Rational Unified Process

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The Rational Unified Process (RUP) is an iterative software development process created by the Rational Software Corporation, now a division of IBM. The RUP is not a single concrete prescriptive process, but rather an adaptable process framework. As such, RUP describes how to develop software effectively using proven techniques. While the RUP encompasses a large number of different activities, it is also intended to be tailored, in the sense of selecting the development processes appropriate to a particular software project or development organization. The RUP is recognized as particularly applicable to larger software development teams working on large projects. Rational Software offers a product (known below as the Rational Unified Process Product) that provides tools and technology for customizing and executing the process.

Background of the Rational Unified Process

The creators and developers of this software engineering process focused on diagnosing the characteristics of different failed software projects; by doing so they tried to recognize the root causes of these failures. They also looked at the existing software engineering processes and their solutions for these symptoms.

A representative list of failure causes includes the following:

  • Ad hoc requirements management
  • Ambiguous and imprecise communication
  • Brittle architecture
  • Overwhelming complexity
  • Undetected inconsistencies in requirements, designs, and implementations
  • Insufficient testing
  • Subjective assessment of project status
  • Failure to attack risks
  • Uncontrolled change propagation
  • Insufficient automation

Project failure is caused by a combination of several symptoms, though each project fails in a unique way. The outcome of their study was a system of software best practices they named the Rational Unified Process. Since knowing these problems will not guarantee a successful software product unless the solutions are also considered, they went on to create the Rational Unified Process Product (RUPP).

The Process was designed with the same techniques the team used to design software; it has an underlying object-oriented model, using Unified Modeling Language (UML).

Overview of the Rational Unified Process

Looking at the Overview screen on the RUPP (Rational Unified Process Product) shows you a high level view of the Process. The chart identifies which disciplines are the most active during each phase of the process. For example, the red shape labeled Business Modeling shows heavy activity only in the Inception and Elaboration phases, where as the blue shape representing Project Management shows a more graduated activity over the life of the Process, time and the dynamic aspects of the RUP. From this point of view the process is described in cycles, phases, iterations, and milestones.

Using the RUP, software product lifecycles are broken into individual development cycles. These cycles are further broken into their main components, called phases. In RUP, these phases are termed as:

  • Inception Phase
  • Elaboration Phase
  • Construction Phase
  • Transition Phase

Phases are composed of iterations. Iterations are timeboxes; iterations have deadlines while phases have objectives.

The Inception Phase

The inception phase

In this phase the business case which includes business context, success factors (expected revenue, market recognition, etc), and financial forecast is established. To complement the business case, a basic use case model, project plan, initial risk assessment and project description (the core project requirements, constraints and key features) are generated. After these are completed, the project is checked against the following criteria:

  • Stakeholder concurrence on scope definition and cost/schedule estimates.
  • Requirements understanding as evidenced by the fidelity of the primary use cases.
  • Credibility of the cost/schedule estimates, priorities, risks, and development process.
  • Depth and breadth of any architectural prototype that was developed.
  • Actual expenditures versus planned expenditures.

If the project does not pass this milestone, called the Lifecycle Objective Milestone, it can either be cancelled, or can repeat this phase after being redesigned to better meet the criteria.

The Elaboration Phase

Elaboration phase

The Elaboration phase is where the project starts to take shape. In this phase the problem domain analysis is made and the architecture of the project gets its basic form.

This phase must pass another Lifecycle Architecture Milestone by meeting the following criteria:

  • A use-case model in which the use-cases and the actors have been identified and most of the use-case descriptions are developed. The use-case model should be 80% complete.
  • A description of the software architecture in a software system development process
  • Architecture prototype, which can be executed.
  • Business case and risk list which are revised.
  • A development plan for the overall project.

If the project cannot pass this milestone, there is still time for it to be cancelled or redesigned. After leaving this phase, the project transitions into a high-risk operation where changes are much more difficult and detrimental when made.

The Construction Phase

Construction phase

In this phase the main focus goes to the development of components and other features of the system being developed. This is the phase when the bulk of the coding takes place.

This phase produces the first external release of the software.

The Transition Phase

Transition phase

In the transition phase the product has moved from the development organization to the end user. The activities of the phase include: Training of the end users and maintainers, Beta testing of the system to validate it against the end users expectations. The product is also checked against the quality level set in the Inception phase. If it does not meet this level, or the standards of the end-users, the entire cycle in this phase begins again.


