Understanding Incremental Delivery (2022)

The notion of incremental delivery is an essential feature of Scrum. It comes together with the concept of Sprint. In “The Scrum Guide,” its definition reads as follows: “An Increment is a concrete stepping stone toward the Product Goal. Each Increment is additive to all prior Increments and thoroughly verified, ensuring that all Increments work together. In order to provide value, the Increment must be usable.” As logical and straightforward it might sound, it is the most overlooked and misunderstood concepts of all, and the reason why most teams are not doing Scrum (and they should not!).

Understanding Incremental Delivery (1)

This topic has been commented on and explained in many other sites, but since it keeps on coming back, I will go ahead and try to offer one more explanation with the hope of helping the ones that still need aid getting into the idea.

What is an increment

Given that “the increment must be usable,” it follows that we do not have many choices when designing and planning our next delivery. For the outside observer, an increment could be a new or updated feature, whatever adds value to the product, but technically, since it must be in “usable condition” we can no longer consider as increments any pieces of code that will not provide stand-alone functionality by themselves.

Based on the previous definition, is it possible to abstract the three properties of an increment:

1. It constitutes a fully functional unit with business value on its own.

(Video) AgilePM® Foundation - Lesson 3: Incremental Delivery

2. It is a step forward towards the completion of the product (if “completion” is an applicable concept).

3. Its release can be omitted,its schedule advanced or delayed without affecting the actual (existing) product.

Bug fixing, code improvements, performance improvements, and libraries upgrades are entirely out of the question. By definition, they do not constitute an increment.

One more analogy: the cake

Let’s get out of software development for a moment and think about the cake analogy.Our project is a chocolate cake; we know it should look rounded, dark and delicious. But things could change; therefore we will work with “incremental delivery.” Should the requirements change, then we will inspect and adapt accordingly. Every increment must be an “eatable product.”

What do we need to do to deliver a chocolate cake?: Buy the ingredients, mixed them all, bake the cake. After that, cut into six pieces and serve to the customer. Each step is a “Sprint.”

In a traditional approach, tasks will be organized as stated above: ingredients, mix, baking, serving.

(Video) The Biggest Benefit of Incremental Delivery | Good Agile Practices| Skillbook Academy

Notice three things: first, not every Sprint is delivering anything in an“eatable condition.” Second, every Sprint depends on the previous one; we cannot reshuffle, skip or postpone any step without failing to deliver the final product. And third, if you cancel (stop) the process at any Sprint except the last one, the customer gets nothing eatable. This approach is waterfall-like, and the Sprint’s schema is bringing no value whatsoever. The focus is on the sequential order, and essentially, it is delivering “parts” that may or may not bring any benefit. In our example, they do not.

Thinking incrementally

Remember: “usable.”Every Sprint has to deliver a working unit that has its value, it is a step forward the completion of the product, and its release could be ignored without affecting the existing product. That alone gives us enough means to outline our next increment.

Now let’s examine the following image. I got it in Linkedin.de some years ago. It was very popular and liked by many people in the Agile community:

Understanding Incremental Delivery (2)

The upper row shows a typical example of partial delivery. Every Sprint adds a component, in the end, we get the product. Clearly, not an incremental approach.

But what about the lower row? Every Sprint delivers something better, but also a different product, so you never build on top of what you already have. Every “stage” requires starting from scratch again. It does not qualify as incremental because it does not possess any of the three properties described above. It does not make any sense at all. Maybe the author was trying to communicate the idea of growth or increase, but it just did not work. This unfortunate example is still today being referenced by many enthusiastic Agile fans, but it is a false analogy and a big source of confusion and misunderstanding.

Back to our chocolate cake, if we were to deliver it incrementally, we would have to mix the ingredients, bake and serve one slice at the time. Now we have got ourselves real increments:

(Video) Why I love incremental delivery and why you should too – Lili Kastilio

1. Every slice is a fully functional unit with its business value (you can eat it!).

2. Every slice is a step forward the completion of the product (five slices to go!).

3. The fate of any single slice will not affect the final product: we could skip, delay or reshuffle the baking order and still get a sweet cake.

Understanding Incremental Delivery (3)

But although the concept is simple, it is the most challenging obstacle when developing software with Scrum and it requires overcoming an immense mental gap between paradigms. It is not just a matter of practice; our culture is shaped by the concepts of planning, anticipation, and control. Our daily lives are a constant projection to the future, and so project managers are supposed to be thinking ahead of the events all the time; software developers should write code preventing “any” situation and so on.

The practice of “incremental delivery” is in frontal opposition to these notions and it demands an immense effort to be comprehended and master.

