Here’s Shift Left Testing – But Should You?

As we dive deeper into the software economy the role of software testing becomes ever-more important. After all, there is hardly any place for buggy or defective products in this software-driven world. Today, concepts like driverless cars, hovering drones, manufacturing automation etc. are all a reality not just because of technological advancements buts also because of the immense emphasis on the quality of testing. Testing, that was once relegated to the end of the development cycle has now changed completely owing to the rise of development methodologies such as DevOps and Agile. Now it is a key enabler of robust and solid product development. As the testing process becomes more integrated with the development process and becomes more continuous throughout the development lifecycle, we meet another testing approach. Welcome ‘Shift-left testing’.

Shift left testing approach

Shift-Left Testing – An introduction

When the software development industry was using the traditional waterfall development approach, testing was kept on the extreme right side of the software development lifecycle. This development approach looked something like this:

Requirement gathering -> Design -> Coding -> Testing

With software testing being on the extreme right, bug detection happened at the very end of the development lifecycle. As a direct consequence, the time, effort and money spent to rectify bugs and errors became enormous. In many cases, it also led to delayed product releases and missed opportunities. As organizations realized that defects and errors were less costly to fix when detected early, the concept of Shift-Left testing was introduced. This concept essentially shifted testing from the far right, i.e. from the end of the development lifecycle and was introduced at every stage of the development lifecycle.

In Shift-Left testing, testing teams collaborate with the stakeholders involved in software product development earlier in the development process. With this approach, the testing teams are able to understand requirements, expected functionalities, software design and architecture, coding etc. to gain complete product knowledge. They can draw up thorough testing plans that consider all the possible scenarios to identify software defects.

Shift-Left testing and its relevance in today’s software development landscape.

Today development cycles are becoming more iterative and involve shorter sprints. Development methodologies today such as Agile and DevOps demand faster feedback and continuous development and deployment to meet the changing needs of a volatile market. With the Shift-left approach, the development and testing teams run in tandem and ensure that all defects are fixed on the go. In fact, unless testing is involved in each step of the development process, these new methodologies will not be able to deliver on their promise – that of releasing great quality software products into the market, faster. Shift-Left testing allows software development companies release new software any time during the development process. In essence, this allows frequent product upgrades to meet the changing needs of the user.

The benefits of Shift-Left testing:

Shift-Left testing promises better software quality.

Let’s see how.

1. Comprehensive testing from the word ‘go’:

The Shift-Left testing approach is as rigorous as it is aggressive. Since the testing process is introduced right at the beginning of the testing process, testing teams are better equipped to create more comprehensive tests that cover every aspect of the product in production. A much-quoted study said that “56% of defects originate during the requirement phase of the project as compared to a meager 7% during the coding phase”. With the Shift-Left approach, the attention to quality begins right at the inception. Testers can ensure that the software gets tested for each and every functionality and performance aspect. Enhanced test coverage automatically translates to better quality software that is commercially more viable.

2. Effective and faster bug resolution:

With Shift-Left testing, bugs can be identified earlier in the development process as testing becomes a proactive contributor to the development lifecycle. The software thus is open to review and to rectification right from the beginning. When bugs are identified earlier they can be fixed faster. This consequently increases the speed of development.

3. Better product development:

Shift-Left testing takes the main stakeholders of product development, the developers, the testers, the business heads etc. and ensures a collaborative approach to product development. With a better understanding of what the product is expected to accomplish and who it is targeted towards, testing teams can create better and more comprehensive test plans. This ensures better quality of the product in production while eliminating the frictional differences between teams.

4. Faster time-to-market:

As the key stakeholders of software development work in a collaborative manner in the Shift-Left testing approach, it aids the velocity of development too. The development teams are able to resolve bugs and defects proactively in the development process. This means that the number of bugs and defects to be fixed at the end of the development process and the ensuing regression testing to ensure that all connected parts of the software are operating as designed is reduced considerably. This ensures speed of development -the products can be released in the market faster.

Conclusion:

The idea of Shift-Left testing is not just to introduce testing earlier in the development process. It is also about combining the right set of tools, methodologies, frameworks, and approaches to enable predictability, and the detection and prevention of defects from the beginning to the end of the project. This enables agility and boosts productivity. The result should be a better product, released faster, and eventually greater profitability.

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