Juggling Projects


There is no general “best” iteration length. The right length depends upon your team’s experience with the agile methods, tools, and solution type that you are developing, as well as the unique characteristics of your project requirements and stakeholder relationship. Some methods have suggestions for iteration lengths (e.g. 3-4 weeks for Scrum, and 2 weeks for XP) but experienced teams can often easily reduce these times even lower. When using agile methods for software development, some teams can take advantage of automated build, test, and deployment tools to reduce their cycle times dramatically. With good tools support, some teams consistently succeed with iteration lengths of 1 week or even as low as 1 day. My experience, however, says that teams who are just starting with agile should not plan such aggressive iteration lengths – 3-6 week iterations are ideal for teams just starting out. The exact length should depend upon the team’s experience and comfort level, how much time you can get from the stakeholders for end-of-iteration demos/reviews, how much time you can get from the sponsor for start-of-iteration planning, how stable the requirements are, and how small you can reasonably break down the units of work to fit within a given iteration length. A general rule of thumb is that when the levels of change/uncertainty/complexity go up, the iteration length needs to go down to compensate for the risk.