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Iterative Development in the Digital Agency

Tue, October 16, 2012

Imagine you’re an automotive manufacturer who signed off on the functional spec of a new iPad app only five weeks ago, when you discover your competition has released an app with twice the features you were planning.

Or let’s say you’re a home building products manufacturer two months into the development of a product catalog to feed your new e-commerce site, when your product team announces they’re launching a new product line.

Or maybe you’re a newly-promoted marketing executive who’s just inherited your company’s under-construction website, and you have a completely different vision for it than your predecessor did.

Good thing your digital agency uses iterative development.

Why?

If your team was using pure waterfall methodology, you would have mapped the functional requirements for the entire project before you started, and reworking it now in light of the new information would be a significant expense.

Instead, using an iterative development model, your agency worked with you in planning an overall project broken down into bite-sized pieces. So they’re scoping, building and testing by iteration, which means you have more flexibility. You can adjust more quickly—not instantly, but with a lot less downtime than you would otherwise. You have a better chance of staying within your budget, or close to it, while re-scoping around the features or functions that will deliver the highest value given the new situation. (If you’re curious about the more technical details of various development models, start with this article.)

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in the trenches with clients facing scenarios like the ones above. Let’s be honest: it’s hard to manage a two- or four- or six-month project and keep it on time and on budget while your business landscape is rapidly changing around you.

Iterative development isn’t a magic wand, but it goes a long way. And that’s why it’s built into our internal processes here at Hanson.