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Iterative vs Incremental Development in Agile


In an agile method, you can’t say whether choosing an iterative approach is recommended or an incremental approach is the most suitable one. Instead, what happens in an agile methodology is that both the Iterative vs Incremental approach are used side by side and are about creating a part of a system. In easy words, agile is iterative in what they plan for the work of one iteration that is to be improved upon in the next one. Similarly, they are incremental as well because the completed work is delivered throughout the project. So to understand better what these iterative vs incremental development are and how they work side-by-side, let us take a look at what both are.

Scrum Practice Test:

Incremental Approach:

In iterative vs incremental development, The incremental approach is such a development method in agile where the model is first designed and then implemented and later tested incrementally until the product is taken to its finished line. The whole process involves both development and maintenance and when all the requirements are dealt with then the product is defined as finished. To explain this approach in detail, what happens is that a working version of the software is produced in the first module making sure every single detail has been taken care of. It is because of this version that you have working software early on during the software life cycle. Then each subsequent release of the module will add function to the previous release. Now, this process continues like this until the complete system is achieved.

Example of an Incremental Approach:

To explain more easily how this approach works, let us take a look at the below picture:

Iterative vs Incremental

In this above diagram, working incrementally means that adding workpiece by piece but at the same time expecting that every piece is fully finished. Thus the pieces keep on adding until the whole work is completed. Just like in the above picture, the person or maybe if a team is working on it let’s say has first thought of the application. Then they have started building it and then in the first iteration, the first module of the product is complete and ready to show to the customers. Dive into our article on Comparing RUP and Agile Methodologies to understand the core differences and how they impact project management.

Similarly, in the second iteration, the team completes the second module, and then it is integrated with the first module that has already been shown to the customer. After that, in the third iteration where the whole product is ready, all the iterations are integrated. This is how the product gets ready in detailed steps.

Iterative Design Approach:

In iterative vs incremental development, Iterative design is known to be a design methodology that is based on a cyclic process and runs in an organized manner. The steps involved in the cycle are prototyping, testing, analyzing, and refining a product or a process. Based on testing the most recent iterations of a design, different mistakes are pointed out or come to light according to which changes and refinements are made. A particular project or software is broken down into a variety of iterations in which each of the iterations is a complete development loop resulting in a release of the product or software to be executed. Thus the final product that is delivered has grown from iteration to iteration to become a final product or software.

The purpose here is to improve not only the quality but functionality of the design. In iterative design, all the interaction with the designed system is used as an asset for informing and evolving a project as the successive versions or iterations of a design are implemented.

Example of an Iterative Design Approach:

A film company needs a custom system for costumes, props, and equipment tracking. To avoid the situation where the developers build something for months that the customer will decline, the iterative strategy is utilized where the developers and the customers sit down twice a week and discuss the recent progress and then make changes according to it. Thus the whole project is broken down into different iterations and upon completing each iteration, the customer is updated and then asked for any changes. In this way, the effort comes down to fewer workdays and the product developed is according to what the customer wants.

Some other Courses for Scrum Certifications:

The following are the courses for the Scrum Master Certification Exam. Also, checkout CSM Mock Test to validate your skills.

# Course Name Instructor Name Duration

Fundamentals of Project Planning and Management

Yael Grushka-Cockayne

  • 4 weeks
  • Study 2 hours Weekly

Ultimate Guide to PSM I

 Angelo Tofalo
  • 3.5 hours on-demand video
  • Course eBook with 250+ pages
  • 7 articles

Mastering Agile Scrum Project Management

LearnSmart LLC
  • 14.5 hours on-demand video
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PMI-ACP Certification Training – 21 PDU Course

TIA Education
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Thus both the Iterative vs Incremental approaches are about creating a part of the system, refining it to pass all of the test cases. Then add the next component of the system. Refining it again and again until the system is completed.