Shift-Left Testing: Transitioning from Conventional Approaches
Delayed feedback, extended time to market, limited test coverage, limited testing time, and increased costs — all these pitfalls render traditional testing methods inefficient for modern-day software development. Today, products are developed in short iterations or sprints. They follow suit with DevOps and Agile approaches and must be delivered fast and frequently to meet the evolving user requirements.
But this can't be accommodated when teams conduct testing at the end of the project. This is precisely where shift-left testing comes into play. To better assess the performance of the application, realize value with automated testing, and have holistic visibility across the development lifecycle, it's important that organizations transition from conventional testing approaches to shift-left testing.
What Are the Problems of Traditional Testing Approaches?
When software was traditionally developed using the waterfall model, testing was taken up after all the development activities were completed. Yet, despite the emergence of Agile, DevOps, Scrum, and Kanban models, testing continues to be a post-development effort.
When products were simple and requirements were precise, such an approach to testing was feasible. But in today’s hybrid environments, where every product or app must work seamlessly across devices, operating systems, and form factors, the problems of traditional testing approaches are many. For example:
- Development and testing work in silos which leads to several quality and performance issues.
- Carrying out testing later in the development lifecycle is cost-intensive as errors are more difficult to rectify.
- Any code change is implemented only after testing, decelerating the overall product delivery speed.
- Product requirements need to be communicated at the beginning of the testing process; any modifications become extremely difficult to test and implement.
- There is little or no chance of making testing a continuous process as it is undertaken in a phased manner.
How Shift-Left Testing Alleviates These Problems?
Traditional approaches to testing make business sense only when the requirements are precise. With the advent of Agile testing practices, they are no longer effective or useful.
Shift-left testing offers a great mechanism to alleviate the problems brought about by traditional testing. In essence, it brings a unique mindset to testing, allowing for code to be tested early in the development lifecycle.
More profoundly, it empowers teams to:
- Fuel better collaboration between development and testing teams and improve product design.
- Conduct testing alongside development to identify and resolve defects quickly and cost-effectively.
- Introduce new features and changes easily and seamlessly and improve time-to-market.
- Move fast and build credibility by driving innovation in short and quick iterations.
- Enhance test coverage by executing tests from the beginning of the development process.
- Better utilize time and resources by fixing bugs in time.
How To Carry Out the Transition from Conventional to Shift-Left Testing?
Implementing shift-left testing is easy if you are aware of certain tips and best practices. Here are some things to keep in mind while transitioning from conventional testing to shift-left testing:
Be Cognizant of the Different Shift-Left Testing Types
Shift-left testing isn’t just about carrying out testing in the early stages of development. To ensure success, it is important to be cognizant of the different types of shift-left testing. For instance:
- Traditional shift-left testing moves the emphasis on testing closer to development.
- Incremental shift-left testing progressively moves testing activities to earlier stages of the software development lifecycle and at a pace that teams find comfortable.
- Agile shift-left testing integrates testing activities into the software development process or uses a test-driven development approach.
- Model-based shift-left testing uses various models to simulate how the product works and detect defects before the actual development begins.
Engage the Right Stakeholders for Demand Planning
Successfully transitioning to shift-left testing also requires the direction and oversight of the right stakeholders. Engaging the right people during the initial stages can bring more clarity into the shift-left testing process. It can also help develop a testing baseline and devote the necessary personnel and resources to cultivate and refine the testing roadmap.
Make End-To-End Tests a Possibility
End-to-end tests are a great way to quickly transition to the world of shift-left testing and enable effective code reviews. To avoid unstable tests, make sure to first rectify defects that have been identified in early tests. Build a culture of faster feedback by embracing parallel tests. Also, make sure to run E2E tests after every code commit and develop a sense of ownership and priority.
Make Your Team More Flexible and Agile
Another best practice to embrace while transitioning to shift-left testing is nurturing collaboration. Making the team more flexible and agile can enable you to ensure testing is a collaborative effort. It also clarifies roles and responsibilities throughout the software delivery lifecycle.
Bring Risk-Based Analysis to the Mix
Bringing risk-based analysis to the mix is a great way to assess the risks inherent to the software under testing. The number or magnitude of risks depends on several factors, such as software complexity, the criticality of business, frequency of use, possible areas of defect, etc. Taking a risk-based approach allows you to prioritize the testing of features and functions that are more impactful and more likely to have defects.
When Can Shift-Left Testing Fail?
Shifting the process of testing left can seem like a foolproof way of improving testing outcomes. But not all attempts result in success. Here are three common reasons why shift-left testing can fail:
- If you have a rigid development process, integrating testing early in the lifecycle can be challenging.
- If you are not testing enough, the outcomes of shift-left testing can be sub-par as the approach requires testing as early and as frequently as possible.
- If you rely entirely on manual testing, transitioning to shift-left testing can be difficult, especially if your product is complex and undergoing several iterations.
How Automated Testing Proves Viable?
Embarking on the shift-left testing journey, no matter how beneficial, isn’t easy. With most teams continuing to rely on traditional testing methods, making the move requires a completely new approach. Test automation offers an extremely viable approach to make shift-left testing possible and successful. Having an automation-first mindset to testing can allow testing to become a continuous process.
Automated testing will also help in improving and accelerating testing outcomes. It will allow teams to test early and often while focusing on areas that are strategically more important. It will also aid in building a continuous feedback loop and empower developers to code with testability in mind.
Embrace test automation today to enable better integration between development and testing processes, pave the way for continuous testing, and improve the success rate of each release.