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Understanding the Iterative Process: 5 Steps To Success

Updated on March 17, 2024By

Whether you are starting your project management career or are a seasoned pro, it is essential to understand the iterative process. This process is commonly used in software development but can be applied to any project – sometimes even a personal one.

What does the iterative process mean? (a.k.a. iterative process definition)

An iterative process is an approach to problem-solving that involves breaking down a significant problem into smaller, more manageable pieces. Each piece is then worked on separately, combining and iterating the results to form a final solution.

This article will take a closer look at the iterative process and how one can use it to improve your project management skills.

iterative process

How to Implement the Iterative Process

You need to take the following five key steps to implement the iterative process.

1. Plan.

It all starts with a plan. It would help if you had a clear idea of what you want to achieve with your project. What are your goals? What are your objectives?

You also need to consider the resources required to complete the project, including time, money, and workforce.

And finally, you need to decide on the timeline for the project. How long do you have to complete the project? What are the milestones that you need to reach?

Knowing the correct answers to these questions will allow you to understand what resources you’re working with at the various stages of the project.

2. Design.

After you’ve planned the project, it’s time to start designing it. This is where you’ll start putting your ideas down on paper (or in a digital format as an interactive PDF).

You’ll need to think about the different components of the project and how they’ll fit together. This includes things like the user interface, the database, and the code.

And you’ll also need to consider the different steps users will take when interacting with your project. What will they see? What will they do?

3. Implement.

Once you’ve designed the project, it’s time to implement it. This is where you’ll start coding (or building) the project.

You’ll need to write (or build) the code for the project’s different components. And you’ll also need to put everything together so that it works as a cohesive whole.

4. Test.

After implementing the project, it’s time to start testing it. This is where you’ll put the project through its paces to ensure it works as intended.

You’ll need to test all of the different components of the project. And you’ll also need to test the project as a whole.

5. Evaluate and Review.

After you’ve tested the project, it’s time to evaluate and review it. This is where you’ll take a step back and look at the project.

What worked well? What didn’t work well? What could be improved?

And based on your evaluation, you can decide whether or not to continue with the project. You can move on to the next iteration if everything goes well. But if some areas need improvement, you can make the necessary changes.

The power of iterative design and process

An iterative process is a cycle of repeated steps until a desired goal or result is achieved. In design, iteration is often used to explore multiple solutions to a problem and gradually refine them based on feedback from users or other stakeholders.

One of the benefits of using an iterative process model is that it allows for course corrections along the way. This can be especially helpful when working on complex issues where problems are challenging to anticipate upfront.

Iterative processes are also well suited for Agile development environments where requirements may change over time. Revisiting and revising designs regularly makes accommodating new insights or feedback easier.

If you’re new to using an iterative process, there are a few basics to remember. First, starting with a clear understanding of the problem you’re trying to solve is essential. Once you have a good sense of the problem, you can begin exploring potential solutions.

As you explore different solutions, it’s helpful to keep track of the pros and cons of each one. This will make it easier to compare and contrast different approaches and eventually choose the best option.

Once you’ve selected a solution, it’s time to implement it. This is where the iterative process model comes in handy, as you can make small changes and test them out before making more significant changes.

Through this complete cycle, you can gradually improve your solution until it meets your needs. Regarding the iterative model, the key is to be patient and flexible, as the best solutions often come from unexpected places.

How does the Agile methodology relate to the iterative process?

The Agile workflow is a popular methodology that many developers follow. It’s similar to the iterative process in that it focuses on delivering working software in short cycles, usually two to four weeks. The main difference is that Agile focuses more on customer feedback and collaboration, while the iterative process focuses more on the technical aspects of development.

Agile Lifecycle

The main benefits of using an Agile workflow are that it helps to ensure that features are being built that customers want, and it helps to avoid scope creep, which happens when stakeholders change key requirements. However, long-term projects might get incremental deliveries, which is only sometimes ideal.

The main benefits of using the iterative process are that it helps to ensure that the software is of high quality and that it’s easy to track progress. The main downside of the iterative process is that it can be time-consuming since each iteration must be planned.

An Agile team can use the iterative process to build software incrementally. And a team that follows the iterative process can use Agile techniques to get customer feedback and avoid scope creep.

So, while there are some differences between Agile and iterative processes, they are not mutually exclusive. Many teams use both approaches to build software incrementally.

Examples of the iterative process in various industries

Let’s now consider multiple industries that can use the iterative process.


Engineering is one of the most common fields to use the iterative process. For example, engineers will often build a small prototype when building a structure, say a bridge. They will then test the prototype to see if it can support the weight of the traffic crossing the bridge. If the prototype fails, they will make changes and try again. This process is repeated until the engineers are confident that the final product can support the required load.

