An iterative process is a sequence of procedures that facilitates the creation of a more refined product or application.
What are the phases in the iterative process?
Instead of development and production leading to a single release of a “complete” end product, the iterative process focuses on a cycle.
- Initial release of a minimum viable product that meets basic requirements
- Continued development and refinement
- Release of the revised product
- Refine/release cycles continue until the product reaches the end of its lifecycle
Because the iterative process involves a constant review of the work and methods used throughout the development process, it is a key principle of lean methodologies and Agile project management.
What are the key features of iterative processes?
At the most basic level, the iterative process makes use of a continuously recycled five-step procedure. These procedures are Planning, Analysis, Implementation, Testing, and Evaluation.
- Planning involves the initial stage of gathering basic data or information needed to create the product.
- Analysis deals with the investigation of the planned approach to creating the product. The approach may be based on some schematic representation, procedural models, or the needs of the end-users.
- Implementation is the application of the models developed during the analysis stage.
- Testing occurs when the model has been applied and the product is ready in order to assess if it meets end-user requirements. If any part of the product/project is not meeting expectations, it is identified and corrected.
- Evaluation involves an overall review of the product and the processes that led to its creation. If satisfactory, the product is released to the end-user.
Who uses the iterative process, and what do they use them for?
The iterative process is used in manufacturing, finance, engineering, software development, product development, medical research, and more. These professions use the iterative process to develop new products or improve or refine better versions of old products while still supporting end-user demands for innovation.
How the iterative process works
Unlike conventional linear development processes employed in manufacturing, where the goal is to produce a single, final result, the iterative process is flexible and allows a cyclical movement of events during the production stage.
At first, the organization plans the product, analyzing end-user needs and how the proposed solution will compare with existing options. Upon release of the MVP, feedback mechanisms may be employed for targeted end-users to give feedback. Combining that feedback with project plans for features or functionality, the product is refined and re-released. The cycle repeats until the product satisfies all user requirements.
Benefits of iterative processes
The iterative process is important because it allows creators to make needed adjustments before the final release of the product. Other benefits include:
- Efficiency: Iteration involves consistent, repeatable, and efficient processes that accommodate unforeseen changes during the product’s development.
- Quality: Each step of the process is carefully monitored as each step contributes to the quality of the final product.
- Early detection of flaws: Producers can easily detect errors because process variables are known and minimized. It’s easier to identify where something went wrong since the process’s steps are consistent each time they occur.
- Decreased risk: Iteration reduces risk by narrowing the scope of where and when an error occurred.