Some software comes with increased demands. Sometimes, it may even require a faster release.
When releasing software, requirements can become extensive. Sometimes, your next project kick-off can have more detailed specifications. For this, I can recommend one of several models. Here, I would like to discuss a specified software project approach, incremental development.
What is Incremental Development?
Incremental development is essentially the process of software development, in which needs break down into more coherent requirements. These constitute various modules within the software development cycle.
The layout of the system is straightforward, bearing several basic enclosed features. These are then passed on directly to the customer, who then ‘accepts’ the project. As a rule, this process emphasises actionable stages with well-defined specifications.
Outline of the Process
As you navigate the Incremental Development process, you will meet key milestones, which I have identified.
We begin the process with what I call ‘requirement gathering’. Here, we identify and prioritise the necessary aspects of our desired product. Any considerations are also welcome at this stage. Therefore, be sure to mark any requirements as ‘must-haves’, ‘maybes’, or ‘nice-to-have’ as well.
We then follow this, with an informal ‘functional specification’ stage, whereby we produce use cases. These scenarios help to precisely define the interactions between the system and the external world. Keep in mind that your end-user may be persons, or other systems – which should help you in outlining your requirements. Agile, however, tends to skip this stage, as programmers will carry out development based on existing ‘user stories’.
It is a good idea to carry out an incremental plan, whereby you establish parameters of your development phases. You will see that in each increment we have a ‘waterfall’ process taking place. This contains functional specification, detailed design, programming, testing & bug-fixing, acceptance, and production.
Choose Your Model
It is important to note that every module passes through one of several models. In this article, I wish to discuss two of the leading processes.
- The first is termed as the Staged Delivery Model. In this sequence, a project undertakes the construction of only one project at a time.
- The second is the Parallel Development Model. As opposed to the former process, different subsystems can develop simultaneously.
These processes may differ at a very notable stage. However, they mirror one another on a few fundamental aspects. We will explore these stages shortly. Before we do this, it is a good idea to have a clear overview of the models.
These can differ, based on your chosen sources, but tend to take on the resulting form:
- Functional specifications (also known as ‘analysis’)
Staged Delivery Model
As you can see, the process undergoes a linear sequence. Akin to Agile software development, each phase concludes, with necessary iterations, before progressing the next. This is notable in the construction phases.
Parallel Development Model
As the name suggests, certain phases of product construction take place simultaneously or parallel to one another. You will see that opening and concluding stages of this model bear a striking similarity. As is the nature of these stages, they cannot take place in conjunction with one another and must remain sequential.
Incremental Model Phases
The model in its entirety appears relatively straightforward. However, its apparent simplicity leaves much to the imagination. We’ll explore some of the fixed components of this dynamic framework. As a result, we’ll be able to understand the specific functioning of each segment in greater detail.
This is the earliest phase of the development model. It is vital to set requirements of both functional, and non-functional elements.
In this highly critical role, a specialist identifies problems, demands, and areas of opportunity within the project. Additionally, a requirements analysis team will identify and examine functional system conditions.
The definition of these attributes should take place at the beginning of the project in its entirety. In this regard, it is ill-advised to set requirements throughout the project increments.
Design and Development
This phase is also known as ‘Architecture Design’. At this stage, we begin to transition the border between theoretical and practical lines. Here, the software design begins to account for tangible functions and practical applications.
With this said, I believe that we should fundamentally define a system’s entire architecture. Additionally, we should understand our prospective development tools.
Crucially, this is the stage at which the Incremental Model in-effect begins to operate. With defined requirements set, we may begin to plan project increments in detail. This, in effect, opens the path to ‘incremental elements’ of the process.
The findings during incremental work mustn’t lead to changing decisions. Many companies make the mistake of adjusting their project trajectory during ‘common phases’ of a project. This is a situation from which project managers should steer clear.
Once this stage concludes, the nominal construction stages will take place.
This stage takes place following project construction stages. Here, coding verifications take place in what is also known as ‘Verification Testing’. At this point, we would determine the performance of the existing functions. Additionally, we would assess the viability of possible subsequent functions.
The means of carrying out this activity will, however, vary across testing methods. These can be determined based on the type of project, and the nature of the coding stages.
Once we reach this stage, we initiate the coding phase of the development system. It is at this stage that the assessment of design and development take place. We can also view this as an extension to the testing phase. The reason for this because we begin to explore the functioning of the system in greater detail.
Once we reach the conclusion of this stage, the number of the product is upgraded. Furthermore, the product’s functioning is enhanced, as the project begins to enter its final stages and roll-out.
Advantages of the Incremental Model
Whether your requirements are superior or have staff with finite levels of training, there are decisive benefits to using this development method.
The merits of this model are such that it accepts earlier revenue recognising and invoicing. Traditionally, a software project would complete a billing cycle following the conclusion of all combined activities. Here, the software producer can receive approval notices and invoices on an increment-by-increment basis. In my opinion, such an arrangement is more advantageous to that of advance payments, as it provides for a more transparent process. In this aspect, accounting recognises cash flows, leading to timely, and accurate financial results.
What is also significant is the client-side PM can better manage their budget. If we produce increments in sequence, they can then present project progress and achievements to you, and your audience.
From a project management perspective, the benefits allow for a more effective spread of allocated resources. This prevents idle development staffs, as analysts can make the most of their allotted time throughout development work.
Finally, a significant benefit to all stakeholders is the outcome of the project itself. In this aspect, the end-user receives partial functionality early in the process. This enables a more transparent and involving process. That, in turn, makes it possible to use some system functionalities, where applicable, with others in development.
As with any new process, there are important factors to note. The Incremental Development model is a demanding procedure, requiring supervision and involvement.
The constraints provided by this programme may yield an initial disadvantage. One such aspect is the requirement for extensive planning, within the opening stages of the project. With this said, planning is essential to carry out, but ensure you spread further analyses across increments.
Be sure to keep in mind that analysts must remain on board during each phase. Therefore, I don’t recommend carrying out a full analysis at the opening stages of the project. The reason for this is because often, analysts will transfer to other projects. That, in turn, makes it burdensome to retrieve them to support critical milestones, such as acceptance tests and user milestones.
There is, of course, the need for a commitment of labour, in this aspect. However, with planning, and the addition of extended teams, software companies can overcome this demand.
Future Scenarios and Applications
Software development processes can be more effective, depending on the product itself. In this case, web applications and product-based companies can expect optimal results.
Be sure to use these methods when you demand an early release of the product, or in cases where the software team are not as experienced regarding the project’s complexity. Additionally, these methods excel where your project features well-defined goals, or if it seeks high-risk features.
The Incremental Development model accounts for a linear, Staged Delivery Model, and the multilateral Parallel Development Model. The latter of the two enables further efficiency. With this in-regard, the Parallel model will ultimately decrease TTM considerably. You may require additional resources to work simultaneous tasks, which you may remedy with Extended Teams.
With careful planning comes a highly efficient process, yielding a highly-efficient product. Whilst the process may demand well-defined module interfaces, with exceptional involvement in the planning phases, the results speak for themselves.