Building software that is perfect for consumers is not a cakewalk. It takes ample time, effort, and resources. Especially meeting the budget and time-to-market is often complex in the case of software delivery. The right planning and testing strategies are often the key to resolving this issue. In this agile ecosystem, organizations are thus focusing on moving faster by reducing the length of time for delivery while continuing to improve the quality of each release. In addition to this, they are faced with challenges in reducing testing costs. As a result, several organizations are adopting agile approaches where different testers with various skill sets participate in the testing process in the early stages. This movement vastly refers to "shifting left."
What do we understand by shift-left testing?
The shift-left approach refers to shifting left in the cycle that allows QA and testing teams to test earlier. This will enable them to detect bugs earlier, making them less costly and faster. As this approach helps to reduce overall costs and improve product quality at the same time, it is beneficial that organizations adopt appropriate testing approaches to address the economic downswing.
Why does shift-left testing matter?
The shift-left testing approach aligns itself with the 'test early' principle. By deploying shift-left testing approaches and testing early on, businesses are able to release their products sooner and ace the competition.
Primary benefits of shift-left testing include:
1. Reduced costs
Testing early helps to clarify the specification for teams before developing in the wrong way. It would reduce entire costs by decreasing investigation time and fixing it after such a wrong implementation.
2. Improved efficiency
By embracing shift-left testing technologies, enterprises can help increase testing reliability and accelerate speed-to-market.
3. Competitive advantages
Shift-left testing allows testing and QA teams to begin the tests early on in the cycle. Hence, performing shift-left testing helps deliver high-quality software while maintaining cost and time-to-market.
4. Improved quality
With early testing, errors and glitches are identified in the initial stages helping to fix them earlier and saving efforts and costs for resolving errors in the later stages.
5. Other benefits of Shift-left testing:
The shift-left approach allows developers to quickly test code via continuous integration (CI) and test automation. This enables teams to mature their SDLC toward continuous testing and the CI/CD pipeline.
Types of shift-left testing
The primary types of shift-left testing include the following—
1. Traditional shift-left testing
This type of shift-left test emphasizes unit testing and integration testing, like modern API testing, instead of acceptance and system-level testing. The focus of QA on the shift-left approach is transforming significantly across industries today to ensure optimal testing practices.
2. Incremental shift-left testing
When teams attempt to shift from waterfall development to other approaches that can help break down complex projects, they often conduct smaller tests more frequently. With the help of incremental testing, the teams can focus on one small part at a time and measure if it meets the standards.
In several instances, teams might split larger projects into a series of increments instead of one large project, which makes each increment smaller with a shorter duration. If each of the increments is delivered to the customer or operations teams, then incremental shift-left testing will move developmental testing as well as operational testing to the left. This type of shift-left testing is commonly leveraged for developing complex systems with significant hardware components.
3. Agile/DevOps testing
Generally, agile testing is executed during the development stage and doesn't cover operational testing that is done after the system is already up and running. In many scenarios, enterprises are moving towards the approach of shift-left testing in Agile/DevOps shift-left testing, where tests are performed earlier in the development cycle.
Please read: How Does Continuous Testing Accelerate DevOps?
Why are all organizations not adopting shift-left testing?
Some of the key reasons why shift-left testing is not prevalent today include the following—
● Lack of leadership support and alignment
It is often believed that security bugs can significantly cost organizations when they make it to production. Despite this, organizations are often not adopting a shift-left approach due to the lack of alignment with leadership and current processes.
● Lack of testing resources
Workload capacity is one of the primary reasons that organizations are not seamlessly shifting left. The teams are required to free up resources to adopt a shift-left testing approach while continuing with the existing test processes. Often it is believed that shift-left testing has lower test case coverage, which leads to a lack of adoption of the technique.
● Lack of tester engagement
One of the key reasons for not adopting shift-left testing is that product owners do not engage efficiently in the early phases of design and development. In the initial project discussions, testers are often not involved in the early phases of design and development. The teams often don't focus much on testing before the application hits production.
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What do shift-left and continuous testing implementations offer for the DevOps strategy?
