Shift-left testing principles
Best practices Management
9 mins read
June 22, 2023

The ultimate guide to shift-left testing principles in DevOps

Just before the software goes live, you discover one last-minute bug. What a disaster! What to do? The race against the clock, the frustration, and the tension might be too overwhelming. If you want to solve this once and for all, there is a way out: DevOps experts recommend an approach called "shift-left" testing. In this article, we will look at the reasons why DevOps recommend a shift-left strategy and how it will help you to deliver high-quality software for your end users.

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Tania Zhydkova

What is shift-left testing?

Shift-left testing is an approach that moves testing activities earlier in the software development lifecycle. Unlike traditional testing methods, it involves integrating testing processes with development rather than performing them towards the end. This way, you can identify bugs and defects earlier in the process and reduce the risk of them appearing later in the software development lifecycle.

"Test early and often."

Larry Smith, Software testing expert

The main goal of shift-left testing is to improve software quality while reducing the time and costs of fixing bugs. It is a significant part of DevOps practices and contributes to a culture of collaboration and continuous improvement.

We’ve discussed DevOps more extensively in our latest video, it could be useful for your learning.

What are the benefits of shift-left testing?

So why do developers recommend shift-left testing principles? Here are some significant benefits of implementing it: 

  • Early defect detection and resolution help reduce the costs of fixing issues later in the software development cycle. 
  • Improved collaboration and communication between development and testing teams with a better understanding of requirements. 
  • Faster feedback loops allow for more rapid identification and resolution of the bugs.
  • Reduced time-to-market for software products as development and testing activities are completed simultaneously.
  • Improved software quality due to the early identification of the bugs.

Overall, the list of shift-left testing benefits can be longer, but it depends on how well it is implemented. If done right, it can also improve developer & QA efficiency, productivity, and, ultimately, customer satisfaction.

How to implement shift-left testing?

There are some steps you can follow to implement the shift-left testing approach effectively: 

  • Invest in training to ensure both teams have the necessary skills to implement the shift-left methodology.
  • Integrate testing activities into the development process to perform them concurrently with the development activities. 
  • Implement best practices to establish testing standards, develop test cases, and perform code reviews to ensure your testing is complete.
  • Use automation tools to speed up testing activities, increase efficiency, and reduce the risk of human error.
  • Collaborate with stakeholders, such as business analysts, developers, and testers, to ensure everyone is on the same page and that testing is aligned with business goals.

Shift left testing implementation steps

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What are the disciplines of software development to apply the shift-left approach?

To apply the shift-left methodology effectively, there are some practices you should consider, including: 

  • Coding and code reviews: Code should be written testable, and code reviews must ensure that code is written to the appropriate standards.
  • Continuous Integration: You should regularly integrate code changes into the main branch and perform automated builds and tests after each integration.
  • Test automation: You should create shift-left automation testing for each function, feature or module of the software to ensure frequent and efficient testing.
  • Continuous testing: You should continuously test the code throughout the software development lifecycle to ensure the software is stable at every stage.
  • Collaboration and communication: It is crucial to ensure that you integrate testing with development effectively and can identify and resolve defects as early as possible to establish strong communication between testing, development, and operations teams.

Applying these principles in your software development process will make sure you implement shift-left testing smoothly and can get the maximum out of it.

What are the best practices for shift-left testing in Agile?

Here are some best practices for implementing shift-left testing in Agile:

  • Test early and often: Perform testing as early as possible and regularly test throughout the process. 
  • Collaborate and communicate: Foster strong, open communication between teams and stakeholders to ensure everyone is on the same page. 
  • Automate testing: Use automation tools for testing to reduce the risk of errors, increase efficiency, and enable faster testing. 
  • Create test cases: Develop detailed test cases that cover all aspects of the software (functional and non-functional), and ensure that you review and update them regularly. Don’t forget about unit testing to spot and solve issues early.
  • Use metrics and analytics: Identify metrics and analytics in software testing to identify trends, track progress, and make data-driven decisions. 
  • Integrate testing with CI/CD: Integrate testing with your CI/CD pipeline to ensure testing is performed at every process stage. 
  • Focus on quality: Prioritise quality throughout the software development process. 

Following these best practices will help you successfully implement shift-left testing in an Agile environment and achieve efficiency and faster time-to-market for your software products.

What will you get after implementing the shift-left strategy?

If you implement the shift-left development efficiently, you will see these positive results: 

  • Early defect detection: If you test earlier in the software development lifecycle, you can identify and resolve the defects before they become more complex and costly. You are less likely to let defects happen in production, too.
  • Faster time-to-market: Identifying and resolving defects earlier in the software development process will ensure you can release your software products quickly and confidently. 
  • Increased efficiency and productivity: By automating testing activities and integrating testing with development, you can work more efficiently and with greater productivity.
  • Increased customer satisfaction: If you can make sure your software has the highest quality, customers will be satisfied with the performance of the product they receive. This is a major factor for increased customer loyalty and retention.
  • Reduced costs: Early defect detection and improved software stability will reduce costs associated with fixing defects, delayed releases and lost revenue.

Conclusion

Implementing a shift-left testing approach in your software development process will bring numerous benefits, including early defect detection, faster time-to-market, higher customer satisfaction, reduced costs, and better team morale. 

By adopting the best practices examples we provided above, you can successfully implement shift-left testing in an Agile environment and reap the rewards. 

If you want to adopt these best practices in your testing, aqua’s testing strategy template is an essential tool for you. With clear requirements for every level of testing, actionable tips to improve your testing processes, and recommendations for choosing the right testing tools, this template is a comprehensive guide to ensuring that your testing is effective and efficient.

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FAQ
What is the shift-left principle?

Shift-left is a principle in software development that emphasises testing early and often in the development process. It involves moving testing activities closer to the start of the process rather than waiting until later stages.

What are the benefits of shift-left testing?

Shift-left testing provides the following benefits: 

  • Early defect detection 
  • Faster time-to-market 
  • Increased customer satisfaction 
  • Reduced costs 
  • Improved team morale.
What is an example of a shift-left?

An example of shift-left is implementing automated unit testing at the beginning of development. This can involve developers writing automated tests for each small component or “unit” of code and running those tests frequently to ensure the code functions as expected. Doing that before involving QA saves time for everyone on the team.

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