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What’s the Difference Between Incremental Development and Agile Development?

Incremental Development and Agile Development are two methodologies used in software development that share some similarities but also have distinct differences. Understanding these methodologies can help your team choose the most effective approach for your projects.

So what is the difference between the two? Let’s explore it in an easy and digestible content.

Incremental development is a method where the software product is divided into smaller pieces that are developed and integrated progressively. Each increment builds upon the previous ones, adding new functionality in a step-by-step manner.

This approach allows for easy management of each section of the product, as teams can focus on completing each chunk continuously until the entire product is developed. It is particularly useful when there is a clear vision of the final product and well-defined project requirements.

Besides, incremental development can be cost-efficient, as it helps to minimize expenses due to unexpected changes in project scope. It also facilitates easier testing and debugging due to the smaller, more manageable increments. However, it can become costly over time as the development team continuously expands the budget with new features.

GrubHub serves as an example of a company that uses incremental development. This company began with a simple online database of restaurant menus and expanded incrementally to become a comprehensive food delivery service

Iterative development involves refining the product through repeated cycles or iterations. It is characterized by a cyclical process where each iteration includes several steps such as planning, development, testing, and evaluation.

This approach is suitable when the product goals are not fully established and continuous feedback is desired to refine the product. Iterative development promotes improved collaboration, as all team members are involved in the development and evaluation process. It also allows for better risk management, as risks can be identified and addressed after each product iteration

In addition, iterative development can lead to improved product quality by identifying and fixing problems early in the development process.

An example of iterative development is the case of SpaceX, which invested in an end-to-end 3D modeling system to view and manage their simulations, allowing them to refine their designs iteratively

Agile Development

Agile development is a philosophy that incorporates both incremental and iterative methods, focusing on customer satisfaction and adaptability.

Agile methodologies, such as Scrum, involve short iterative cycles and continuous incremental releases, with frequent demonstrations, user feedback, and feature additions. Agile is not a prescriptive process but rather an approach that values continuous and early feedback, frequent releases, and the ability to evolve design.

It aims to reduce extensive planning overhead, allowing for quick responses to changes such as customer wishes. Agile development is known for its continuous delivery of value, reflecting a product lifecycle approach rather than a traditional project approach.

We, Virtual Bears prefer to use this methodology for every project.

While both incremental and iterative development can be part of an agile strategy, they differ in their approach to the development process.

Just take note that incremental development is about adding new things in a modular fashion, while iterative development is about refining existing features.

Agile development, on the other hand, values adaptability and customer engagement, often using both incremental and iterative methods to deliver a working product rapidly.

The choice between incremental and iterative development will depend on various factors such as the clarity of the product vision, the complexity of the project, the likelihood of changing requirements, and the resources available. For large, complex projects with high uncertainty or changing requirements, iterative development may be the best choice. If the project has a clear vision and well-defined requirements, incremental development might be more appropriate.

Just remember, agile development is suitable for projects that require a high frequency of delivery and can accommodate a high degree of change. It is also adaptive, allowing the team to re-evaluate and adjust the direction after each iteration.

Final thoughts

We hope that you learn by reading our post about the difference between incremental, iterative, and agile models in software development. Just to conclude, while incremental development focuses on building the product piece by piece, iterative development emphasizes refining the product through cycles. Agile development combines these approaches to deliver value continuously, with a strong emphasis on customer feedback and adaptability. The choice between these methods should be based on the specific needs and circumstances of the project.

If you are looking for an agency partner that uses agile methodology, don’t hesitate to reach out to us!



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