also when we code them.

This makes the implementation phase the longest and most complex. It typically takes place over a period of months, divided into two-week iterations. Management processes focus on cost and resource management, and quality assurance.

Once we have built an application, it is also tested in the construction stage. Typically, the sequence is:

  • Developing  components
  • Component testing
  • Assembling the components into a working system
  • System testing

You may also like our video on the Software Testing Process. I will put a link in the description: https://youtu.be/sGwm4p9sGPI

Transition Phase

The final stage in the RUP product development life cycle marks the transition from development to production, where the software becomes available to its users. The transition phase sees:

  • Final end-to-end testing of the software
  • Dealing with problems and defects a
  • Software release and distribution to customers or end-users

Once the users start working with the system, problems are bound to arise. These may require changes to be made to the system. The product will therefore be updated or altered to address user feedback.

The RUP Process Dimension

Across the four phases of the RUP framework are a set of processes or disciplines.

1. Business modeling

Rational Unified Process (RUP) models the business processes, to help articulate user requirements.

2. Requirements

These requirements describe what the system needs to do and how it should function.  Developers agree on the requirements with developers in the Inception and Elaboration phases. We then document them in a vision document.

3. Analysis and design

The third process is about articulating how we will build the system in the Construction phase, to meet all user functional requirements and quality standards. We create a model design that serves as a blueprint for the rest of the project.

4. Implementation

Implementation is the term RUP gives to the construction of the full system. It therefore happens mainly in the construction phase and is where components are tested and released.

5. Testing

The objective of testing is to verify the proper integration of all the components and the working of the full system. It’s where we’ll uncover and resolve any defects. Crucially, testing doesn’t only happen in the testing phase. The Rational Unified Process (RUP) is iterative, so testing happens throughout the project.

We test for:

  • Reliability
  • Functionality
  • Application management
  • System performance

6. Deployment

Finally, we need to release the completed software system into production so our beneficial users can work with it. There are many things to do, that include:

  • Packaging
  • Distribution
  • Installation
  • Help and assistance
  • Data migration
  • Acceptance testing
  • Final acceptance

In addition, there are three supporting disciplines:

  1. Configuration and change management – controlling and tracking scope, functionality, and technical change
  2. Project management – planning, implementation, monitoring, and control
  3. Environment – customizing the process to the specific context

Summarizing the Rational Unified Process

The RUP is an iterative and incremental software development project process. Like traditional Project Management, it is divided into phases: Inception, Elaboration, Construction, and Transition. But, like more familiar agile approaches, it embraces timeboxing and adaptation.

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Mike Clayton

About the Author...

Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.
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