The meaning of R&D in software development

R&D, which stands for research and development, has been seen by software developers as an elite software development process for products that are not fitted for more than a handful of clients. At the same time, it is seen as a more innovative way of making software. This thought process should be changed though, as more and more companies prove that R&D can be meaningful for traditional software development.

The difference between R&D and software development

First of all, let’s distinguish the difference between software development and R&D. After all, they both include the keyword – “development”. Software development is essentially the whole work process that eventually creates a product or a service desired by a real customer. R&D, however, is more of an experimentation with ideas and technology. The results of R&D may never actually become a product and that’s ok, because the stage has proven that certain things are just not meant to be done (or done in the way someone thought they could).

R&D is more about developing new solutions for a specific problem domain. If it was to become a fully-developed software product, it would have to be re-implemented to fit more clients and their needs. The software that is a product of R&D must be re-implemented in such a way that it becomes accessible and used by the commodity user.

We shouldn’t overlook the “research” part of R&D, either. Research usually implies scholarly or scientific inquiry and it tends to aim at some hypothetical situation. Software development, on the other hand, Is usually driven by the potential for profit.

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The meaning of R&D in software development

Seeing all the differences between the two, it’s hard to overlook that R&D is still necessary for successful software development. R&D can be, indeed, very product oriented. It helps developers to do something interesting and important, using the techniques and technology available. So does software development. Thus, virtually all software development is a crucial part of the R&D.

R&D for software development is a starting point for development. It gives the company ideas about what could be done, what is needed on the market and what the clients are looking for. It also helps to develop software as a particular kind of a beta version, which is usually aimed (as we stated before) at one client. If it seems to work, it goes into re-design and re-development, so that it fits a wider market. This shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing though. Yes, the first version was designed for elite clients, but it was done so to research if the product is actually useful and needed.

Software houses usually have a clear line drawn between software development and R&D. The latter serves them as a means to create software for tomorrow, allowing at the same time the production software development to continue in the present. It doesn’t mean that traditional software development should be seen as non-innovative. It only means that the big and bold ideas that are not too realistic now are saved for later. If you are interested in this thread and would like to seek for further information, please feel free to get in touch with