Shift Left Testing Guide: What, Why, and How

May 16, 2022 | Best Practices

Organizations face increasing pressure to handle the heightened demand placed on what may be limited company resources. In response to this, IT teams must develop ways to deliver high-quality solutions faster without raising costs. Many companies have started using Agile software development lifecycle (SDLC) methodologies to deliver projects for this exact reason. DevOps takes these practices to the next level by including operations teams.

Instead of trying to do everything at once, the focus shifts to continuously releasing small code builds in a left-to-right pattern. The left covers planning, development, and testing items, while the right side focuses on what happens during the release stage. Many DevOps and Agile project teams have started adopting shift left testing principles to ensure the consistent delivery of quality products in dynamic business environments. Read on to learn more in this guide to shift left testing.

What Is Shift Left Testing?

The term shift left refers to the practice of performing tasks like testing, quality checks, and software evaluation further up in the development cycle. Instead of waiting until the end to find issues, teams conduct those checks earlier or on the Agile side of the process, thus distributing the burden of testing more evenly throughout the SDLC.

Shift refers to moving tasks that often happen toward the end of product development earlier in the process, like quality checks and software evaluations. For example, instead of waiting for a completed prototype to start testing, reviews take place prior to the end of the SDLC cycle. Moving those checks up earlier spreads the burden of testing out more evenly and helps teams catch potential flaws before they affect the entire project.

This represents a significant shift from traditional ways of conducting testing and quality reviews. Before, those processes happened after the completion of development. There were entire teams devoted to trying to “break” finished code and find any defects. Any uncovered issues were sent back to the development team to fix, which put the project at risk of delays.

Why Should Organizations Adopt a Shift Left Strategy?

If a mission-critical bug ends up making it to the deployment phase — the right side of the development cycle — that could prevent the release and result in a financial loss for an organization. Catching and fixing a problem early costs a lot less time and money than fixing it at the end. Understanding that principle caused project teams to modify their approach to product delivery.

A shift left strategy makes testing integral to each process phase, including the requirements phase. During this phase, an example would be a request that all stakeholders thoroughly review the final document and ensure that there are no missed scenarios. That way, project teams can avoid having the software development team get halfway through their first build before realizing something critical was left out of the requirements.

Similarly, when it comes to code development, other developers conduct a code review to identify any flaws before allowing the code to move to test. The developer would then have the opportunity to address those defects.

How shift left differs from shift right

Shift right covers functions involved in testing products after a production release. That means testers are focused on finding flaws in a completed application to ensure it meets performance standards and that the software performs reliably in a production environment. During this time, users also provide feedback on whether it helps them fulfill their job functions and where they would like to see improvements.

How Does Shift Left Support an Agile/DevOps Environment?

Reinforcing the importance of testing throughout the entire lifecycle helps project teams track down bugs earlier, which cuts down on costs associated with fixing them and improves overall code quality. This helps alleviate the concerns of DevOps. Since DevOps teams already deal with shift right responsibilities, shift left makes it easier for them to ensure that products pushed to production meet overall quality standards.

Faster product delivery

Moving testing up as early as the requirements phase helps speed up project delivery. With a well-organized process in place, teams can move the product along with more efficiency and less worry about last-minute surprises derailing the project.

Fewer production bugs

Another way that shift left supports an Agile/DevOps environment is the reduction in production glitches. Earlier defect resolution lowers the chances of bugs appearing at the end. Users get a product more likely to run smoothly from the moment of deployment.

With shift left, teams are better positioned to prevent defects as opposed to rushing to resolve them. Everyone involved in the project gets the chance to fully understand business requirements before proceeding to the development phase. Less ambiguity aids project teams with putting out products that give customers the features and functionality they want and expect.

Test automation

Embracing a shift left approach to Agile/DevOps makes it possible for teams to use automation tools more efficiently. That way, those who are responsible for testing don’t get overloaded with their increased workload when the development team introduces a new feature.

How Can Teams Implement Shift Left Testing?

The shift left approach focuses on development quality for software builds versus real-world performance. Below are some strategies that project teams can implement to enact changes in how they approach the SDLC.

1. Involve testers during the planning and analysis phase

Robust requirements increase a project team’s chances of success. Having the testing team in the mix at that stage helps them understand the use cases involved and what the customer expects. Testers should have every opportunity to review all elements of the requirements. That way, there’s no confusion on their part when conducting tests.

Testers should also include developers since they’re the ones responsible for conducting code reviews. Developer testing is important at this stage because they can spot code issues that could lead to problems once deployed. They have the knowledge required to locate problems within new features and to ensure they don’t become a critical issue.

2. Set up a test plan

Enact a test plan that covers the responsibilities of the individuals involved in testing. It should offer guidelines on uncovering defects to help prevent critical issues when the project hits the testing phase. Developers should also understand how to submit their tests for code review. This allows the tester to ensure that all checks are accurate and that the developer hasn’t left critical scenarios out of testing.

3. Create a unified testing strategy

Outline an end-to-end framework for testing that covers everything from unit testing to post-deployment testing. The strategies should cover all phases of quality control and outline the responsibilities of each team member. A unified testing strategy allows everyone to monitor dependencies on elements like environments, automation, and data. That way, project managers can ensure that everyone has the resources needed to complete assigned tasks.

4. Conduct a risk assessment

The project team’s risk analysis should focus on the impact of each testing scenario and how likely it is to fail. After pulling together the test plan, the testers must prioritize test cases and have discussions with the development team about potential breakdowns. Project managers should project the effects of those failures onto the entire project.

5. Enact static testing

Static testing involves validating the requirements and design of the product prior to executing the code. Conducting these inspections helps teams to locate defects early on that could be costly to fix at a later point.

Support Your Organization’s Shift Left

Ranorex automation solutions make it easier for your project teams to use shift left testing to produce quality software applications more quickly. Learn more about various Ranorex automation solutions by setting up a consultation with one of our experts.

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