Iterative vs. On-Demand Scheduling: Which is Better?

On-Demand Scheduling vs. Iterative Scheduling: Which is Better?

When aligning a Project Management approach to project work, there is also the selection of the scheduling technique to best fit the project goals. The question “Which is better, on-demand scheduling or iterative scheduling?” asks, “which scheduling approach is better for this specific project while using this project management method?” Project Managers should have a strong understanding of current project scheduling techniques to make informed decisions that benefit the business.

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Project Scheduling

Project Management Institute (PMI) publishes not only the A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) but also companion resources, including the Practice Standard for Scheduling. Just as Project Management methods and tools, including Agile, Lean, and Kanban, evolve to meet new business needs and customer requirements, so have project scheduling techniques.

PMI’s 2019 3rd edition of the Practice Standard for Scheduling states: “…a detailed schedule model that contains logically related work allows the project to be simplified into manageable phases or groupings of activities. These phases or groupings allow management to optimize the trade-offs between scope, cost, and schedule.“

Note that PMI does not recommend a single project scheduling technique. Instead, project scheduling, including selecting the appropriate scheduling technique for a given project, is a core project management skill addressed in PMI’s Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification exam.

Which is Better?

Project Managers need to know the difference between on-demand and iterative scheduling to determine which is better for the project. There is no absolute answer for which scheduling technique is better, but there can be benefits or hardships if the scheduling is not aligned with the project goals or project management approach.

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What is On-Demand Scheduling?

The terms on-demand scheduling PMP, on-demand schedule, and on-demand schedule PMP all refer to the same technique. On-demand scheduling is a project management technique whereby work is pulled from a queue (or backlog) when resources are available to balance the demand against the workers’ output. The concept is related to Lean manufacturing, where products are produced only when there is a demand. On-demand scheduling is most used in adaptive environments, with agile teams using the Kanban approach to better enable the work product to be delivered “just in time.” It is not as effective in Scrum projects due to the fixed duration of each iteration.

What is Iterative Scheduling?

Iterative scheduling is driven by project management methods in which tasks are divided into a series of mini-projects called iterations. It is helpful when you need to be flexible with your project timeline or when there are last-minute changes. Iterative scheduling may save time and resources by only scheduling the tasks that are absolutely necessary. As the name suggests, iterative scheduling allows for adjustments as project performance is impacted by resource and environmental changes.

Iterative Scheduling vs. On-Demand Scheduling

An iterative schedule or on-demand schedule can benefit the project when used correctly within a corresponding project management approach.

On-demand scheduling can be used within project management as a means to:

  • allocate resources more efficiently,
  • reduce waste,
  • improve project team and stakeholder communications, and
  • boost team productivity.

Iterative scheduling is also very powerful. When incorporated appropriately in an adaptive environment, the project manager and team will be more likely to:

  • be more flexible with timelines,
  • save time within the project timeline,
  • save resources for only necessary work,
  • improve project team and stakeholder communications, and
  • boost team productivity.

Not too long ago, most project schedules came together using the rigid and slow (often painful) process of traditional or predictive project management. The resulting schedule had a fixed date for all milestones and deliverables, no matter how far into the future, as if nothing would change once the project started. There could be an example of a project that had no changes whatsoever but was likely only a myth. Additionally, new project management methods and approaches, like Agile, have been embraced to manage different ways of working.


When used effectively and in conjunction with an aligned project management approach, either the on-demand schedule or iterative schedule technique can drive:

  • reduced resource waste,
  • effective communication, and
  • increased team productivity

Both are powerful tools for managing projects more efficiently because both base scheduling decisions on what tasks are necessary and enable schedule flexibility to account for last-minute changes.


The main difference between on-demand scheduling and iterative scheduling is that, with on-demand scheduling, tasks are scheduled as needed. In contrast, with iterative scheduling, tasks are divided into a series of mini-projects.


Like project management approaches, project scheduling techniques evolve to meet the needs and requirements of businesses, project managers, project teams, and customers. While on-demand scheduling PMP, on-demand schedule PMP, iterative scheduling PMP, and interactive schedule PMP may not be listed on a project manager job posting, project scheduling is a critical skill in today’s complex business environment. Both on-demand and iterative scheduling are ideal when you need to be flexible with your project timeline or when there are expected last-minute changes. As part of their job or preparing to take the PMP certification exam, Project managers should know these two leading Agile-based scheduling techniques. On-demand and iterative scheduling prioritizes the creation of detailed resource plans in the short term rather than attempting to predict timelines for the full scope of the entire project at once.

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Megan Bell
Megan Bell
Project Manager & Writer at Project Management Academy
Megan Bell