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What is Agile Iteration and Why use Iteration?

Iteration is a repetitive action. In Agile, Iteration is a basic building block and is timeboxed usually of 2 weeks, value is delivered incrementally to the customer at the end of every iteration. With minimal required documentation, iteration helps in building the product incrementally. 

Iteration has the events of Plan, Do, Check and Act/Adapt which is popularly known as PDCA Cycle. This helps in developing smaller increments within a 2 weeks timebox and the feedback is collected from the customer. Iterations thus help in faster learning cycles.

Agile iteration

Introduction to Iteration

In this post, we will introduce iteration and talk about its benefits. We will also cover the basics of agile iterations and how it works. By the end of this post, you should understand what agile iteration is, how it works, and its benefits. Also, you can opt for the best to know more about iteration and its importance.

Why use Iteration?

Iteration is a fundamental building block in agile software development. It enables the team to continuously improve the product while working within the constraints of the current version. Since Iteration works on PDCA Cycle as mentioned above, faster feedback is collected and any changes to be made based on the feedback can be quickly considered in the next iteration. 

Benefits of working in Iterations:

Following are the main benefits of working in Iterations:

  1. Incremental Delivery to the customer
  2. Faster Feedback
  3. Reducing the risk of delivery compared to the Waterfall method
  4. Multiple Integration points compared to waterfall
  5. Teams committing to the work
  6. Clarity of work to be done 

Teams that work in Iterations, need to do the Iteration Planning. For more details on Iteration Planning, please refer to the article Iteration Planning (Please give the blog link here)

Iteration Planning helps the teams in better planning their work for the length of the iteration which is usually 2 to weeks. There is no mandatory rule of following 2 weeks, however, most of the teams prefer to go for 2 weeks iteration. Iterations can be of 1 week or up to 3 weeks. Also, Most of the teams prefer to start the Iteration on Monday, however not mandatory though.

Activities that take place during Iteration are : 

  • Iteration Planning
  • Iteration Execution
  • Iteration Review and Retrospective
  • Adaptation of the feedback

Iteration Planning

Agile teams are Self-organized, Cross-functional. Teams calculate their capacity for the iteration and pull the items from the Team Backlog which are stories. Then teams commit to the user stories which they are very sure of delivering at the end of an iteration. Agile teams aka Developers, PO, and SM would be participating in the Iteration Planning. 

This step is the ‘Plan’ step in the PDCA Cycle.

Iteration Execution :

Developers, start their development work by referring to the iteration planning they would have done. They start with designing the user stories considered for the iteration, followed by development and testing, and finally deploying. 

This step is the ‘Do’ part of the PDCA Cycle.

Iteration Review and Retrospective

At the end of every iteration, Scrum Master facilitates the Iteration Demo or system Demo of the increments built during the Iteration, and feedback is collected from the stakeholders, leaders, and team members. 

Iteration Review can be mapped to the ‘Check’ step in the PDCA Cycle.

Adaptation of the feedback:

Based on the feedback received during the Iteration Demo, Developers would consider the improvement items to be considered and addressed in the next iteration. Scrum Master should ensure that action item noted are addressed as expected. 

This phase can be related to the ‘Act/Adapt’ phase of the PDCA cycle. Iteration is a basic block of agile development, and thus should be taken seriously. By starting with small batches and iterating on the results, you can quickly develop a product that meets your specific needs while keeping your team productive and happy.

1. What is Iteration?

Iteration is timeboxed usually 2 weeks and includes all the different phases present in waterfall-like Requirements, Design, and development testing. However, all these activities take place within the Iteration and for all Iterations.

2. What is the goal of iteration?

Iteration Goals can be user stories or tasks or any improvement items that are discussed and committed by the Agile team.

3. What is the approach followed in Iteration?

Iteration follows the Iterative development and Incremental value delivery to the customer.

4. What is the advantage of having incremental delivery?

Incremental delivery helps both the customer and agile team. The customer gets delivery at regular intervals and can feedback mechanism also is at regular intervals.
Working in Iterations helps the Agile teams to plan better and can also accommodate the feedback from customers and stakeholders.

5. Are iteration and sprints the same?

The ‘Sprint’ word is followed mostly by the Scrum Community. 
The ‘Iteration’ word is considered in the SAFe community. 
However, both of them have the same approach.

6. Can the Iteration goal be changed in the middle of the iteration?

It is not preferred to change the goal for the current iteration in the mid of iteration, however, the next Iteration’s goal can be updated.

7. Is Iterative development applicable only to software?

Iterative development can be followed in nonsoftware product development also, like hardware, firmware, medical, insurance, education, etc.

8. What is the ideal length of an iteration?

Iteration length can span from 1 to 3 weeks, SAFe prefers to have iterations of either 1 or 2 weeks.

9. Is it mandatory to start the Iteration on a Monday?

Need not be. Iteration can be started on any working day of the week, however, the length should be fixed.

10. Why cannot there be iterations of more than 3 weeks?

More weeks means typically, the approach becomes a mini waterfall within the agile, Teams tend to deliver all the stories at the end. Hence long iterations are not preferred.