What is an Iterative Process? Definition & Examples

Updated Aug 3, 2022.
iterative-process

Every company needs effective research and development processes to understand its target audience and maximize its operations. If you are seeking to improve a product or service such as creating a website or developing a financial mobile application, you need to implement a development strategy.

Companies rely on the iterative process to improve their products and services and advance their business strategies. Although many people associate the iterative process with engineering teams, other teams can use it to manage their projects or tasks, reduce risk, and solve problems proactively.

In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about the iterative process, including examples and its pros and cons.

Let’s get started.

What is an Iterative Process?

An iterative process is an approach used by development and research teams to improve their product, services, and business procedures. It is the procedure of testing, revising, and updating a particular product, design, or initiative. 

This process is all about trial and error style where people will test a particular product, think of a way to improve it and keep on updating it till they reach their final goal. The goal of an iterative process is to get a good answer, solution, and discovery by testing a product and updating it.  

With this process, there can be steady development on a particular product, project, or initiative. Proper planning and a good review system can help teams perform a successful iterative process.  

The iterative process is used by many industries. This process is widely used for agile projects to improve products during every sprint. The end of one improvement will be the starting point of another one and the process keeps going and they keep improving the product.

For example, think of the Sony Playstation Console. Using an iterative technique, these game consoles are updated with new features and also the problems of the old editions are fixed. They keep on reviewing and updating the consoles to make them better. Even the phones and cars industry uses an iterative approach to improve their design.

Agile Development Methodology_
Source: Pinterest

Examples of Iterative Processes

1. Engineering 

A lot of engineering teams make use of the iterative approach to develop and improve a particular design. They create a product that is readily available then make a few iterations to improve the product. 

The engineering team takes note of errors and reviews from users for the next iteration process. For example, software developers create a beta mode for apps and make it available for users to use. This is like a trial and error style before finalizing the app and releasing the improved and updated app. 

Engineering - Iterative Process
Source: GeeksforGeeks

2. Product Development

Companies go through an iterative process with all their projects. For example, most of the devices and machines you use like television, mobile phones, and laptops go through this development process.  

Televisions have gotten flatter and more clearer when viewing while laptops and phones have gotten smaller and portable with advanced features or look at the way CD-players have new features like Bluetooth and other new features. 

All these are iterative procedures because the company kept on testing and always trying to improve their product.

Product Development - Iterative Model
Source: Javatpoint

3. Marketing 

Marketing teams make use of iterative techniques to achieve their aim. A lot of marketing is iterative. These teams have to try different types of advertising to see which will have the best engagement. 

They test the type of newsletter they should give out and see which will have better click-through rates. This is the only way to see the kind of advertising that will work the best for their client. 

For example, a marketing team can decide which type of advertising will be the best for a product. They can try both television and radio advertising and ask customers how they got to them. The response will make them know the next step to take when trying to advertise again.

Short, Medium and Long Term Circular - iterative approach
Source: AMM Consulting

4. Sales

Sales work does not need an iterative process but they can benefit from it. A sales rep can try different approaches of sending cold emails to their customers with different subject lines and emails to see which one has the highest response. The subject line of the email with the highest response is what they will keep on using for other customers.

5 Steps of the Iterative Process Model

An iterative process will assist you throughout your project management life cycle. The start of the iterative process will be the aim and requirement you need for the project. Your team will be able to test, review, update and use the iteration process to achieve your aim. 

1. Planning and Requirement

This is the stage where you state the aim of your project. You define what your project is all about and state the objectives of your project. This will serve as a foundation for what you want to achieve. 

The planning and requirement stage is where you list things that the project team must do for the project to be successful. Without this step, you might not achieve the aim of the whole process. The project team will need to know the client specifications and this is the best time to collate and organize necessary information that will serve as the start and initial stage for the first iteration cycle.

2. Analysis and Design

At this stage, you need to focus on the design and technical demands of your project. You need to understand the aim of the project, collate all information regarding the project, and brainstorm together with your team for a successful project. Analyzing will assist you in testing your project and how the end product will be.

