Imagine a situation where you have come a long way taking numerous correct steps and the project fails or you become out of budget due to a pity reason like wasting a lot of resources for testing at the wrong point of time. Now, such a situation can occur due to a number of factors. Traditionally, wrong planning was considered the source of such an imbalance in the software development life cycle but as the factors are more deeply analyzed, it is found that putting the focus on testing at the wrong points can turn out to be a huge reason for immense resource wastage.
Around two decades ago, there was hardly any concept of software testing or quality assurance, and “tester” was one of the rarest roles. Software developers developed the software, tested them, and released them. But, this was the scenario of the time when work was done mostly in the waterfall model that eventually turned out to be a highly static approach causing massive backlashes in the business.
To deal with the issues (e.g. longer time to market, low test coverage, unstable DevOps, lower software quality, etc.) in the waterfall model, the modern world now follows the agile work model for most tech operations. Now, the prime foundation of the agile model is the continuous integration and continuous delivery pipeline. For that, the product team has to work in small sprints to spend minimum time in every step of the entire process while focusing on continuous feedback to improve the quality of the product after the release. This looks like a great way to maintain a stable CI/CD pipeline but you must have already figured out that releasing product versions earlier means that you have to complete the quality control or better known as testing activities earlier to ensure that the functionalities of the software are working properly.
At this point of earlier testing of products, “shift left” comes in. The shift left approach means pushing the testing part towards the earlier portion of the product’s journey. The motive behind this approach is to identify the bugs during the earlier stages of codes being written rather than the later stages when the codes will get patched. Now, let’s dive into the depth of this topic.
Shift left testing means shifting the testing part of a product development cycle towards its earlier phases. The main objective of this approach is to get rid of the traditional approach where tests were performed at the end of the software development life cycle (SDLC).
Conducting software tests at the end of the software development process leads to situations where crucial errors are found at such a later phase when spending a lot of time and resources on replanning the correction measures and implementing them will cause massive inefficiency in the overall business. The most valuable feedback in any software development process is always from the stakeholders as they are the most concerned persons about serving the best to the users. In traditional approaches, stakeholders used to get involved in checking the latest version of the software and often find out important points for improvement. Now, considering those points at such a later stage of the process will mostly need you to make some remodeling plans and implement them, which will surely end up wasting a lot of time, money, and all other resources.
Well, the naming of this approach is generated primarily from the reading pattern of English and most western languages. The reading or writing pattern of most western languages is from left to right. That means the beginning of a line is at the left and the end of the line is at the right. Similarly, when the agile model is being planned to arrange the steps in the software development life cycle, the first step is written at the left, gradually progressing to the last step at the right. Now, in a normal software development life cycle (traditionally known as the waterfall model), testing comes at a very later stage i.e. mostly by the last portion of the plan. In the agile model, the work is done in small cycles that make you execute planning, development, testing and release repeatedly through iterations. Executing every step of the software development life cycle in small cycles makes you perform all types of testing (e.g. unit testing, integration testing, regression testing, API testing, performance testing, acceptance testing, etc.) too at an early stage of the process. That means you are shifting the segment of running tests to the beginning of the process i.e. the left side of the plan. Let’s take a look at the step-by-step process for better understanding.
Now, if you write the above steps in the conventional left-to-right format, testing comes towards the right. However, the above one is the waterfall model that was the traditional approach for a long time but the present agile model works in small cycles where teams focus on “just enough” planning for a quick release, do the designing & development works, test it, QA steps take place, and a version of the product is released quickly. In this model, the quality improvement measures keep on being implemented even when the product is live. This continuous integration and continuous delivery approach makes the teams push codes for new features and updates multiple times even in a day. Hence, you can easily understand that this method needs testing to start at a very early stage of the process. That means the tests are shifted towards the beginning of the cycle or you can say that it is shifted towards the left.
In the previous section, you saw how shift left testing stands by the idea of testing early and you know that it easily fits in the agile approach. Now, let’s dive into the depth of this fact by analyzing different perspectives.
Shift left testing simply means testing early in the software development life cycle but does that early testing solve any purpose? Agile methodologies always encourage testing early because it leads to regularly testing small sets of code and provides you with a great quality product at a very low cost and effort. Now, let’s take a look at an in-depth analysis to understand what actually happens.
The identification of an efficient testing strategy is that it allows for faster and more effective debugging of the codebase. Now, as you know most of the bugs are introduced when the code is being written in the development phase. So, as per the waterfall model, when the code is tested after the development phase, the number of bugs in it becomes enormously high.
You cannot launch software with effective bugs. And, in the ideal case, the testing process is supposed to detect minimal bugs that can easily be patched. Yes, the commonly followed debugging method after the testing phase is patching because completely solving so many bugs can be extremely time-consuming and can waste an immense amount of resources. However, patching so many bugs can leave the product full of patches and will make it almost impossible to expand the code, add new features, or implement updates in the future.
As the software development life cycle progresses, the cost of finding bugs also increases. It has been proven multiple times that instead of at the early stages of the product’s journey if you consider testing it at the later stages or as late as just before the release of the product, the cost of testing it becomes significantly higher along with leaving no way other than serving an inefficient product to the customers.
On the other hand, all these issues can be got rid of just by testing the product during the early stages of the software development life cycle or in other words, by implementing a shift left approach. Hence, you can clearly understand why this method is so important for an efficient technology business.
You have already got the point of how beneficial shift left testing is. The prime benefits of this popular testing strategy are mentioned below.
This article clearly shows you what shift left testing is and how this significant part of modern agile methodologies is contributing to the revolution in the entire software industry. This early testing approach lets you achieve a remarkable level where you always have a completely tested version of your product to release. It also opens ways for you to efficiently detect bugs, and correct them within a competitive deadline & an easily affordable budget. Hence, in every way, the shift left strategy helps you deliver an amazing product to your customers making them truly satisfied along with improving your business.
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As you are already eager to use our product, we must also mention that we are shortly coming up with an awesome feature that will enable you to create your tests totally based on how your users use your application, and the best part is that it will let you shift your testing phase more to the left or to be specific, even before the build phase of the application. So, get along with us on that amazing journey towards more efficient development cycle.