In RUP there are four major milestones that correspond to the four phases. If the milestone criteria are not met the project can be stopped or run in a new iteration to revisit the bottlenecks.

This meta-model of a milestone emphasizes the links between phases, iterations and milestone completion.



A typical project using the RUP will go through several iterations. Dividing the project into iterations has advantages, such as risk mitigation, but it also needs more guidance and effort than the traditional sequential approach. The RUP defines a Project Management Discipline that guides the project manager through iteration management. Using iterations, a project will have one overall phase plan, but multiple iteration plans.

The example below depicts the difference between the traditional sequential waterfall method and the smaller steps in the iteration model.

R: Requirements analysis D: Design C: Coding, Unit testing T: Integration, Test

Static aspects of the RUP

The static 4:

  • Roles are who – a role is the behavior and responsibilities of a person or team, not the person themselves.
  • Artifacts are what – they are the outcome of activities, including all the documents and models produced while working through the process.
  • Workflow is when – it is a sequence of activities or the design of processes that must be completed.
  • Activity is how – it is the actual tasks a worker performs.

This side of the process is called static because it describes how things are done. It is not dependent on the project at hand. For example, the description of the tasks and deliverables of a use-case designer is the same for each project.


A workflow can be any sequence of activities. The RUP organizes workflows into three types:

  • Core workflows
  • Workflow details
  • Iteration plans

In RUP all activities are organized into nine Disciplines:


  • Business Modeling Discipline
  • Requirements Discipline
  • Analysis & Design Discipline
  • Implementation Discipline
  • Test Discipline
  • Deployment Discipline


  • Configuration and Change Management Discipline
  • Project Management Discipline
  • Environment Discipline

Business Modeling discipline

The aim of business modeling is to first establish a better understanding and communication channel between business engineering and software engineering. Understanding the business means that software engineers must understand the structure and the dynamics of the target organization (the client), the current problems in the organization and possible improvements. They must also ensure a common understanding of the target organization between customers, end users and developers.

The RUP's business modeling workflow explains how to describe a vision of the organization in which the system will be deployed and how to then use this vision as a basis to outline the process, roles and responsibilities.

Why Business Modeling?

Organizations are becoming more dependent on IT systems, making it imperative that information system engineers know how the applications they are developing fit into the organization. Businesses invest in IT when they understand the competitive advantage and value added by the technology.

The internet hype is driving the importance of business modeling when developing software products. Thanks to the internet it is now possible for companies to offer their products and services to markets without geographical obstacles. Companies that want to take advantage of these opportunities must automate their business process. (Companies purchasing raw materials and parts on the internet or those trying to sell their products through e-commerce are examples.)

Best Practices of RUP

  1. Develop software iteratively
  2. Manage requirements
  3. Use component based architecture
  4. Visually model software
  5. Verify software quality
  6. Control changes to software

Develop software iteratively

Given the time it takes to develop large sophisticated software systems it is not possible to define the problem and build the solution in a single step. Requirements will often change throughout a project's development, due to architectural constraints, customer's needs or a greater understanding of the original problem. Iteration allows the project to be successively refined and addresses a project's highest risk items as the highest priority task. Ideally each iteration ends up with an executable release – this helps reduce a project's risk profile, allows greater customer feedback and helps developers stay focused.

The RUP uses iterative and incremental development for the following reasons:

  • Integration is done step by step during the development process, limiting it to fewer elements.
  • Integration is less complex, making it more cost effective.
  • Parts are separately designed and/or implemented and can be easily identified for later reuse.
  • Requirement changes are noted and can be accommodated.
  • Risks are attacked early in development since each iteration gives the opportunity for more risks to be identified.
  • Software architecture is improved by repeated scrutiny.

Manage requirements

Requirements Management in RUP is concerned with meeting the needs of end users by identifying and specifying what they need and identifying when those needs change. Its benefits include the following:

  • The correct requirements generate the correct product; the customer's needs are met.
  • Necessary features will be included, reducing post-development cost.

Use component based architecture

Component Based Architecture creates a system that is easily extensible, promotes software reuse and intuitively understandable. A component often relates to a set of objects in Object-oriented programming.

Software Architecture is increasing in importance as systems are becoming large and more complex. RUP focuses on producing the basic architecture in early iterations. This architecture then becomes a prototype in the initial development cycle. This architecture evolves with each iteration to become the final system architecture. RUP also asserts design rules and constraints to capture architectural rules. By developing iteratively it is possible to gradually identify components which can then be developed, bought or reused. These components are often assembled within existing infrastructures such as CORBA and COM, or J2EE.

