The Iterative Process: A Guide to Creating, Refining and Improving
Valentin Huang 06/13/2023 Glossary
5 Minutes

The iterative process is one of the most commonly used methods by business organizations looking forward to upgrading their business strategies and diversifying their product offerings. The purpose of this article is to explain in detail the concepts of an iterative process, the definition of the term, an easy-to-understand version of the iterative process model, the steps of the process, and the advantages of using the strategy.

The iterative process is creating, refining, and improving a project, initiative, or product. Business organizations that implement the use of the iterative model try to build, test, and review until they are entirely satisfied with the final outcome. The iterative process can be considered as a strategy of trial and error, which ultimately brings you one step ahead toward fulfilling your final targets.

Iterative processes are very significant when devising lean methodologies and working as an Agile project manager. However, that's not all. Iterative methods can be useful for all business organizations and team members. Using this strategy, you can certainly advance your project and product design to the point where you are one hundred percent satisfied with the deliverable you have.

Iterative Process Definition

The term "iterative process" refers to an approach to research and development whereby the preferred outcome is achieved through a series of recurring cycles, taking into account the principles of trial and error. The process is systematic in nature and non-random. Each iterative cycle participates in a specific set of guidelines, allowing structural changes to be incorporated. In this way, it is possible to improve step by step and in a balanced way with respect to each previous cycle.


Iterative Process of a Lean Business Model

The roots of the iterative process are closely linked to the agile or lean business model. The agile/lean business model makes every effort to achieve seamless efficiency by cutting and avoiding all unnecessary and unproductive steps in the production cycle. Such activities are known as ‘waste’, and the lean business model strives to continuously avoid them. The iterative process is very useful when focusing on continuous improvement. The ultimate goal is to achieve the maximum possible productivity with the least reasonable amount of resources. The concept and strategy of a minimum viable product is also an interesting strategy in this regard.

The Benefits of using the iterative process

The iterative approach allows for flexibility in the product roadmap while introducing significant changes during the development process. This can help business organizations stay on track and make quick adjustments as they implement new additions and changes. The iterative approach often requires the participation of all team members, which can improve efficiency by promoting balanced workloads and collaboration among the team.

The iterative approach promotes more meaningful opportunities for teamwork and collaboration. Instead of starting with a fixed plan and specifications (which can take a long time to develop), the team collaborates interactively and actively progresses through projects.

The process is very cost effective. Even if you intend to alter the course of your original project, it will only cost the amount of effort and time you initially invested in the project.

It also offers the possibility of working simultaneously. Unlike non-iterative approaches, such as the waterfall method, the attributes of the iterative process are not dependent on or constrained by previous work. Team members can work simultaneously on various aspects of the project, potentially reducing the overall timeline.

Lower project risk is yet another core benefit of the process. In an iterative approach, potential risks are recognized and subsequently addressed in each iteration. Instead of addressing major risks at the beginning and end of the project, low-level risks are continuously addressed throughout the working cycle. 

It offers a higher degree of trustworthy and dependable user's product feedback. By presenting users with an iteration they can interact with or observe closely, they can better provide incremental input about what is effective or not practical for them.

The iterative method enables business organizations to consistently and dependably enhance their existing products. Through each iteration cycle, teams can assess areas that require some improvement and apply the lessons they previously learned, resulting in each new iteration being ideally more enhanced than the previous one. By continually upgrading and enhancing the development process, teams can develop well-designed products and processes with ensured quality.

Another reason for the popularity of the iterative approach is its relatively low-risk profile. Teams typically tackle high-risk aspects of the product early on and refine the process over time, thus alleviating the chance of significant issues arising as the project nears its end. This approach enables companies to recognize and address risks in a timely fashion.

Understanding strategies to make innovative and creative products to capture the market is imperative.


The 5 steps of the iterative process

1. Planning and requirements 

The iterative approach typically begins with a phase that is highly focused on rigorous planning and information gathering, where teams outline some of the preliminary requirements, such as important timelines and customer specifications. During this phase, they may also collect and maintain a record of relevant documents, while clearly establishing a project timeline for the first iteration cycle.

2. Analysis and design 

In the second phase, the focus is on project design and analysis, which involves a thorough and comprehensive understanding of the objectives, building database models and clearly establishing the technical requirements of the project. A detailed, step-by-step analysis of each component of the project can help develop test systems that fit the overall objectives. 

3. Implementation 

The next phase of the process is implementation, where the focus is on developing the functionality of the project. The goal is to meet the minimum requirements of the project and then make improvements to previous iterations, if appropriate, to produce something that can be tested and provide valuable information for the next phases of the process.

4. Testing 

The testing phase consists of gathering feedback on the offering. The team makes a rigorous effort to highlight areas where the project does not perform adequately or does not meet the required expectations. It is highly recommended to adopt methods such as surveys, focus groups, stakeholder presentations and beta testers to obtain primary feedback. Choosing testers strategically to ensure that the right information is obtained at the right time can improve the functionality and usefulness of the iterative process.

5. Evaluation and review

The last step is to conduct a thorough review and evaluation, in which the results of the previous steps are evaluated. If this is the first iteration, it is useful to compare the feedback and notes with the original project requirements you had previously decided upon. This will help you determine how to implement the improvements. Also, take the time to reflect on what was successful in the first iteration and build on it, as enhancing strengths can be just as valuable as correcting weaknesses.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does iterative mean in business?

In business, iterative means repeating a process with the goal of improvement and refinement. This approach is commonly used in product development, problem-solving, and decision-making, allowing for continual adjustment and adaptation based on feedback and results.

What is an iterative process example?

You might be surprised to realize that most product development is very iterative. Think of any personal technology you’ve ever purchased for yourself—there was likely a previous version before the one you bought, and maybe a version afterward, as well. Think of the development of mobile phones throughout the years, how speakers have gotten smaller and more portable over time, or even the way refrigerators from the same brands have changed to adapt to new family needs. All of these are iterative processes.

What is an iterative approach?

An iterative approach is a method of problem-solving or decision-making that involves repeating a series of steps in a cycle until the desired outcome is achieved. It is characterized by continuous improvement and adaptation based on feedback and results. This approach allows for flexible decision-making and quicker response to changing circumstances compared to a linear, one-time solution. Iterative methods are commonly used in product development, design thinking, project management, and many other fields.

What does iterative stand for?

It is a word derived from the Latin word "iterare," which means to repeat. In the context of problem-solving, decision-making, and product development, iterative refers to a repetitive process of improvement and adaptation.

To gain a deeper understanding of the Iterative process and other impactful techniques in product development and marketing, consider exploring resources available on Harvestr.



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