The iterative process is something that’s used by teams in a whole host of different industries to minimise risk, improve efficiency and approach problems pragmatically. Project managers now rely on the iterative process to solve issues, cut costs and boost collaboration as they work towards both immediate and long-term goals.
In this article, we’ll explore the iterative process in detail, to explain what it is, how it works and why it’s so beneficial in all manner of different projects.
We’ll take you through a step-by-step guide on how to implement the iterative process within your business, equipping you with the tools you need to make the most of what is fast becoming an essential part of project management.
Finally, we’ll discuss how task management software comes into it, exploring new ways of using software to simplify the iterative process.
What is the iterative process?
The iterative process can be defined as the practice of building and improving a project, product or service. It’s a type of development process in which teams work together to create, test and adapt their offering until they come up with something that meets the expectations of all involved.
Put simply, this is a methodology that relies on trial and error. In iterative processes, teams work together to try out a whole range of different options, putting their heads together as they do so to build upon successes and create new products that stand out from the crowd.
You’ll often hear the term iterative process mentioned alongside other terminology we’ve come to associate with the engineering and technology industries, such as agile project management and lean methodologies. However, it’s important to note that the iterative process is one that’s immediately accessible, and ideal for all teams - not just agile ones. The iterative process can be implemented relatively simply, at any time.
A non-iterative process
When we talk about a non-iterative process, we’re basically talking about the opposite of an iterative one. In these processes, teams work together on an idea and then create their final product without leaving any room for trial and error.
Teams using a non-iterative process typically spend more time working on their concept and planning how it might work, because once ideas have been finalised, they’ll move straight to the creation of the final product.
If the end product works perfectly and meets the goal of the project, then the use of a non-iterative process may well save some time. However, the process does not leave any room for improvement as work progresses. So, an end product that disappoints would ultimately cost the company far more in both time and money, as it’ll likely mean that teams will have to go straight back to the drawing board to restart the project in its entirety.
How to implement the iterative process: A step-by-step guide
The iterative process can be enormously helpful in the planning and delivery of all kinds of projects.
Not only is the process beneficial in the delivery of complex and multi-faceted projects, it’s also hugely helpful when it comes to enhancing the end products of projects that start off far simpler.
Take a look at the following step-by-step guide on how to implement the iterative process to find out more.
Step 1: Planning
All good projects start with planning. When teams use an iterative process, they begin with a period of planning and research, during which they work together to establish the requirements of the project and gather resources.
This stage offers an opportunity to organise data and documentation that might be useful during the project. Teams can also use the beginning phase of the project to think about delivery timescales for the first iteration.
Step 2: Design
Once the project has been planned, teams can shift the focus to design. At this point, team members need to work together to gain a complete understanding of the overall goals of the project and its requirements.
It’s often helpful for teams to start to pull the project apart at this point, analysing the different components that will make up the work as a whole. Doing so will enable teams to think about how their product can be tested along the way, and how they will check whether or not the final deliverable is likely to meet expectations.
Step 3: Implementation
The third step sees teams start working on building the product. In the implementation stage, work can begin on the first version of the project deliverable. Relying heavily on prior work done on planning and design, the first iteration should be seen as a starting point for the project.
It’s possible that the first iteration will be ready to use immediately, but it’s also likely that further iterations might be needed to improve functionality. In the next stage, you’ll find out which way that first iteration is going to go.
Step 4: Testing
This is an enormously important stage as it provides clear answers as to how successful the project has been so far. During the testing stage, teams carry out a number of tests to determine whether the iteration being worked on will meet the requirements of the project and satisfy its goals.
The particular form of testing used here will vary depending on the type of project teams are working on. If the deliverable is a web page, A/B testing might be valuable. If it’s a new product or feature, the next step could be usability testing with real customers, or working with focus groups to gather feedback.
Step 5: Review
Once all relevant tests are complete, different departments can get together to review the results. At this point, teams will need to evaluate whether or not the project has met its objectives. If it has, the final product may be ready to use. If not, everyone will have time to consider any changes that might be needed and prepare for the next iteration.
The planning stage will remain the same for all iterations; however, all professionals involved have the flexibility to make adaptations to the design and implementation during every iteration that they work on. And that’s why the iterative process is so successful because as teams work through a number of iterations, they have the opportunity to make the improvements that will result in an outstanding final product.
The benefits of using an iterative process
The iterative process is enormously beneficial, no matter what project it’s applied to. Of course, the key advantage here is the flexibility that it affords us, but there are other benefits to consider too, such as its collaborative nature and cost efficiency.
Take a look at some of the most important benefits of using an iterative process below.
The iterative process is inherently flexible, which makes it ideal for use in a whole range of different projects. Of course, we’d all like to plan and execute the perfect project right off the bat, but realistically, things rarely play out that way. Teams need the flexibility to be able to adapt their products as they go. This enables everyone to make use of new opportunities and improve as they learn.
When project managers use an iterative process, everyone benefits from better transparency at every stage of the project. With this process, it’s easy for professionals to see where they’re at, and where they’re heading next.
The initial prototype that results from the first iteration gives all involved a clear idea of what they’re working with, and all departments have the chance to analyse early feedback and results to make changes as they go.
It offers opportunities for improvement
During the iterative process, there are ample opportunities for improvement. We often see project managers using this process making full use of feedback and data gathered along the way and turning that information into new opportunities that couldn’t have been accessed at the very beginning of the project.
The opportunities that iterative processes provide are key to their success, and they’re well worth investigating.
When teams use an iterative process, they work together as one. The process encourages colleagues to communicate and collaborate throughout the project, as no one is relying exclusively on initial plans to get the job done. It’s a great way of bringing different departments together and boosting mutual understanding, which is beneficial to all involved.
The iterative process is brilliantly efficient. As it's built with flexibility in mind, it gives teams room to make changes and shift the direction of a project without losing sight of deadlines and other requirements. This means that if changes are needed during a project’s life cycle, companies won’t lose out.
The collaborative effect of using an iterative process is also great in terms of efficiency, as it encourages colleagues to work together and share the workload, enabling groups to get more done in a shorter period of time.
It’s low risk
All companies are risk averse, and using the iterative process allows them to eliminate a degree of risk in any project. Of course, there’s always the chance that challenges might crop up during the final stages of any project, but the iterative process reduces this chance, and it allows for plenty of testing and evaluation of feedback along the way.
Those using the iterative process have a better chance of spotting potential risks and working to overcome them before they derail a project completely.
The iterative process is cost-effective. If changes are needed during the delivery of a project, these can be implemented relatively easily - and therefore more cheaply - than they might have been if the project was delivered using a waterfall approach, for example.
In the iterative process, changes are expected and planned for, which means they are unlikely to be enormously costly. Unplanned changes, by contrast, are likely to put a greater dent in the project’s budget, particularly if they’re time-critical.
The Iterative Process Simplified
Project management software like Hello Ivy gives teams the tools they need to simplify the iterative process. With this software, everyone can make full use of the iterative process.
Hello Ivy means completing projects faster, without the chaos and complexity. Built for teams that want to simplify and streamline their workflows and improve team collaboration, the software brings everything together.
With Hello Ivy, colleagues can link any task, conversation, document, calendar event or chat message, making collaboration a breeze. There’s a single work hub for the entire team, putting everyone on the same page - and keeping them all in the loop as the project progresses.
If you’d like to find out more about Hello Ivy, take a look at it in action. Sign up for a free trial today to see how it works.