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Iterative Model in Software Development – Is it the Right Choice for your Project?

June 8, 2022
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Iterative model in software development is the approach in which the process of developing a complex application is broken into smaller parts.

The iterative SDLC model refers to a unique implementation of software development projects in which it starts with simple processes and features before progressively moving to more complexity and a broader feature set toward the finishing-up of the system. The term “incremental development” is often used liberally and interchangeably with “iterative development” which describes the incremental alterations made during the design and implementation of a new iteration.

This is one of the simplest models to develop software which gives certain flexibility to changes or enhancements of features in the actual span of the project besides the predetermined core software requirements. In this tutorial, let’s take a closer look at the iterative model, its application within a project as well as its advantages and disadvantages.

1. What is Iterative Model in Software Development?

The Iterative software development approach was used in projects as early as the 1950s in a wide range of software applications, from modern web applications and high-performance gaming clients to the United States Department of Defense’s software acquisition standard. This model is generally a big evolution over the traditional waterfall model of the past which breaks the whole process into smaller “iteration”, that contains planning, design, development, and testing steps. Different from the waterfall model which focuses on a stringent step-by-step process of development stages, the iterative process is a cyclical process that adds features one-by-one, creating a working product at the end of each iteration, and increases overall functionality at the end of each cycle. 

2. Features of Iterative Model in Software Development

  • During the planning phase, the developers and project owners will work together to map out the specification documents, establish software or hardware requirements, and generally prepare for the upcoming stages of the cycle.
  • As soon as the planning phase is completed, a comprehensive analysis is performed to select the suitable business logic, database models, and the like that will be required at the next stages of the project. At the same time, developers also establish technical requirements in terms of design, including programming languages, data layers, services, etc. that will be utilized to meet the needs of the project. After that, the actual implementation and coding process begins. 
  • As soon as the current build iteration has been coded, it goes through a series of testing and evaluation procedures to identify and locate any potential bugs or issues. Afterward, the entire project team and relevant stakeholders will examine the quality of the project, especially what should be changed to further improve the quality. 
  • Up next is the crux of the entire iterative model, in which the most recently built iteration, as well as all feedback from the evaluation process, is sent back to developers and the development process repeats from the top all over again to incrementally improve and iterate the software at each completion of the cycle. Enhancements will be identified and implemented in the next iteration to be at least marginally better than the last.
Newwave Solutions - Iterative Model in Software Development
Newwave Solutions – Iterative Model in Software Development

3. Advantages of Iterative Model in Software Development

There are many advantages of using an iterative model, including inherent version, rapid turnaround, and adaptability. 

  • The iterative model makes the versioning – also known as the release stage of the software easier by ensuring that newer iterations are incrementally improved compared with previous iterations. In case a new iteration breaks the system in a catastrophic manner, developers can easily and quickly roll back to the previous iteration with minimal losses. This is a particular advantage for the maintenance of the system.
  • It is true that the stages of the iterative process are similar to the waterfall method which takes a great deal of time to develop the software; however, each stage of the iterative model can effectively be broken down into smaller time frames. Thus, as the initial run through all stages, subsequent iterations will be faster as the life cycle of the next iteration has been trimmed down to a matter of hours or even days.
  • Another primary advantage of the iterative model is the adaptability to the constant changes in needs from both project owners and customers. Both minor and fundamental changes to the underlying code structure or design can typically be made within a minimal time frame and at a reasonable cost because it is easy to revert within a short time frame back to a previous iteration.

The iterative model is suitable for small, agile teams and projects. Particularly when the project involves modern technology with a constraint time frame, a full “iteration process” can immediately be performed from planning and design through to implementation and testing, with the involvement of all stakeholders.

4. Disadvantages of Iterative Model in Software Development

Along with advantages, there are also many disadvantages

  • As the iterative model requires minimal initial planning before coding and implementation begin, unforeseen issues in design or underlying system architecture might arise later in the project. While it is possible to resolve, it could negatively affect the time frame and expenses of the project. 
  • While the involvement of all stakeholders might improve the quality of the project, it also increases pressure and unfortunate obligation, since each new iteration will likely require testing and feedback from users to properly evaluate any necessary changes. Besides, as stakeholders are highly involved in the project, it might be subject to undesired feature creep, whereby users experience the changes in each iteration and are inclined to constantly put forth new requests for additional features to be added to future versions.

5. Final Thoughts

As the iterative model projects are highly agile and have rapid turnaround, the project owner needs an exceptional management tool to be able to monitor the project effectively. In case you are looking for a partner to assist you throughout the process, Newwave Solutions is always by your side. Contact us to start building highly efficient software.


To Quang Duy is the CEO of Newwave Solutions, a leading Vietnamese software company. He is recognized as a standout technology consultant. Connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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