Why aren’t people interested in releasing incrementally?

Jason Yip
2 min readNov 26, 2022

Originally from my old blog in 2011,

It seems very obvious to us in the Agile crowd that incremental release is superior:

And yet we very often encounter people in organisations that seem not to be interested in incremental release… why is that?

Lack of focus on cash flow. Especially with large corporations, there is a tendency for an implicit belief that “cash falls from the sky”. Money comes from the budgeting process, not from delivering valuable products and/or services.

The increment will need to be reworked or thrown away. This is essentially loss aversion. Just because we’ve invested in something initially doesn’t mean that the correct next step won’t be to drop that initial investment. However, because humans are naturally more averse to loss, we will have a tendency to not want to put ourselves in that position.

Incremental releases will undermine the brand. When someone hears “incremental”, they may be translating that to “half-ass” rather than “half the features”. From a product/service marketing perspective, there are actually a lot of opportunities with incremental releases especially if you are able to target subsets of users:

  • reduced brand risk by not doing drastic changes all at once;
  • ability to target market segments;
  • ability to A/B test

I’d suspect that if you actually talk to product/service marketing people about what problems they have and what they want to do, you’ll find that it lines up quite nicely.

The budget process does not support incremental releases. Try talking to someone in your finance department:

“We are thinking of moving to more incremental releases because [insert reasons] and we believe it will improve cash flow, but we’re not sure how to model this financially or how to make it fit with budgeting. Would you be able to help?”

It can’t technically be done. When you talk to the various IT stakeholders, remember one question:

“If were able to solve that problem, is there anything else that would stop us from releasing incrementally?”

When you gather all the problems, then it’s just the simple though not easy matter of working through them all.

Other miscellaneous administrative reasons tend to follow the same pattern:

  1. Talk to the stakeholders
  2. See if they actually have a problem as they may not
  3. If they do have problems, make sure you get all of them
  4. Work the problems one-by-one

French translation of this post, “Pourquoi les gens ne sont-ils pas intéressés par les livraisons incrémentales?”, by Fabrice Aimetti

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Jason Yip

Senior Manager Product Engineering at Grainger. Extreme Programming, Agile, Lean guy. Ex-Spotify, ex-ThoughtWorks, ex-CruiseControl