icon picker
Iterative project management process, tips, and templates

Foster collaboration and rapid prototyping with this flexible style of project management.
Does your new project lack a defined goal?
Are you expecting rapid changes during your project?
Traditional project management defines projects in clear, distinct phases. But you may not be able to rely on the traditional method if you need to produce a working model quickly, or if your stakeholders need to give input throughout the project execution process.
You’ll need a more flexible way of working to suit these conditions. Iterative project management is a more flexible style of Agile project management designed for projects with moving targets or uncertain conditions.
We’ll cover:
What is an iterative project management?
The best scenarios to use an iterative project management style and its benefits.
How to plan a project using the iterative method with the best chances of success.
The differences between an iterative and incremental project management method.
Useful templates from Coda to get started with iterative project management.

What is iterative project management?

Iterative project management takes inspiration from the Agile and Scrum project management methodologies, which uses a set iterative sequence of work with a fixed timeframe to break down large projects into smaller, more manageable tasks.
Each iteration uses this method to deliver a customer-ready outcome or work product, leaving enough room between iterations to gather feedback from customers or stakeholders for the next iteration while plans are flexible enough to change between iterations.

How is iterative project management different from the traditional waterfall method of project management?

Traditional waterfall project management method follows a five-step sequential workflow:
Project planning
Instead of each step becoming its own phase, the five stages are executed together in a fixed sequence as a mini-project. The end-point of one iteration becomes the starting point of the next, and teams repeat this 5-step process as many times as needed until the project is completed.

: The Iteration vs. Waterfall method of project management, Lvivity

When to best use iterative project management?

Iterative project management is a flexible tool for project managers. Use this method when:
Project requirements are unclear or broad.
You’ve defined a vision or ideal end-state but lack (or are unable to) create a structured plan with milestones to reach your end-goal.
When you foresee significant changes to business conditions or the product development environment over time.
When company culture or working environment fosters a collaborative working style. Iterative project management thrives on open communication and collaboration between the product owner, development team, and external stakeholders.

How does iterative project management work?

Using the iterative method, project managers divide tasks into fixed periods between 2-6 weeks. These are called iterations. This provides teams a framework to plan, execute, deliver, test, and review value for a project.
Iterative project management consists of five distinct steps, performed during each iteration:
Planning: Define requirements and plan work to be done.
Analysis: Defining how to achieve project goals.
Execution: Executing on the planned work and implementation of work products.
Review: Testing and gathering customer feedback.
Adjust: Based on feedback in previous steps, adjust the approach to start the next iteration.

Step 1: Planning - Define iteration requirements and objectives.

This step defines “what” this iteration seeks to achieve.
During the Planning step, you should organize your documents and align your project scope with any hard deadlines, all while keeping stakeholder or organizational requirements at the forefront.

Step 2: Analysis - Solution architecture design and development.

After defining goals in step one, step two is for brainstorming.
Some examples:
Design a technical model to meet your iteration objectives.
Sitting down with your stakeholders or project team members to design an approach.

Step 3: Implementation.

The goal here is to meet the requirements set out in Step 1. You’re building on previous iterations to create a ready end-product to test and gather feedback.

Step 4: Testing and gathering feedback.

Your team tests the finished product of the iteration, identifying any bugs, crashes, or usability issues hampering its use before releasing. Some examples:
Functionality testing: If your iteration does what it’s meant to do.
Usability testing: Tests with representative users to evaluate whether the functionality fits their needs.
A/B testing: Comparing your new iteration with the previous iteration to identify any performance improvements or changes.
Once you’re satisfied with your testing results, consider presenting them to your project stakeholders, internal teams, or customers for them to provide feedback to take into the next iteration.

Step 5: Review and assessment.

Once you’ve completed testing, it’s time to zoom out again to review the entire process. Consider conducting a team retrospective at the end of the iteration; sitting down with your team and project stakeholders to review project progress, what needs to be done in the next iteration, and any changes to make.
Useful review questions to ask yourself:
Was the iteration successful in meeting project objectives? If not, what happened?
What worked during the iteration?
What didn’t work?
Is there anything we could improve?

What are the benefits of iterative project management?

Increased flexibility to incorporate changes or feedback.

Iterative project management aims to deliver a working product within weeks. Each development cycle ends with an opportunity to gather feedback from critical stakeholders or within the team — allowing the team to respond to any input or changes in the next iteration.
This flexibility results in a product that’s more aligned to the overall project objectives while staying agile enough to react to changes in scope, resources, or project requirements over time.

Quicker risk identification.

High priority risks and the steps to mitigate them are identified early on during the analysis phases of the iteration. The planning process also involves prioritizing threats based on probability and potential impact, in which the team can develop a response strategy to these risks and keep the project moving.

Easy version checking.

The iterative model naturally delivers improved versions of the work products compared with previous iterations. Furthermore, if a new iteration causes a significant issue, the team can quickly identify the issue between iterations and fix the problem or roll back to a previous iteration with minimal information or progress loss.

Clear progress encourages teamwork and motivates the team.

