What is an Iterative Process?

Definition: An iterative process, or on-going process, is systematic repetition of sequences or formulas that aims to achieve a given result. It is a process where different data is tested until the desired result is obtained.

What Does Iterative Process Mean?

An iterative process is commonly associated with mathematics or information technology, since this procedure is used to solve many different equations and formulas by inputting data repeatedly. But iterative processes are not reserved to these particular fields. In many areas of society an iterative process is regularly employed.

For example, in politics, many different campaign formulas are tried out for a candidate to arrive to the most effective one; or a government might employ different social programs until the need they are aiming at is fulfilled. In economics, different approaches and strategies are implemented to achieve economic prosperity.

On the other hand, in business, a company can implement an iterative process in many of its areas. Marketing departments can test different advertising strategies and techniques to reach the highest number of potential clients; a financial department can try different set ups to increase profitability; or a production department can use an iterative process to achieve the highest level of production possible.

Example

An ice cream company identified the need for a new flavor to be introduced to the market. They found out that their customers were tired of the same flavors and wanted to try something new. This research triggered the need to develop new options for flavors to be tested in the field. This testing process, called “sampling”, is a market research technique were the company gives its customers the chance of trying the flavor before it is released to the open market.

The Research and Development Department designed three new flavors of ice cream to be sampled. After the sampling was performed they identified several comments and qualitative judgments from the public. By reviewing the comments they took 2 of the 3 new flavors out and redesigned the third one to include chocolate syrup. The company re-tested the new flavor, called Syrup Madness (a mix of vanilla and chocolate ice cream with chocolate syrup) and the customers were thrilled about it.

Either way they took the negative comments received at this last sampling procedure and performed the finishing touches to the new ice cream. After that, they released it to be a huge success. By implementing an iterative process of sampling they were able achieve the expected result of launching a successful product.