On the technical side of the issue, increments imply higher implementation costs and technical debt. Such a delivery technique means rewriting, adapting, expanding or deleting stuff that took you already a lot of time to develop. Programmers have less time and a reduced big-picture perspective, and quality suffers. Time and effort multiply by the number of times the customer changes his mind or the market shifts course, but that is the price of uncertainty and customer-driven development. Should you have a complete, well-defined product in a stable market, in a world that does not change, then incremental deliveries are not recommended.

(Video) Agile incremental delivery

Last but not least, it is imperative to understand that this approach is not suitable for every product, and that is why (almost all) airplanes, cars, houses, and still many software products cannot and are not built using Scrum. As I write, many companies are forcing their ways into Scrum or Kanban, based on the old (misguiding) strategy of “divide and conquer” when in fact, incremental delivery has little or no relation to it. The impact in the business is terrible because most teams and products will not fit into the idea of “minimum viable product.” The incremental method is especially convenient for complex, ever-changing environments where you cannot or will not commit far into the future. Tangible goods, heavily law-regulated products (banking, security, etc.) and fully specified software are usually not eligible for it.

In conclusion “incremental delivery” means delivering working software on every Sprint, but it is a concept hard to grasp. It can be beneficial and productive, but like any other tool, it has limitations and conditions. It is crucial to recognize the environment in which increments thrive and the scope of the approach.If your situation is stable, with low uncertainty and the product can be thoroughly specified, incremental delivery makes no sense for you and you should not force the existing production methods to fit into it. Under any other conditions, you should seriously consider how you could benefit from it.

Understanding Incremental Delivery (4)


What do you understand by incremental delivery? ›

Incremental delivery is the practice of repeatedly delivering a system into production (or the marketplace) in a series of expanding capabilities (Figure 2.7). The practice is promoted by IID and agile methods. Incremental deliveries are often between three and twelve months.

Why Incremental model is most effective approach? ›

The incremental approach also facilitates “time boxing,” the use of a fixed time period for each increment to dictate the amount of functionality to be delivered: if time runs out, rather than extending the deadline, the delivery of some of the less urgent functionality is deferred until a later increment.

What are the advantages of using incremental development and delivery? ›

Advantages of Incremental Model

Generates working software quickly and early during the software life cycle. More flexible – less costly to change scope and requirements. Easier to test and debug during a smaller iteration. Easier to manage risk because risky pieces are identified and handled during its iteration.

Which is an example of an incremental approach? ›

As an example of incremental analysis, assume a company sells an item for $300. The company pays $125 for labor, $50 for materials, and $25 for variable overhead selling expenses. The company also allocates $50 per item for fixed overhead costs.

What is the value of incremental delivery? ›

Incremental delivery reduces risk by helping identify any problems sooner, and it also reduces the accumulation of technical debt - or errors - by fostering transparency. Finally, Incremental delivery offers increased visibility, which means that teams can benefit from empiricism.

What is Incremental Model in simple words? ›

Incremental Model is a process of software development where requirements divided into multiple standalone modules of the software development cycle. In this model, each module goes through the requirements, design, implementation and testing phases.

What is the most important use of the incremental? ›

The main importance of the Incremental model is that it divides the software development into submodules and each submodule is developed by following the software development life cycle process SDLC like Analysis, Design, Code, and Test.

What is the major advantage of using incremental? ›

Advantages of Incremental model:

Generates working software quickly and early during the software life cycle. This model is more flexible – less costly to change scope and requirements. It is easier to test and debug during a smaller iteration. In this model customer can respond to each built.

What is the main idea behind an incremental development process? ›

The basic idea behind this method is to develop a system through repeated cycles (iterative) and in smaller portions at a time (incremental), allowing software developers to take advantage of what was learned during development of earlier parts or versions of the system.

What is the characteristics of incremental approach? ›

Characteristics of an Incremental module includes

System development is broken down into many mini development projects. Partial systems are successively built to produce a final total system. Highest priority requirement is tackled first. Once the requirement is developed, requirement for that increment are frozen.

Which is not advantage of incremental delivery? ›

However, there are problems with incremental delivery:1. Most systems require a set of basic facilities that are used by different parts of the system. As requirementsare not defined in detail until an increment is to be implemented, it can be hard to identify common facilitiesthat are needed by all increments. 2.

What is an incremental strategy? ›

Incremental strategic planning operates on a short-term basis, with leaders methodically plotting a path from A to B. Incremental plans are often tied to business planning cycles, and lack long-term focus.

What is another term for incremental? ›

gradual. piecemeal. phased. gradational. step-by-step.

What does incremental mean in business? ›

What Does Incremental Mean in Business? Incremental means a gradual increase. It could increase your ad spend and product exposure over a given timeframe given some certain benchmarks. An incremental sale can be defined as the conversion that happens based on your marketing or promotional activity.

What are incremental values? ›

increased value measured on an index or scale.

How do you calculate incremental value? ›

Follow these steps to calculate incremental revenue:
  1. Determine the number of units sold during a period of growth.
  2. Determine the price of each unit sold during a period of growth.
  3. Multiply the number of units by the price per unit.
  4. The result is incremental revenue.

