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What is an iterative approach and what are its benefits?

The agile, iterative model, also known as the PDCA cycle, is an iterative design and management method used to improve processes and products continually. Since it is an iterative model, it is all about utilizing the repetition of a sequence of operations or procedures; in other words, it is about breaking down large projects into smaller tasks that can be repeated, refined, and researched throughout the same process. Furthermore, PDCA allows teams to use the most recent development or iteration as a baseline for the next cycle. So principally, instead of waiting for the end product and then starting testing and evaluation, the iterative model works hand in hand through all the product development phases adapting changes along the way hence its agility.

What is agile, iterative development, or the PDCA cycle?

All agile, iterative projects are implemented following a four-step pattern:

  1. P (PLAN): In this event, the team discusses' iteration planning, objectives, and product requirements. They recap the finished iteration and discuss anticipated needs moving forward.

  2. D (DESIGN): The product's actual design and coding occur in this event. The team tests the product's functionality if this happens to be the second or third iteration.

  3. C (CHECK): Iteration review with the product owner happens in this event to ensure the deliverables meet the product requirements. If the criteria are not met, the team restarts a new cycle focusing on improvements.

  4. A (ADJUST): The team retrospectively reviews the entire iteration process. They will also improve the backlog in preparation for future iterations.

What are the benefits of the iterative approach?

The agile, iterative approach provides six main benefits, summarized below:

  1. Flexibility: Modification throughout the development process allows for making and accepting change.

  2. Customer involvement:  During the Design and Adjust periods of the PCDA cycle, the product teams gather and focus on customer feedback.

  3. Risk assessment: Due to its flexibility, the iterative approach allows teams to identify and tackle risks and issues that may hinder progress early on.

  4. Rapid Delivery: The iterative approach allows more time to design and implement product increments.

  5. Testing: Continuous testing during iteration cycles makes it easier to analyze risks and modify deliverables.

  6. Experimenting and Innovating: Because of its flexible and cyclical nature, the iterative approach permits testing new ideas for products. It allows space for evolving ideas instead of extensive planning that only precedes execution and testing in Waterfall.

The Agile Iterative Approach best suits products or businesses with a continuously evolving scope, with no defined requirements intended for a limited time. For such cases, the Agile Iterative Approach helps to minimize the cost and resources needed each time an unforeseen change occurs due to its flexibility, innovation, fast, and modifiability. In addition, the approach allows customers to be involved during the development process, leaving no place for retroactive changes to be made after deliverables are released.

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