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What is Iterative and Incremental Development?

Iterative and incremental development is a process that combines the iterative design method with the incremental build model. It is used by software developers to help manage projects

To fully understand the incremental and iterative development process, you must first split it into its two parts: 

  • Incremental: An incremental approach breaks the software development process down into small, manageable portions known as increments. Each increment builds on the previous version so that improvements are made step by step. 
  • Iterative: An iterative model means software development activities are systematically repeated in cycles known as iterations. A new version of the software is produced after each iteration until the optimal product is achieved.

Iterative and incremental development models are complementary in nature, which is why they are often used together to boost their efficacy and achieve project deliverables.

Iterative and Incremental Development in Agile

The incremental and iterative development process is closely associated with Agile project management, most notably the Scrum methodology. This is because it aligns with one of the key pillars of Agile: responding to change over following a set plan. 

Rather than adhering to a linear Waterfall method, software developers will react quickly to changes as their product evolves. They will build on previous versions to improve their product and repeat this process until the desired deliverables are achieved.

 An example of iterative and incremental development in Agile could be the creation of a new e-commerce website. The project would be broken down into smaller increments, such as building a wireframe, uploading products, and creating advertising copy. As these steps are unfolding, the software development team would repeat the cycles of prototyping and testing to make improvements to the website with each iteration.

Why is iterative and incremental development important?

The incremental and iterative development process is integral to the field of Agile software development as it enables project managers to reap the benefits of both incremental and iterative approaches.

Incremental development ensures that developers can make changes early on in the process rather than waiting until the end when the allotted time has run out and the money has been spent.

Iterative development means improvements are made on an ongoing basis, so the end result is likely to be delivered on time and be of higher quality. This belief is echoed by CIO.com, which notes that short, iterative sprints can help teams to “deliver a better product, in a faster manner.”

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