Web Development

Web development is another field where the iterative design process can be beneficial. Development teams often start with a basic site version when building a website. They will then add features and make changes based on feedback from users. This process is repeated until the site is complete.

Product Development

The iterative process can also be used in product development. When developing a new product, companies will often start with a prototype. They will then test the prototype with potential customers. Based on feedback from these tests, they will make changes to the design and try again. This process is repeated until the company is confident that the final product will be successful.

The iterative design process also works if someone else has already built a product you want to improve. In this case, you can use the iterative process to make incremental improvements. For example, let’s say you are building a word unscrambler. You could take a product someone has already created and start with that as the basic idea. You could test your new product with different words and see how well it works. Based on this feedback, you could make changes to the algorithm and try again. This iterative approach is repeated until the word unscrambler is as good as it can be.

This is similar to what Unscrambled Words have done on their site. With the premise that anyone that likes playing games such as Text Twist, Scrabble, and Words With Friends, will be able to enjoy their take on word unscrambling, the site gives a brief description of why you should go for their unscrambler over their competitors. They do this by saying that their algorithm uses the official tournament dictionaries as the foundation for their word choices. This gives you the right words when using this site.

From an iterative design process point of view, the word unscrambler is an excellent example of how a process can be improved in relation to an existing product. By starting with a basic algorithm and then making incremental improvements, the team created a word unscrambler that is better at what it does when compared to its competitors.


The iterative process can also be used in marketing. For example, when companies plan to hire a new link building agency or a new vendor, they often start with a small test campaign. They will then use the feedback from this test market to make changes to their marketing strategy. This process is repeated until the product is launched in all markets.

As opposed to just going all out and finalizing an agency based on conversations and case studies, the iterative process allows companies to ensure that the vendor they are going for will help them succeed. It is because you can always change the agency or vendor based on the performance of your test campaigns. 


The iterative process can also be used in education. Educators often start with a basic outline when developing a new curriculum. They will then test the curriculum with their students, noting what works well and what doesn’t. Based on feedback from these tests, they will make changes to the curriculum and try again. This process is repeated until the educators are confident that the final product will be successful.

Resume creation tools

The iterative process can also be used when creating a resume. When developing a new resume, one can start with a basic template. The person can then add information and make changes based on feedback from potential employers. This process is repeated until the candidate has a final product that makes them confident and will help them get the desired job.

One such tool that can be used in this situation is the Preschool Teacher Resume tool, which helps with resume writing for those in the preschool education field. You fill out a form with relevant experience and skills, and the tool generates a resume template. You can then get back to this tool and update your resume as you gain more knowledge about what works (and what doesn’t).

CV Maker

By starting with a basic template and making changes based on feedback, you can create a resume that will help you get the job you want.

To further enhance the effectiveness of your resume, particularly in navigating the complexities of modern job application processes, consider utilizing an ATS resume template. Such templates are specifically designed to ensure compatibility with Applicant Tracking Systems, thereby maximizing your visibility to potential employers.

People search

The working of the iterative process discussed above can be seen in tools that help with people searches. Here, the user enters information about the person they are looking for, and the tool generates a list of potential matches. Users can refine their search by adding more information or making changes to the initial search criteria.

One such tool is Truthfinder, which helps find someone fast. You can find detailed records about a person using a name, phone number, or address. You can then refine your search by adding more information.

truthfinder app home page

By starting with essential information and refining your search, you can quickly understand the critical information you need to enter to find the person you want. This also means that on the next iteration, you will have a better idea of what to search for, making the process even more efficient.

Scrum projects

Following the Scrum principles, software development also uses the iterative process. In Scrum, a product is developed in short cycles called sprints. Each sprint starts with a planning phase, where the team decides what features to work on. The team then works on implementing these features and tests them at the end of the sprint. Based on feedback from testing, the team makes changes and continues to the next sprint.

Scrum Principle

Psychology research

Finally, in psychology, the iterative process is often used in research. When conducting experiments, psychologists may start with a small number of subjects and then gradually increase the sample size. This allows them to test their hypotheses and ensure their results are reliable.

Benefits of using the iterative process

Let’s consider some benefits of using the iterative process.

Flexibility and efficiency

Gone are the days when you would work on a project for months or even years without knowing whether it would be successful. With the iterative process, you can get feedback early and often, which means that you can make changes as needed. This makes the iterative process much more efficient and flexible than other methods.

Avoiding overwhelm

It can be easy to feel overwhelmed when starting a large project. But by breaking the project down into smaller tasks, you can take things one step at a time and avoid feeling like you’re taking on too much.

