Iterative requires a highly experienced Agile team comfortable with ambiguity, rapid changes, prototyping, and soliciting constant user feedback. For large, complex projects with many unknowns, an iterative methodology allows for uncertainty and emerging requirements. Smaller, simpler projects can benefit from the predictable structure of incremental development.

incremental development model

Iterative development can eliminate many of those issues and allows more flexibility and adaptability in the SDLC. Developers can incorporate user feedback, which is based on an actual working product and not just technical specifications, and make changes to improve the product. These improvements happen during successive iterations instead of toward the end of the SDLC, when deadline pressures are high.

Iterative and Incremental Development in Agile

However, it’s not as useful in situations where requirements are well-defined and stable, there’s a fixed timeline and budget, and for small and simple projects. For large, complex projects, an iterative development approach may be the best choice. Iterative development allows the development team to break the project down into smaller, manageable chunks, hence making it easier to focus on one aspect of the project at a time. This can help reduce the overall risk of the project and improve the quality of the software. Incremental and iterative software development models are often used interchangeably when discussing Scrum and agile approaches. Although both methods are part of the development process, they have some key differences.

However, Agile can utilize incremental releases as well to deliver value predictably. In the PMP exam, you will encounter questions about different project management methodologies. A strong understanding of iterative and incremental development is particularly crucial. For projects with faster time-to-market needs, incremental development prioritizes delivering core features first. Iterative is better suited for projects with longer time horizons and flexibility. The iterative development approach provides flexibility but lacks predictability and suits complex projects with unclear requirements more likely to change.

Change management

Iterative and incremental are both software development approaches that describe how we deliver value throughout a product. The main difference between the two approaches is the way they approach the development process. In an iterative approach, the development process is completed in a series of cycles or iterations. Each iteration involves completing a small portion of the overall project, starting with the most important or critical pieces first. The goal of each iteration is to produce a working version of the software that can be tested and refined after evaluation. Iterative software development aims to build a working product as soon as possible, while continuously adding and adapting new features based on user feedback.

This is repeated until the product accomplishes the required functionalities. After testing, feedback is collected from users, stakeholders, and the testing team. This feedback is used to evaluate the software’s performance and identify areas for improvement. This step provides valuable insights on the software’s functionality, usability and alignment with requirements.

The Disadvantages of Incremental Development

To guide the iteration process, a project control list is created that contains a record of all tasks that need to be performed. It includes items such as new features to be implemented and areas of redesign of the existing solution. The control list is constantly being revised as a result of the analysis phase. Iterative and incremental development are two approaches to software development that emphasize flexibility, adaptability and continuous improvement.

It may be beneficial to use a combination of both approaches in order to take advantage of their respective strengths. Check out Plutora for a platform and value stream management system that helps lower the time to value of your software delivery. Plutora offers a wide range of features to improve your software delivery processes, identify errors and bugs, and plan and orchestrate releases. If you want help managing the entire software development lifecycle, including planning, design, development, testing, deployment, and maintenance, give Plutora a try today.

When requirements are unclear or likely to change, iterative allows starting with a high-level vision and refining requirements through each cycle. There are several important factors to weigh when deciding between an incremental or iterative approach for a software project. It’s important to consider all these dynamics to determine the right balance of flexibility and structured plans.

  • Developers can incorporate user feedback, which is based on an actual working product and not just technical specifications, and make changes to improve the product.
  • The more adaptive your processes are to change, the better the output of your product.
  • Developers write the code for the software components and integrate it to create a working system.
  • Accommodating for changes at the end of each short development cycle helps you respond to change faster and more efficiently.
  • To guide the iteration process, a project control list is created that contains a record of all tasks that need to be performed.
  • It can also be very difficult to measure change and minimize it, especially in the initial stages of development.

This frequent feedback can offset the initial scope you set for the project. While the term iterative and incremental development got started in the software industry, many hardware and embedded software development efforts are using iterative and incremental techniques. Iterative development is a way of breaking down the software development lifecycle (SDLC) of a large application into smaller chunks. It is typically used in conjunction with incremental development in which a longer SDLC is split into smaller segments that build upon each other. If product requirements are clearly defined and stable, incremental development works well for systematically addressing them.

The development team creates a basic prototype of the software, which is then tested with users to gather feedback. Based on the feedback, the team iteratively refines and improves the prototype until it meets the desired user requirements and expectations. In an iterative model, a new version of the software is produced after each iteration until the optimal product is achieved. Teams are constantly planning to revisit parts of the system to improve them based on user feedback.

What is iterative and incremental development

The team identifies the most critical or high-priority requirements that will be included in the initial increment. Because you are using shorter development cycles and gathering feedback faster, you are more inclined to identify problems faster and align better with customer needs. Incremental development breaks down a project into smaller chunks, called increment. Each increment can be worked on separately, building on the previous one, so that improvements can be made with each increment. All phases are repeated for each iteration until the final product is ready for delivery. Prior to actual delivery, the team evaluates the entire product and hands it to the client for review.

What is iterative and incremental development

With careful planning, you can utilize the strengths of each to deliver value quickly while adapting to change. Iterative development embraces change at the end of each iteration, using feedback and lessons learned to steer the next iteration. Incremental development requires extensive upfront planning to define the capabilities, scope, and sequence of each increment before coding begins.

Anitais a software developer with experience working with React (Next.js, Gatsby) and in the web development industry. She has professional technical blogging and public speaking skills and enjoys exchanging information. Anita is a community manager at layer5 and creates blog posts for the community blog and she’s a content creator for the Gnome Africa Blog. The fist step is to get buy-in from your team and them take small, gradual steps toward making your processes more iterative.

When I ask for further clarification, it surprises me how frequently people conflate the two methodologies. The development process continues in an iterative manner, with each increment building upon the previous ones. The team collects feedback, evaluates the software’s performance, and refines the requirements for subsequent increments. Incremental development involves breaking down the development process into smaller, manageable portions known as increments.