Let’s keep it real, the topic of software development methodologies and approaches is not something an entrepreneur would find interest in unless they plan to either start n IT business or need help with building some kind of digital solution. Therefore, this article will focus on explaining the concept of iterative software development from a business perspective. We will touch upon the questions of software development costs, advantages, and possible drawbacks of this practice, and also the best use cases for different types of businesses. The goal of this text is to answer the most common questions regarding iterative software development in a short, clear, and concise way.
What is iterative development practice?
When thinking about software development, many people who do not work in the IT industry assume that building a digital product should go by a fixed sequence. First, it’s requirements gathering and analysis, then designing and prototyping, then the development stage, then testing, and finally deployment and integration. And this approach is definitely sought-after. It is called “waterfall” and many companies prefer it over iterative software development for different kinds of projects.
But is waterfall the only way to build software? Definitely not. Iterative development is one of the alternatives. Unlike the strict waterfall model, it implies that the whole software creation process is split into smaller dev stages called iterations or sprints. Usually, each of such stages includes the development and testing of a particular part of the product’s functionality The iterations are repeated as many times as needed to develop a fully-functioning problem-free software.
The key features of iterative software development include the following:
- The initial planning (prior to the start of actual development) may be simple and sketchy as the new details, features, and vision can be added later
- Limited time for a developer to finish their work within an iteration and deliver clean functioning code
- The decisions to keep or eliminate the outcome produced during the previous iterations are made along each step
- All previous iterations can be saved, reviewed, and altered at any time
Pros and cons of iterative software development from a business perspective
Every entrepreneur is eager to choose a software development approach based on the results it may bring, the expenses that go along the way, and the benefits a certain model offers. Let’s break down the ups and downs of the iterative development process.
- Shorter discovery phase, less time needed to create the proper documentation
- High “on the go” adaptability according to the client’s vision and expectations
- The development process is faster compared to the waterfall approach
- Possible problems and defects are discovered, diagnosed, and fixed earlier, which prevents massive enforced software rebuilding
- At the end of any iteration, the client receives a functioning product that can be presented to the audience, evaluated, and changed if needed
- Progress evaluation is easier both for the tech team and the client
- More options for risk assessment and prioritizing
- The audience’s feedback is more reasonable, therefore, valid
- The overall iterative software development process is flexible, yet the mechanisms within the iterations are strict
- The lack of thorough planning often leads to the need to involve more resources in the development (both human and financial)
- The cost of the development is less predictable as there are no defined requirements
- High client engagement and user engagement during every stage are crucial for the project’s success
- Architecture-related issues are very common due to sudden alterations
- Defining a certain end date for the project is nearly impossible
When to go for iterative development and succeed?
To provide you with a better understanding of the specific cases when iterative software development is the best choice for a business owner, we are going to compare it to the waterfall model.
The iterative approach works perfectly for enterprise-level projects with robust functionality for multiple reasons. Firstly, it allows to concentrate on the key functionality first and create a market-ready product the audience will be able to use. The additional features can be added later without the risk of having a bad influence on the already existing software.
An iterative development strategy is also a smart choice for startups and businesses willing to try out a new idea. Receiving honest feedback from the target audience during the early stages of development allows one to pivot and even neglect unsuccessful ideas without having to spend a fortune on IT services. Not to mention, the startuppers often don’t have a clear vision of the future product and are not yet able to define clear requirements. Iterative software development helps to avoid delays and misunderstandings if that’s the case.
Despite the fact that the iterative model may be more resource-consuming, it also works great for projects with a limited budget. Even if you have money to implement only a few sprints, you still will receive a functioning product, not just lines of code your audience won’t be able to interact with.
But what about the cases when the waterfall is actually a better option than the iterative process? There are! First and foremost, waterfall works better for smaller projects that need to be completed within a certain amount of time.
If you need software for an industry that requires comprehensive documentation, clearly defined tasks, and deadlines, the iterative approach will not be a way to go. Choose waterfall instead.
Moreover, if you have no plans to be involved in the development process on a regular basis, the waterfall is also better than the iterative model. The waterfall approach is known for higher technical team autonomy. You, as a client, will just be presented with the functioning software developed in accordance with the discussed requirements.
Keep in mind that there’s no right or wrong when it comes to software development. Choose the methodology that helps you achieve particular goals in the most effective way possible. It can be Agile, Waterfall, or even a hybrid model that takes all of your wishes and expectations into consideration. The main goal for any of it is to provide you with a market-ready solution you’ll be happy with!