3. Implementation

This is the stage where you create your product functionality. Your iteration process will be determined by your analysis and design. The overall result of your project will depend on this. 

You have to meet the requirement and ensure you improve your products by the feedback of the last iterations if they exist. Develop something worth testing so that you can receive feedback. This will serve as insight into your next step of the iteration process. 

4. Testing  

In the testing stage, you need to gather all feedback and work to identify the part of your product that is not meeting your aim. You can make use of surveys, beta testers, and presentations to gather feedback and reviews.  

Ensure you test your product in the best way.  For example, if you have an app, and you are adding new features to the app. You might want to release a beta version just to gather feedback on the performance of the app. Gathering all this information will be helpful for the present iteration process and future ones to come.

5. Evaluation and Review 

Your team will look into the result of the iteration and check if it needs changes. You aim to achieve a result. The iteration you just finished, did you achieve your aim? If the answer is no, then why? 

If you need to update some things, you can start the iteration from step two again and understand that your main goal remains intact. You will have to keep doing this till you are satisfied with the project deliverable you get. 

Ensure that when you restart the iteration process, the team should be aligned on the same goals. The procedures of iteration can take days, weeks, or months depending on the number of iterations you perform. 

You must always focus your iteration on your project goals whenever you restart the procedure, this will make you not divert away from your aim. Be open to suggestions and also be ready for unplanned challenges. All this information can be used to focus on your project to complete it. 

Repeating the cycle is normal, this will result in a successful project. The information collated will be used to create better products and enhance the operational procedures. 

To understand how it works, consider a juice company with different flavors that want to improve the quality and taste of their juice. They can employ a focus group to taste their last product and the newly improved ones and also compare the new ones to that of their competitors. 

Whatever information is collated will be the basis for the next iteration process and the aim will always be the same, to improve the product.

Pros and Cons of the Iterative Process

Pros

  • Better Results: Iterative procedures give a better result than a non-iterative process, the trial and error method makes you achieve whatever you want to do faster.
  • Improves Team Collaboration: This process improves collaboration among team members. Your team will work together at all steps of the iterative process to achieve the company’s goals.
  • New Ideas: The implementation and testing stage allows you to add additional ideas to your iteration process. You can update your iteration to give you the best result that you did not even imagine when planning it.
  • Reduces Risk: This development process helps to reduce project risk. Risk is identified and analyzed during every iteration. For every iteration process you go through, you will be able to identify the risks that are a threat to the project. Restarting iterations for better output and improved functionality will have little or no risk because previous iterations have identified any risk that might be a threat to the project.
  • Feedback from Users Before Launching the Product into the Market: Users can give good feedback on a particular product before the product is deployed into the market. Beta testing and using a focus group on a product will give you reliable feedback on a particular product. The feedback will be about what is good for them and what is not good, and this will determine your final deliverables.
  • Cost-Effective: Iterative processes are more cost-effective. You would have spent more time and effort if you wanted to change the project plan.

Cons

  • Lack of Definite Timeline: The testing and repeating of iterations to get a perfect solution will not allow the team to have a definite timeline for the iteration process. 
  • Unsuitable for Smaller Projects: The iterative process works best when used for larger projects. Smaller projects are not a good match for the iterative process.
  • Requires More Management Attention: Project managers need to pay more attention to the project team when using the iterative process. The project team may want to keep on making changes to improve the product and this can cause delays. Project managers have to step in and firmly say when the product is good for testing.

Martin Luenendonk

Editor at FounderJar

Martin loves entrepreneurship and has helped dozens of entrepreneurs by validating the business idea, finding scalable customer acquisition channels, and building a data-driven organization. During his time working in investment banking, tech startups, and industry-leading companies he gained extensive knowledge in using different software tools to optimize business processes.

This insights and his love for researching SaaS products enables him to provide in-depth, fact-based software reviews to enable software buyers make better decisions.