3 Best Practices to Shift Your Testing to the Left

Eran KinsbrunerEran Kinsbruner
minute read

Shifting to the left isn’t like flipping a switch. Here’s what to consider to get started

What is the best way to shift your testing to the left?

Engaging QA earlier in the SDLC, rather than performing all the testing at the end of the build, requires integrating testing throughout the entire development cycle.

But shifting to the left isn’t as simple as flipping a switch. This represents a culture shift, and organizations need to consider if they have the technology and processes in place for it to work.

Here are three best practices for adjusting your development strategy and shifting testing to the left.

Break Down Silos to Improve Process and Culture

In a traditional development structure, the disciplines required to deliver software exist in silos, with each department playing their role at a different stage in a linear software delivery process. When testing shifts to the left, the development, testing and product management teams must break down those silos. Shifting testing to the left requires the entire organization to work together.

When testing shifts to the left, the development, testing and product management teams must break down those silos.

With a shift-left mindset, teams need to identify and break down the inefficiencies created by these silos. The parties must communicate clearly so they can understand each other’s needs and include the right tests in the build cycle, efficiently debug failures and move forward iteratively. When process and organizational culture are set and embraced, that’s when productivity and quality increase.

Success enables increased agility through short, iterative delivery cycles without skipping any one discipline. The business can then organize software delivery into smaller, cross-functional delivery teams that are empowered, rather than slowed down, by legacy silos.

Shifting left is intended to empower the business, allowing processes that normally occur further down the software delivery pipeline to be embedded earlier and more frequently within the SDLC. A shift to the left should, therefore, be approached as a transformation program. To succeed, it needs buy-in from across the organization.

Technology Enables the Shift

The term ‘shift-left’ can include all kinds of testing, and generally refers to the goal of completing more test automation cycles earlier in the build cycle. In order to properly shift your testing to the left, teams must perform the following at scale, all within a CI/CD pipeline:

  • Perform various types of testing
  • Conduct static code analysis using specific tools
  • Maintain platform coverage at scale, ensuring platforms under test are up-to-date and in a ready-state mode for testing

More specifically, for each software build that undergoes testing, the scope of the test suite should include:

  • A mix of key functional testing scenarios
  • Unit testing that is expanded to cover all changed areas between the previous build and the current build
  • Security, performance and relevant exploratory testing that are triggered through the CI jobs and are executed in parallel on various supported platforms

Since software releases are dynamic, practitioners must apply suite auditing and maintenance between builds to ensure that the scope remains relevant and keeps up with the changed code or implemented story points.

Since software releases are dynamic, practitioners must apply suite auditing and maintenance between builds to ensure that the scope remains relevant and keeps up with the changed code or implemented story points.

Lastly, the platforms targeted for testing (mobile devices, web browsers, desktops, etc.) must be at ready-state mode between and throughout the cycles. It’s also best to leverage test reports to understand build quality and test automation suite effectiveness. These test reports can unveil regressions in the test code and alert you to issues in advance, enabling you to fix them before the next execution.

Treat Test Automation Code as Production Code

In general, test automation is a clear enabler for shift-left and Agile testing. However, to benefit from shift-left, test automation must be of high value. To deliver that value, developers and test engineers should maintain test code through source control and code reviews. In addition, keep your testing within the CI pipeline and always green-light code unless there is a real defect.

With any test automation, there is an inevitable degree of “noise” and flakiness. Teams must reduce these cases continuously, or the entire practice will fail. By following coding standards, gaining quality visibility, embracing AI/ML algorithms and other methods, you can keep that “noise” to a minimum.

Applause has over a decade of experience integrating with organizations’ development and QA teams to assist them in scaling and strengthening their testing capabilities. Applause designs custom, flexible teams of testers from our community of vetted QA professionals. Our quality experts are available to assist in developing a robust QA strategy that incorporates both the automated and manual testing aspects necessary to implement a more complete and holistic approach to testing.

Read our ebook, Essential Guide to Shift Your Testing Left, for a detailed examination of shift-left testing models, the benefits they can provide and tips for updating your development strategy.

You might also be interested in: