Why is Automation essential in Shift-Left Testing?

It is a fact. When it comes to Shift-Left Testing, automation is an indispensable ally. But how does Shift-Left Testing specifically benefit from automation? Why is it not possible to perform Shift Left Testing without it? Find out in this article written by Matias Fornara. Also, learn 5 tips to successfully implement a Shift-Left Testing strategy.

By Matias Fornara

As already established in a previous article, Shift-Left Testing and Shift-Right Testing left are antagonistic but complementary practices since the focus of testing changes. In this article, we will focus on Shift-Left Testing. While it is not the answer to all software development problems, at Abstracta we consider it crucial to start testing as early as possible in the product development cycle.

The explanation is simple: it is more cost-effective to reveal and correct defects and other problems earlier rather than later. It also supports the spirit of “fail fast and fix fast”, which helps to eliminate code instabilities and improve quality.

It also facilitates the addition of validations at different stages of product development.

For the implementation of Shift-Left Testing, it is necessary to constantly work on the automation of the validations in a Continuous Integration framework, and ideally in a practical CI/CD framework.

By implementing Continuous Integration practices, such as automated test integration in a pipeline, we can disengage from these validations and wait for feedback. This basically implies automating the execution of automated tests in my software building process and gaining the ability to cut this process, depending on the feedback from them.

In this way, it is possible to correct errors earlier and decrease the costs of software creation, with the possibility of repeating it as many times as necessary until we fail no more, to achieve a given product increment in our sprint.

The practice of Shift-Left Testing benefits a lot from automation because it allows us to save time validating things we already know (that is why it is good to talk about automatic validations and not automatic tests). This gives us time to do better manual testing and discover what we don’t know, as well as to know the risks and problems that can impact the end user and go unnoticed.

Finding Bugs after a Release Can Be Too Costly

It might seem that it is very expensive to test software so far left, so early in the development cycle. But it’s the other way around. The later the bugs are found, the more expensive they are.

In general, a bug found when a new version has already been released can be very expensive, as well as a real headache. Why? The time wasted fixing a bug that could have been fixed much earlier will undoubtedly increase costs, leading to delays in delivery and upgrades.

According to Business Wire, 88% of Americans have negative feelings toward brands with poorly performing websites and mobile Apps. These negative feelings are associated with annoyance, frustration, distrust, and anger.

As evidence of this, “The Cost of Poor Software Quality in the US” CISQ 2020 report revealed that the total cost of poor software quality in the US was $2.08 trillion (T) in 2020.

In this context, many people wonder whether with a Shift-Left Testing strategy it is possible to test at critical design and development stages. In my opinion, it all depends on what you mean by “critical” within your development process. How far left can you go? I think it depends on your needs.

Without a doubt, it is important to validate the design and architecture of an application but many times there are bugs that take time to emerge. For example, sometimes it can take a couple of years to notice the impact of having made a wrong design or architecture since there are some issues that can only be noticed when the development scales.

However, it is always essential to have instances of validation and feedback from day zero. Performing software testing from the beginning can significantly decrease costs and risks, and increase efficiency, quality, and even competitive advantage.

After the implementation of functional testing (test case management, incident management, defect life cycle, etc.), it is possible to define what to automate at each level of the automation pyramid, prioritizing the tests that deliver the highest ROI in the shortest time in each phase of development. This, in turn, allows us to evaluate non-functional test attributes, such as performance, usability, accessibility, and security.

Therefore, Automation is an irreplaceable ally when it comes to Shift-Left Testing. Undoubtedly, designing good Shift-Left Testing strategies, which contain all the necessary automation, is a great tool to create better and better software in a more efficient way.

Finally, I want to share 5 keys to successfully implementing a Shift-Left Testing strategy:

✔️Maintain good communication between everyone involved.
✔️Always perform a risk-based analysis and prioritization.
✔️Implement good development practices, such as peer review, static code analysis, and unit testing.
✔️Always have a manual functional testing base.
✔️Automate always respecting the automation pyramid and taking into account the risks previously analyzed.

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