Improved communication

The iterative process can also improve communication between team members. By getting feedback throughout the project, team members can stay on the same page and avoid misunderstandings.

Increased engagement

The iterative process can also increase engagement among team members. When team members see that their ideas are being implemented and start forming part of the project, they are more likely to be engaged.


The iterative process can also be cost-effective. By starting with a small-scale project, you can save money on a project that may not be successful.

With money being one of the resources often limited in project management (especially when an idea is untested), the iterative process can help you make the most of your given budget.

Reduced risk

Another benefit of the iterative process is that it can help to reduce risk. Risk management is an integral part of any project, and by breaking down a project into smaller pieces, you can identify and manage risks more effectively.

When not to use the iterative process

While the iterative process is a great tool, it’s only right for some situations. Here are a few cases when you might want to avoid using the iterative process.

When time is of the essence

There may be better choices than the iterative process if you’re working on a project with a tight deadline. Each iteration takes time, and you may need more time on larger projects to complete all of the iterations.

When there is no room for error

The iterative process is all about testing and making changes based on feedback. But if there is no room for error in your project, the iterative process may not suit you.

When you’re working alone

The iterative approach relies on team input and feedback. So if you’re working on a project yourself, there may be better choices than the iterative process.

What’s the difference between iterative and incremental development?

The terms “iterative” and “incremental” are often used interchangeably, but there is a subtle distinction between the two. Iterative development is a technique in which the development process is repeated multiple times, with each iteration building upon the previous one. Incremental development, however, breaks down the development process into smaller pieces, each adding functionality to the overall project.

Both iterative and incremental development share some common characteristics. They are both incremental (i.e., they add new functionality in small steps), they are both based on feedback loops (i.e., they allow for constant revision and refinement), and they are both flexible (i.e., they can accommodate changes in requirements).

However, there are some critical differences between the two approaches. Iterative development is typically used for more complex projects, while incremental development is more suited for more straightforward projects. Iterative development focuses more on the project’s overall architecture, while gradual development is more concerned with adding individual features and functionality to a project.

What is a non-iterative process?

The opposite of an iterative process is a non-iterative – traditionally known as a Waterfall process. In a Waterfall process, the development process is linear and proceeds sequentially from one stage to the next. There is no feedback loop, which means that once a decision is made, it cannot be changed. Waterfall processes are typically used for projects with well-defined requirements.

One of the main advantages of Waterfall processes is that they are relatively simple and easy to understand. They are also easy to document and track since each stage has a clearly defined start and end point.

However, Waterfall processes also have several disadvantages. One of the most significant drawbacks is that they need to allow for changes in requirements. Once the development process has started, any modifications to the conditions will require a complete restart. This can be both costly and time-consuming.

Another disadvantage of waterfall processes is that they can be inflexible. Since each stage of the process depends on completing the previous step, it can be challenging to make changes or adapt to new circumstances. This can lead to delays and frustration for both developers and clients.

The role of Kaizen in Continuous improvement in business

Kaizen, a Japanese word for “improvement” or “change for the better,” combines two words: Kai (改), meaning “change” or “to correct,” and Zen (善), meaning “good” or “better.”

When used in business, kaizen refers to activities that continuously improve all business functions, from manufacturing to management and from the CEO to the assembly line workers.

Part of Iterative Process, Kaizen Cycle

There are two critical components to kaizen: 1) focusing on continuous improvement and 2) involving everyone in the organization in the improvement process.

Continuous improvement

The core meaning of kaizen is a focus on continuous improvement. Every aspect of the business is always open to scrutiny and improvement. There is no such thing as “good enough” – there is always room for improvement. As such, performance analysis is a vital part of continuous improvement as it allows businesses to identify areas that need improvement and track the results of their improvement efforts.

Involving everyone

Another critical component of Kaizen is involving everyone in the organization in the improvement process. Improvement cannot be achieved if only a few people are working on it. Everyone must be committed to making minor improvements every day.

Kaizen is often associated with Lean Manufacturing or the Toyota Production System. However, it is essential to note that Kaizen is a philosophy or mindset that can be applied to any business area, not just manufacturing. It also happens that Kaizen and the iterative process are very compatible, so it is common to see Kaizen being used as part of an iterative development process.


An iterative process is an essential tool that one can use to manage the development of a product or service. It is a flexible process that allows for changes and adaptation as needed. The iterative process is also continuous, which means there is always room for improvement.

The iterative process has something to offer everyone, ranging from businesses specializing in software development to those in manufacturing. It’s a fundamental tool that can help organizations develop products and services more effectively.

With a better understanding of the iterative process, you’ll be able to apply it to your work and improve your product development skills.

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