Iterative Model in Software Development: Pros and Cons
Iterative software development is a software development process that is performed in small steps, during which the obtained intermediate results are analyzed, new requirements are set, and the previous work stages are corrected.
Each of the iterations includes all software development processes: requirements acquisition and analysis, specification preparation, the implementation itself, testing, and launch. However, within a single iteration, only a separate component or version is developed, but not the entire project.
The next iteration results either in a new functionality or an improved existing functionality of the product. The full set of requirements fixed by the project boundaries becomes implemented after the final iteration is complete.
Why Is Iterative Software Development Necessary?
While working on a project, you will most likely encounter certain errors. When problems are detected late in the process, it will lead to substantial expenses and, in some cases, it may all end up with development termination.
In the waterfall model, in the early stages of the life cycle, it is impossible to prevent any risks. In the iterative software development cycle, a tested executable product is created at each stage, and this approach allows for the quick detection of risks, reduces them, or completely eliminates issues.
The iterative life cycle model does not require a complete specification of requirements to start. First, a part of the functionality is developed and that becomes the basis used to determine further requirements. This process is reiterated.
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Benefits of an Iterative Software Development Model
- Quick project launch. You start your project in a shorter time (even if it does not feature full functionality), and you are already earning money on it.
- Risk reduction. Issues are identified and resolved during iterations.
- Flexibility to modifications. If at a certain stage you understand that a particular function has become a priority, you can start implementing it in the next iteration without waiting for the entire project to be finished.
- Regular release of new versions. Using the iterative development approach, new versions are released regularly and the project is constantly advancing.
- Efficient feedback. Development teams actively communicate with customers, creating a product that meets their needs and business goals.
- Prompt release of MVP. This model allows bringing the product to the market and starting its use much earlier than in the case of a waterfall model.
- Higher quality. An iterative approach allows for creating a more robust architecture since all errors are fixed during several iterations.
Disadvantages of an Iterative Software Development Model
- No fixed budget or deadlines. With an iterative approach, especially in the case of a complex project, deadlines and a budget depend on functional features and may change throughout the development process.
- Strong customer involvement in the process. Customers have to actively join the work on the project and discuss and approve modifications to the project. Some customers may feel uncomfortable about it, and the habitual waterfall development model will probably work better for them.
- Possible problems with the architecture. With no strict requirements and well-developed global plan, the software product architecture may suffer, and to bring it back to a reasonable condition, you may need additional resources.
One way or another, you will have to make certain compromises to be able to change requirements during the product development process.
Iterative software development perfectly suits large projects, the ones with unspecified requirements, as well as innovative software products based on business hypotheses which need verification.
This approach allows conducting product development based on business priorities and implementing its most important and relevant features on a step-by-step basis. Besides, using an iterative approach, you can launch a project faster, prioritizing its most important functionality required by users.
If you are going to develop a small and relatively simple project, an iterative software development approach may prove unnecessary for you. If the product features limited functionality, it does not make sense to divide it into separate releases.
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