Adopting a Shift-Left Testing Approach Step-by-Step

As per the noteworthy findings of the Consortium for Information and Software Quality, the below-par quality of software engendered an estimated loss of $2.08 trillion for American enterprises back in 2020. This is just one of the facts that ground the incredible growth of the market of software testing services, up to $70 billion by 2030, credible sources state. In this piece, we’ll discuss the perks and drawbacks of shift-left testing, the approach that fosters companies to ‘test early, test often.’ Does it pay to make your QA engineers comb through the processes before any programming actually commences? Isn’t it much faster to debug in production? Make up your mind after looking through our explanations.

Shift-Left Testing

The Rise of the Shift-Left Movement: How it all Started

The novel concept was first introduced in an article by Larry Smith published in the US-based Dr. Dobb’s Journal in 2001. The author stated that it revolved around averting issues rather than simply detecting them, as well as augmented synchronization between QA and development.

The notion behind the shift-left testing approach was to bring certain activities upstream in the development pipeline. Simply put, if one were to perceive the sequence of operations as a consecutive flow from left to right, conducting verifications at its earlier phases logically means that they’re advanced upstream, or, in other words, slide towards the left.

By doing so, you strengthen the odds of proactive bug detection, which can, in some cases, substantially minimize their cost compared to when they’re spotted in the endgame. The approach has garnered attention in recent years due to the escalating call for convoluted IT products of premium grade furnished rapidly. At this, any traditional approach that relies on verification and validation at the tail end of the development pipeline has a greater risk of exorbitant lags.

The shift-left approach in testing shouldn’t be interpreted as tackling QA-related assignments earlier in a process sequence, nor does it suggest their absence in the final stretch. Instead, it should be looked upon as their dispersion across all steps of the workflow. The aim is to establish sustained involvement of testers and informative feedback from them.

Experts agree that the shift-left testing approach encompasses traditional, incremental, Agile/DevOps, and model-based strategies of shift-left testing. The first type involves starting the work with unit tests and continuing with integration, system, and acceptance checks. The second one necessitates gradually adding complexity to activities by starting with basic unit tests and expanding to include more complex and comprehensive verifications. Agile/DevOps type consists in integrating checking and validation measures into the Agile and DevOps methodologies, with a central emphasis on consecutive reviews, automation, and cohesive teamwork of developers, testers, and other specialists. Lastly, the model-based strategy relies on representations of diverse dimensions of your system, such as requirements, prototypes, behavior, etc., to determine the progress of services.

Shift-left Testing Principles to Take in

What are the core shift-left testing principles that distinguish it from any traditional approach?

Early-Stage Testing

A cornerstone of the shift-left movement is starting at the outset of the SDLC. This raises the prospect of pinpointing and handling possible obstacles and hindrances well in advance of the rollout date, without succumbing to the stress of impending deadlines. In addition, this heightens the chance of revising the solution’s design before coders actually set to work.

Enhanced Collaboration

Shift-left testing is associated with strong collaboration between programmers, testers, designers, project managers, business analysts, product owners, and so on. This considerably facilitates the introduction of white-box testing. In addition, such cooperation allows for optimized resource allocation and task estimations and guarantees that everyone is aligned on joint missions and targets.

Fully-fledged Automation

The shift-left testing approach relies heavily on automation to increase work efficiency by rapidly and recurrently performing multiple checks with instant access to their results. Thanks to this approach, the occurrence of human slip-ups lessens, test coverage reasonably expands, and your specialists are freed up to concentrate on more engaging assignments.

Continuous Testing

Conducting incessant checks logically means that they’re not a separate phase but rather an ongoing process that occurs continuously as new code is integrated into the codebase and deployed to production. Thus, programmers can expeditiously furnish bug-free features and new updates.

What Are The Initial Strides Towards The QA Shift Left?

In the context of software QA services, there are sundry strategies that both coders and QAs should embrace to foster collaboration and ameliorate the efficiency of their efforts.

Integrate Validation Into The Development

While programmers can take on certain responsibilities like conducting unit tests, testers should master the basics of coding. This will enhance collaboration between the two groups and pave the way for well-oiled automation. By employing uniform tools and adopting test-driven development, your tech experts can ascertain that testability is prioritized from the very outset of the IT initiative.

Map Out Strategies In Advance

To maximize the perks of the QA shift left, your staff should begin planning for verifications at the nascent stages of development. This includes drawing up static plans, devising automation scripts, and writing API tests before the coding even begins.

Make a Revision of Your Corporate Structure

The focus on intense teamwork means that certain traditional SDLC roles may become redundant. For instance, some of your team leads and manual testers may consider mastering technical aspects of the software and transiting to new roles.

Invest in Tooling and Infrastructure

To support shift-left testing principles, companies need to adopt advanced tools and infrastructure to streamline automation, management, and other activities. These instruments can include:

  • Selenium, Appium, and TestComplete to streamline automation,
  • TestRail, Zephyr, and qTest to boost test management,
  • GitHub, GitLab, and Bitbucket for well-organized code reviews,
  • Jenkins, Travis CI, and CircleC to back continuous integration,
  • JUnit, NUnit, and TestNG for accelerated unit checks, etc.

Moreover, it’s advisory that firms would allocate supplementary resources to training and education on the above instruments and the best Agile and DevOps practices to empower the cultural transformation and ensure that everyone on the team understands the tenets and rewards of the shift-left approach in testing.

Standardize Your Procedures to Improve the Consistency of Environments

By closely following well-defined workflows with consistent setups and well-scripted processes your teams will avoid ad hoc changes. To ensure consistency and minimize potential issues during deployment, it’s crucial to standardize rollout procedures and aim to equalize development and production environments to the maximum extent possible. For this purpose, patterns can be used.

Last but not least, development and operations experts should work in tandem rather than in silos. Your developers should have access to tools and dashboards that explain the production, allowing them to detect and troubleshoot issues at every milestone of software creation.

Key Takeaways

By relying on the shift-left approach in testing, your teams can avail themselves of faster feedback loops, greater agility, and increased collaboration. Although the adoption of this mindset requires investments in people, processes, and technology, the efforts for joining the shift-left movement and establishing a culture of quality and continuous improvement will ultimately pay back.

At the end of the day, your preferred methodology should depend on your project’s complexity and requirements, as well as on industry particularities. Therefore, it’s always preferable to turn to a trusted IT vendor for top-notch services and expertise.