Characteristics of Incremental Life Cycles

This is a series of four posts I am doing based on the material in chapter 3 of the Agile Practice Guide.   The first part of this chapter compares and contrasts the four project life cycles:  predictive, iterative, incremental, and agile.   The following posts go more in depth in terms of the details of each life cycle.   I have covered predictive and iterative life cycles in my previous posts; in this post I go through the material on p. 22-23 of the Agile Practice Guide.

As opposed to the iterative life cycle , with its focus on quality and getting to a single correct solution, the incremental life cycle has a focus on speed of delivery.   Many initiatives cannot wait for everything to be completed; the customers are willing to receive a subset of the overall solution and have it supplemented in future releases of the product.   The frequent delivery of smaller deliverables is called an incremental life cycle.

Incremental life cycles optimize work for delivering value to sponsors or customers more often than a single, final product.   The initial deliverables are planned before beginning the work, and that first delivery is worked on as soon as possible.

The team may deviate from the original vision of the product based on customer feedback received after the initial deliverable, perhaps a single feature of the proposed finished piece of work.

The key is to deliver a minimum viable product (MVP) to a subset of customers.   The customers can use the product and provide customer feedback, which helps the team to learn what they need to provide for subsequent delivery of the final finished feature of the product.

So as opposed to a predictive life cycle, which delivers business value only at the END of a project, an incremental life cycle delivers business value more often.

It is important to understand the iterative AND incremental approaches, because the next life cycle to be covered in this series of four posts, the next one on agile, combines elements of BOTH.


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