Visually model software

Abstracting your programming from its code and representing it using graphical building blocks is an effective way to get an overall picture of a solution. Using this representation, technical resources can determine how best to implement a given set of inter-related logics. It also builds an intermediary between the business process and actual code through information technology. A model in this context is a visualization and at the same time a simplification of a complex design. RUP specifies which models are necessary and why.

The Unified Modeling Language (UML) can be used for modeling Use-Cases, Class diagrams and other objects. RUP also discusses other ways to build models.

Verify software quality

Quality assessment is the most common failing point of all software projects, since it is often an afterthought and sometimes even handled by a different team. RUP assists in planning quality control and assessment by building it into the entire process and involving all members of a team. No worker is specifically assigned to quality; RUP assumed that each member of the team is responsible for quality. The process focuses on meeting the expected level of quality and provides test workflows to measure this level.

Control changes to software

In all software projects, change is inevitable. RUP defines methods to control, track and monitor changes. RUP also defines secure workspaces, guaranteeing a software engineer's system will not be affected by changes in another system. This concept ties in heavily with component based architectures.

With the iterative approach, the need for change management is even more necessary because of the sheer volume of artifacts developed. These artifacts will also need to be updated as the iterations evolve. The Change Management workflow in RUP deals with three specific areas:

  • Configuration Management
  • Change Request Management
  • Status and Measurement Management

Configuration Management

Configuration management is responsible for the systematic structuring of the products. Artifacts such as documents and models need to be placed under version control and these changes must be visible. It also keeps track of dependencies between artifacts so all related articles are updated when changes are made.

Change Request Management

During the system development process many artifacts with several versions exist. CRM keeps track of the proposals for change.

Status and Measurement Management

Change requests have states such as new, logged, approved, assigned and complete. A change request also has attributes such as root cause, or nature (like defect and enhancement), priority etc. These states and attributes are stored in database so useful reports about the progress of the project can be produced. Rational also has a product to maintain change requests called ClearQuest.


It was one of the first mainstream iterative processes and legitimized the Unified Modeling Language, as a common way of describing applications in books and documents.

Rational Software has a business model to go with the process. To use the formal RUP documentation and templates it was necessary to buy the RUP methodology and tools, including the Rational Rose design tool. Paying for consultancy was also encouraged. The RUP methodology itself is iterative: new versions come out regularly, with the appropriate upgrade costs.

Adopting RUP was once thought to be expensive, however with an increase of knowledge over the years and the Object Management Group's adoption of the Unified Process (RUP without the document templates) this misunderstanding has been debunked. RUP and the UP are extremely customizable and can and are being used by small as well as large organizations with limited to unlimited budget constraints.

RUP is Use-Case driven and Project Management Centric, rather than document centric. This was the intent of the RUP creators and is evident by the process framework of the RUP/UP. Phases across time, Workflows (Disciplines) across effort, Roles and their subsequent Work-Breakdown-Structure (WBS) across responsibility and accountability; with the artifacts (including prototypes and executables) as deliverables.

The limitations of the product are in understanding its implementation as it is a formal process and requires customization first and foremost. RUP was not intended, not envisioned and not promoted to be used straight "out of the box." This confusion has led to RUP being branded as a weighty and expensive process; which has been proven inaccurate. For the process to be implemented successfully an Organizational Assessment and the production of a Development Case must be accomplished before beginning the process.

The Development Case identifies the number and type of artifacts a project will produce.

Alternatives to RUP

Alternate approaches within the field of software engineering include:

The Rational Unified Process Product

The Rational Unified Process Product (RUPP) is a web-enabled set of tools that define the Process. The fundamentals of the Process are the implementation of the six best practices. By implementing iterative development, requirements management, component-based architecture, visual modeling software, software quality verification, and controlling software changes the RUP tries to prevent failure by attacking the root causes of project failure.

The RUPP documents process implementation for teams and project managers. It also outlines processes for the software engineers, describes which products (artifacts) should be produced and provides tools and templates to enhance the management process. In RUPP there are guidelines for all processes that lead to producing an artifact. With IBM's purchase of the company, IBM Global Services will sell the tools, now integrated with the Eclipse IDE, and the consultancy. Tight integration with that Java development platform may make it a very effective development tool. Its pricing, however, will keep it beyond the reach of most developers.

See also

External links

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