What is incremental calculation? ›

Incremental cost is the total cost incurred due to an additional unit of product being produced. Incremental cost is calculated by analyzing the additional expenses involved in the production process, such as raw materials, for one additional unit of production.

What does incremental mean in a sentence? ›

incremental. adjective. /ˌɪnkrəˈmentəl/ us. happening gradually, in a series of small amounts: We plan to make incremental improvements to our existing products.

What is important in incremental decision making? ›

Incremental analysis (also referred to as the relevant cost approach, marginal analysis, or differential analysis) is a decision-making tool used to assess financial information. The three main concepts relevant to incremental analysis are relevant cost, sunk cost, and opportunity cost.

What is incremental process improvement? ›

Incremental improvement is an approach to process improvement in which you and your staff focus efforts on smaller solutions that slowly but surely move the business toward success. These ideas are typically low-cost and low-risk, and are implemented by employees throughout the entire organization.

What are incremental objectives? ›

Incremental objectives are usually small achievable objectives that must be reached in order to fully develop a product, process, or idea. Incremental objectives are small, necessary, low-risk steps that must be taken to meet the goal.

What is the difference between incremental delivery and incremental development? ›

Incremental development is the development of a system in a series of partial products, generally with increasing functionality, throughout the project timescale; incremental delivery gives those increments to the users when they are completed.

Is an incremental approach the best approach? ›

The incremental approach often offers the best way to reduce the destructiveness of confrontations over intractable issues. This approach begins by identifying any conflict problems that increase the conflict's overall destructiveness or threaten the parties' ability to make wise decisions or advance their interests.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of incremental? ›

It is more flexible and less costly to change scope and requirements. It is easy to manage each iteration.
Disadvantages of using Incremental process model :
  • It requires a good planning designing.
  • It is costlier than waterfall model.
  • Definition of system should be complete and clear.
31 Mar 2022

What type of project is not suited to incremental methods? ›

Although the incremental approach is more flexible to change compared to sequential models, incremental models are not suitable for projects based on unclear or unknown requirements. An evolutionary approach is more appropriate for such projects.

What does incremental change mean in business? ›

Incremental change is a slower process of making small adjustments to how things are done that doesn't upend existing processes, business structures or business models. Examples include continuous optimisation of business processes, improving a product along a long-term roadmap, and offering new payment choices.

What is the meaning of incremental changes? ›

Incremental change refers to change that occurs slowly and without necessarily modifying the essence of social structures or organizational practices.

What is the opposite of incremental? ›

▲ Opposite of proceeding by incremental steps, degrees or gradations. abrupt. sudden. hasty.

What is incremental performance? ›

Incrementality measures the differences in performance between two or more groups. Because the differences are what's being measured, it is not possible to identify the specific customers whose purchases were impacted by the campaign.

What is the meaning of incremental in agile? ›

Definition. Nearly all Agile teams favor an incremental development strategy; in an Agile context, this means that each successive version of the product is usable, and each builds upon the previous version by adding user-visible functionality.

What is iterative and incremental delivery? ›

Iterative means that a team delivers work frequently rather than all at once. Incremental means that they deliver it in small packets of end-to-end functionality.

What is the most important characteristics of a done increment? ›

(Per Ken Schwaber, Agile Project Management with Scrum, Microsoft Press, 2004, pg. 12) “the increment consists of thoroughly tested, well-structured, and well-written code that has been built into an executable and that the user operation of the functionality is documented

What are the three benefits of incremental development? ›

Advantages of Incremental model:

Generates working software quickly and early during the software life cycle. This model is more flexible – less costly to change scope and requirements. It is easier to test and debug during a smaller iteration. In this model customer can respond to each built.

Why is incremental important to scrum? ›

The primary goal of product increments is to ensure that the Scrum team delivers value to the customer with each sprint. By releasing working software at the end of each Sprint, the customer can provide feedback that can be used to improve the product.

What is the advantage of incremental? ›

Advantages of using Incremental process model :

It has lowers initial delivery cost. It has incremental resource deployment. It can deduct errors easily because core modules are used by the customer from the beginning of the phase and then 5.

What is another word for incremental? ›

gradual. piecemeal. phased. gradational. step-by-step.

How an Incremental Model is implemented and delivered? ›

Incremental model

Based on customer feedback, a plan is developed for the next increments, and modifications are made accordingly. This process continues, with increments being delivered until the complete product is delivered. The incremental philosophy is also used in the agile process model (see agile modeling).

What is the difference between incremental and agile? ›

Incremental development means you roadmap your features and implement them incrementally. Agile aims at creating "potentially shippable product" after every sprint. How you achieve it is a different story. Agile tries to employ "best" techniques from various fields (e.g. extreme programming).


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