Continuous testing refers to the practice of deploying automated tests early, appropriately, and efficiently in the software delivery pipeline.
Though shift-left testing might sound perfect for the testing process before rolling out the new products, this technique needs to be combined with several approaches to leverage it optimally. Shift-left testing should be a part of the continuous testing strategy to allow testers to generate more comprehensive tests with functional data. The combination of shift-left continuous testing is the automation of app testing to ensure that it is leveraged early on and during the product development pipeline.
Deploying this combination means that bug detection is executed earlier, helping to render quicker feedback related to functional issues with faster resolutions and lesser effort.
Recommendations for adopting the shift-left approach?
Some of the key shift-left testing strategies that enable enterprises to shift-left with software testing include—
● Demand planning
QA and test analysts in this phase engage with business and operational stakeholders that help provide a forward view of demand. This helps to plan and finalize the budget, resourcing, and test strategies ahead of time. Demand planning constitutes an integral element of the shift-left approach and provides a starting point for every other activity in the test life cycle.
● Static testing
This is executed in the early stages of the project lifecycle and involves validating requirements and design. The objective of static testing is to identify defects in the early stages that can prove to be significantly expensive in the later phases. Teams should utilize appropriate checklists to verify and validate requirements and design and leverage defect management tools to log defects.
● Unified testing strategy
This refers to a high-level strategy for end-to-end testing, from unit testing through user acceptance testing, operational readiness testing, and post-deployment testing. This strategy helps cover all phases of quality control, enabling teams to define clear responsibilities.
● Risk-based analysis
Determining the impact and probability of failures in each test scenario is crucial, and risk-based analysis helps to do that. This approach is mainly used for functional, non-functional, and regression testing.
After the test cases are established, teams should decide the priority of the test cases based on the completed analysis. Further, it is essential to discuss the impact of failure with business analysts or designers and determine the probability of failure from the development team.
How HeadSpin drives organizations to shift left and optimize the entire testing cycle?
The primary requirements for adopting continuous testing in the DevOps process are continuous automation, continuous integration, and delivery. HeadSpin's data-driven Platform aligns effectively with the critical requirement of continuous testing and allows for shifting left in the processes.
The following are three areas that HeadSpin addresses
- Integrated testing — HeadSpin allows seamless integration with multiple load-testing platforms to simplify the testing workflow by providing client-side monitoring.
- Automated testing — HeadSpin can be effectively integrated with multiple automation frameworks to help automate the tests easily and existing testing workflows. It can be integrated with Appium, Selenium, Calabh, TestNG, and many more.
- Continuous testing — HeadSpin helps enterprises to perform continuous tests for functional, performance, and load testing on real devices across 90+ global locations. The Platform also helps leverage continuous QoE/QoS assessment framework to gauge holistic and subjective quality with crucial insights.
HeadSpin's data-driven test automation Platform is extensively leveraged by organizations across different industries to run end-to-end testing across multiple apps to ensure optimal user experiences. The advanced AI capabilities help capture critical performance KPIs and identify issues that degrade the user experience to help ensure complete customer satisfaction. With the unique capabilities of the Platform, HeadSpin empowers development, QA, and product teams to ensure optimal digital experience throughout the app lifecycle.
Shift-left testing is pivotal to achieving the success of the business and ensuring that the company achieves a higher quality product in the early stages. Shifting left helps pay lump sum dividends by allowing teams to save financial resources, time, and effort in the long run.
Q1. What is a shift right testing approach?
Ans: A shift right test approach initiates testing from the right, which is post-production. This helps teams to test a completely built and functioning app to ensure good performance and usability traits.
Q2. What is the role of Behavioral driven development and test--driven development in shift-left testing?
Ans: The shift-left approach encourages testers to adopt BDD and TDD, which helps in preventing defect induction into the software.
Q3. What is the importance of specifying quality standards in shift-left testing?
Ans: QAs and QA managers should determine the level of quality, performance, and operational success that is expected from the code such that developers running the tests are aware of which bugs to look up for. They require a clear idea of the non-negotiable elements and the issues that can be forwarded to QAs. Proper clarity on software quality standards further helps tests to apply the appropriate technique to identify the bugs in their own code.