What does it mean to Shift Left?
In a traditional software development approach, testing and customer feedback start after requirements are captured and coding is complete i.e., towards the right-hand side of the process below.
Testing and capturing customer feedback when left towards the end of the project can result in:
- Less or no time to fix any critical defects
- Unable to respond quickly to change in requirements
- High cost of quality, as the bugs that show up, are usually more difficult to fix
- Increased time to market, since rework takes more time to complete
Testing and active customer engagement when introduced at the early stages of the software development life cycle can have multiple advantages. The Shift Left approach can facilitate in providing early feedback to customers and identify and resolve bugs early in the development process. It also improves the software quality and reduces the time spent in resolving issues (that usually increases as development cycles progress) later in the product lifecycle.
Benefits of going shift left
- Bugs can now be identified when code is being written or reviewed by the dev team and at the same time, they are the easiest to fix, because the code units are small and more manageable, thus decreasing the costs
- Improved product quality as more defects is detected in earlier stages
- Allows better team efficiency as taking a shift-left approach facilitates developers and testers to come together and work as a team
- Quicker review of the progress and faster feedback loops from the customer
- Reduced time to market
Ideas to implement shift left
- Going Agile: The agile methodology includes testing in small code increments or shorter development cycle. Also, agile transformations provide organisations the ability to respond to a change in the market more quickly and frequently. By going agile, testing can be integrated into the early stages of the software development life cycle.
- Including testers from the beginning of the project lifecycle: Having testers involved in the requirement discussions or development brainstorming, helps them understand the fundamental concepts, which in turn allows them to design better tests. Testers are thus able to provide the team a clear image of what bugs would likely emerge and how they can be avoided.
- Introducing Static Testing: Static testing is carried out in the early cycles of the project, and it includes validation of requirements and design. It helps in finding defects early in the life cycle, which if found later can turn out to be expensive.
- Test Driven or Behaviour Driven Development (TDD/BDD): In these approaches, the testers and/or the business users specify the exact functionality they want to see in the system with the help of Acceptance criteria. With the implementation of these approaches, requirements are clearly understood without any ambiguities and thus enabling organizations to identify and fix defects early on.
- Embracing Automation in Build and Test phases: Teams should embrace test automation tools that can help them run the tests and ensure better code coverage and product quality. There are several automation tools that allow integration with different frameworks, tools, and software.
- Adopting DevOps: DevOps operates on the principle of Continuous Deployment and Continuous Testing. Continuous deployment comprises of automating and deploying new builds that allow continuous testing to occur quickly, and efficiently. This reduces the feedback loop and accelerates code stability.
Role of testers in implementing shift left approach
There are a few ideas on how testers can be part of the shift left paradigm:
- Test team needs to engage early in the system right from project initiation to develop the integration with the rest of the team to provide useful inputs at every stage of the software development.
- Test teams must interact with all the business stakeholders early in the software development to get clear visibility of the program/project. They should understand and analyse the dependency between various third parties, test environments, implementation plans, etc. and prepare a robust test strategy.
- Test team should collaborate closely with the team in providing the right insights, keeping the long-term product vision in mind rather than just taking the responsibility of test activities.
- Clear and well-defined requirements define the success of the project. During the requirements gathering and analysis phase, testers need to review and analyse the requirements for any ambiguity, providing better clarity and completeness, defining acceptance criteria, etc.
- Testers need to attend design review meetings regularly and understand the solution architecture and create test scenarios accordingly. They can work with the developers to define unit tests and participate in early white box testing.
- Testers need to carry out Static Testing and provide feedback on key project deliverables.
- Testers should test as early as possible so that defects are not carried forward to later phases.
- Test team can define the expected quality standards and have quality controls in place, for different stages of SDLC. This will help identify whether the development process aligns with quality assurance and will help in taking corrective actions if required.
- Test team should not limit their knowledge and expertise to testing alone. By expanding their skill set to learn coding, testers can make minor changes to the code or fix defects, rather than depending on developers.
- Keeping the end-product quality in mind, the test team should adopt automation across all stages of the software development.
Shift left quality provides an effective way to perform testing in parallel to the development processes, it also enhances collaboration between the teams and enables better quality applications. It can reduce costs and risks of the application failure by detecting them early in the SDLC and reducing chances of rework, allowing enterprises to be competitive and productive, and thereby improve customer experience.
In case if you have any further queries or want to know more on how shifting left can help, contact us and our experts will be happy to assist you.
By: Thrishna Palakath