As iterations build on each other, a team can easily track and measure progress between iterations. The method also promotes close collaboration between teammates and other stakeholders throughout the project, reducing the risks of siloed teams.

More freedom for experimentation.

Innovation thrives when motivated team members have the freedom to experiment and try out new approaches without the fear of failure. Rapid iterations help generate and test ideas quickly.
Clear feedback and results from each iteration allow team members to quickly identify what’s working and the effect of their work on the overall project.

Deliver business value from the beginning.

Because each project iteration delivers a ready-to-use outcome, projects using iterative project management have a business value much faster than projects planned incrementally

What is the difference between an iterative and incremental development approach?

Incremental project management builds a solution in parts. Work products are released one at a time before starting on another stage. A customer-ready work product is delivered only at the end of the project.
In contrast, an iterative approach builds the overall solution or outcome as a prototype, gathering feedback on each iteration, and refining until completion.

An incremental approach specifies requirements upfront.

In an incremental approach, project requirements and goals are stated upfront before work begins. The team analyzes all potential problems, opportunities, and needs at the beginning before planning project increments in detail. Plans should remain unchanged throughout the project lifecycle.
An iterative approach sets requirements at the start of each iteration and maps them to overall project objectives. The area of focus is narrower; requirements are set for the duration of an iteration to complete a work-ready product. They vary between iterations, depending on changes in scope, feedback from stakeholders, or resources available.

Each approach requires a different type of engagement from the team.

In the incremental approach, teams develop work products in chunks. Team members progress through the project cycle sequentially, refining and adding functionality until it’s ready to release. Customer-ready products are only released at completion, after which requirements are re-planned for the next chunk of work.
In an iterative process, iterations last two to six weeks. Each iteration is essentially a mini-project, going through the entire project cycle of planning, executing, gathering feedback, and reviewing progress during each iteration.

Four principles to successfully employ the iterative project management method.

1. Create a transparent feedback team culture.

Giving and receiving feedback is central to the iterative process. Getting constructive feedback on work products helps the team deliver a better product in the end.
Some actionable strategies to help you cultivate an environment receptive to feedback:
Encourage a respectful tone when talking about feedback.
Lead by example by sharing your wins, losses, and lessons learned during iterations in the open.
Encourage each team member to review their performance during previous iterations before reflecting on it during a collective feedback session.
Set clear expectations around the structure of feedback sessions; defining goals, who gives and receives feedback, the frequency of these sessions, and how to do it.

2. Plan the work internally with the team.

While traditional project management uses a top-down work planning approach, you’ll need to adopt a collaborative approach with iterative project management.
Get people involved in tasks to actively make the decisions on planning the work and setting goals for each iteration. Not only does this approach encourage ownership of tasks and motivate the team member to deliver on what they intended, but it also provides a more accurate estimate of timelines, resource availability, and any task dependencies that may affect progress, minimizing the risk of inaccuracies during the planning process.

3. Distribute and manage team workloads.

Another crucial aspect is managing workloads to maximize performance and reduce overwhelm.
Consider three aspects when managing team workloads
Capacity planning: Get input from your team on their availability in an iteration while planning.
Prioritization of work: Order tasks in terms of priority and focus on high priority items first.
Regular check-ins to monitor team health: Schedule check-ins with each team member to see where they stand with their workload, especially if you notice that an upcoming iteration requires more of their time.

4. Be disciplined about documentation.

An iterative project thrives on adapting to change. To avoid getting lost in the sea of change, set up a system and track any new lessons learned team feedback and the improvements you’ve made with each iteration.
Diligent documentation serves two purposes:
Communicating updates and justifying decisions to stakeholders.
Keeps you on track with overall objectives and takes note of decisions made during the project.

Plan and track your iterative projects with these Coda templates.

Need support following the iterative approach in your next project? Here are a few templates to help you plan and execute your project tasks.

Basic project management template.

If you prefer a more visual project management method, this fits all you need for your project in one visually appealing dashboard.

What you can do with this template:
Quickly add and track to-dos.
Add in notes and ideas whenever inspiration strikes you.
Track multiple projects within the same dashboard.

Central hub template to track and organize all ongoing projects.

Working on multiple projects simultaneously? Here’s a template to keep all your endless project details, timelines, and briefs organized in one space.

What you can do with this template:
See project timelines in a single view.
Track projects by clients and see crucial details at a glance like a project status and start/end dates.

Flexible project planning template.

Use Coda’s flexible building blocks to . Track tasks assigned by iteration make notes on things accomplished and lessons learned while keeping everything organized.

What you can do with this template:
A comprehensive task list allows you to sort tasks into categories and track progress.
Summary charts for quick reference.
Add and customize properties to each task like assigning priority levels, task descriptions, and more.

A few of the 40,000+ teams that run on Coda.

Coda is an all-in-one platform that blends the flexibility of docs, structure of spreadsheets, power of applications, and intelligence of AI.

Want to print your doc?
This is not the way.
Try clicking the ⋯ next to your doc name or using a keyboard shortcut (
) instead.