July 25, 2023
4 min read
When delivering a new feature or function for your product, there’s always a tension between releasing a complete initiative and the need to deliver incremental value on a regular basis for customers. Opinions may diverge on this point, but there tends to be more value in building a feature out using the iterative process, instead of delivering a full product release later on.
As a product manager, you need to routinely add value to the user experience. This involves receiving continuous feedback that helps you and your team decide on the next steps. Such a decision requires knowing whether users are satisfied or if you need to continue development.
In this article, you will learn what the interview process is, the benefits it provides, and the steps you need to take to implement it within your product development.
Table of contents
What is the iterative process?
The iterative process involves building out a new feature or function for the product one step at a time. This helps an organization maximize product, design, and engineering resources in order to provide value to the user on a semi-regular basis.
Teams use iterative product development for two interconnected reasons. First, by iteratively releasing or shipping increments of a new feature or function for users, you can provide an immediate benefit to users without them having to wait for the launch of the entire feature.
Second, providing incremental value or parts of a new feature to users initially can help product managers obtain feedback on the direction of the feature while it’s still under construction. This allows you to make a decision as to whether to continue on or wrap up development.
The benefits of the iterative process
Iterative product development helps you by:
Providing incremental value to the user
Pursuing iterative product development allows the small, beneficial parts of the new feature to be in users hands on a regular basis. For example, imagine if your team was part of a social media app and you’re introducing a new feature that allows users to add multiple friends to their follower list at a time.
A good first step might be adding the ability to add one friend at a time to their follower list. This way, the user receives an immediate feature, but you can also test the foundations of the new feature.
Obtaining early feedback
The ability to break a feature up into iterations assists a product manager in obtaining feedback from users at each stage. By putting the pieces together little by little, you include the user in the development process and can adapt to feedback that you receive. This helps you understand user needs and remain agile.
Maximizing time, effort, and money
Building features and functions iteratively helps organizations maximize the quality of each iteration and prevents delays that could arise out of product misalignment.
By undertaking iterative development, technical and practical risks are minimized and each iteration’s potential is maximized until the next iteration can be undertaken.
Iterative process steps
Use the following steps to implement the iterative process into your product development process:
- Design the ideal state of the feature
- Brainstorm must-haves
- Break the end goal into iterative sprints
- Set dates and expectations for releases
1. Design the ideal state of the feature
The first step towards iterative product development requires collaborating with the product designer to develop what the end goal looks like. Inputs from multiple customer feedback channels, customer interviews to online surveys, and data analytics reports, should be used to shape the final feature.
Initially, the final solution should not take into account time, scope, or resource constraints. It should represent the end state when all the ideal conditions align themselves for the team.
2. Brainstorm must-haves
Once you design the final feature, the team should then have a number of different brainstorming sessions together. The main purpose of these sessions is to review the final solution and come up with a product feature prioritization strategy:
- Must-haves — These are the non-negotiable parts of the final solution that should be a part of the new function and feature, no matter what
- Should-haves — These are parts of the final solution that would be good add ons for the new function and feature, but are not necessary to solve the main problem in the first place
- Could-haves — These add incremental value, but are not essential for the completion of the function and feature
- Will-not-have — These are parts of the feature and function that make no difference in solving a pain point for the user
3. Break the end goal into iterative sprints
After brainstorming and deciding on the necessary parts, it’s time to start breaking the product down into iterations. You want to ensure that each iteration has enough work to cover a regular sprint cycle.
Each iteration also needs to have enough value in and of itself to be shipped out to users. Ask yourself, “What is the main benefit that will be realized by shipping this increment of the new feature?” Link the iterations to parts of the problem you want to solve for your users.
4. Set dates and expectations for releases
Finally, iterations should be time scoped and you need to set expectations for what kind of release it is. Although all iterations will eventually be realized as customer benefits down the line, there may be times when the function or feature will be released to a sub-set of customers or all customers generally, depending on what you are trying to get out of it.
Broadly, there are three different types of releases that should be considered when it comes to iterations:
- Alpha — This is where the iteration of your final feature is released to a small subset of users (e.g. around 3-4 users). The small number of users allows you to validate the approach of the iteration, as well ensure that the function or feature is solving the problem for the user in the first place
- Early access product (EAP) — Here, the iteration is released to a wider audience but given an EAP tag in the product. As an EAP, you set expectations for user that the full functionality of the feature is not yet complete
- GA — In this case, the product has satisfied enough testing requirements to be released for a general audience. By the time it goes to GA, the hope is that the iteration has gone through such robust feedback, testing, and completion that it’s ready to provide an immediate benefit to all users who utilize it
Applying the iterative process to product management allows you to continuously provide users with new benefits, receive increased feedback, and maximize your resources. The process helps to prevent you from learning about product issues at the end of development when it’s already too late, or too expensive to rectify them.
If you follow the points above, you’ll be able to implement an iterative product development approach in no time!
Featured image source: IconScou