What is Shift Left Testing?
Shift left testing is a method where testing is performed earlier in the development process.
At its core, it’s about identifying problems and fixing them quickly.
By testing early on in the process, you can fix defects before they grow into bigger problems. This “shifting left” of testing within the development lifecycle places the emphasis on quality from the start.
And it can save you a lot of defects — and trouble — later.
Why Shift Left?
- Shorten drawn-out test cycles.
- Proactively identify defects early in development.
- Increase efficiency and production costs.
- Reduce defects in production.
- Improve product quality.
The Shift Left Methodology
The traditional software development lifecycle waterfall looks like this:
Requirements > Design > Coding > Testing
In this model, testing happens at the end of the lifecycle — after much of the work is complete. This opens the doors to last minute surprises and costly defects. And it makes more work for everyone.
When defects are found later in development, they are more difficult and more expensive to fix. But defects discovered early, during the requirement and design phase, are 100 times less expensive to fix than those discovered after a product release, an IBM study found.
When defects are found late in the lifecycle, teams have less time to fix them. That can lead to delays in the schedule, missed deadlines, and unhappy customers. And that’s hitting your bottom line.
But if the testing phase moves up, to “shift left,” bugs can be caught earlier in the development lifecycle. Expensive mistakes can be avoided.
Shift left methodology can even prevent defects before they happen.
Shift Left Testing Benefits
From developers to testers and even customers, shift left testing benefits everyone. Here are a few of the advantages you can expect from adapting a shift left methodology.
1. Easier Fixes
In shift left testing, defects are found earlier in the development process. This means bugs are easier to fix. Less rework is required, saving everyone time, money, and headaches.
Bugs are easier to fix in the shift left methodology. They’re caught early, saving teams hours of redoing work. The time saved keeps development projects within scope and hitting deadlines.
3. Better Test Coverage
Shift left testing can also improve test coverage. Testing begins early in the process. It thoroughly checks each function of the software throughout the entire lifecycle. And this improved test coverage translates into a better product.
4. Developer/Tester Collaboration
The shift left methodology encourages developer and tester collaboration. Difficult defects can be better avoided with testing in mind from the start, reducing friction between teams.
5. Automation Capabilities
By applying the “test early and often” ethos, it should come as no surprise that the shift left process and automated testing often go hand in hand. Test automation boosts test coverage. It reduces human error. And it eliminates repetitive, manual tasks.
6. Quicker Time-to-Release
Smaller bugs. Less rework. Easier fixes. All of these elements allow development teams to accelerate the software release process. And timely releases translate into profitability.
But in order for teams to embrace the shift left process, several things must first happen to achieve this.
Implementing the Shift Left Process
The roles of developers and testers are beginning to blur. And in shifting left, development and testing become closer than ever.
In order to introduce shift left testing to your development process, a few practices are recommended.
What’s Needed to Shift Left
- Developing and testing side by side.
- Sharing ownership of standard deployment procedures.
- Automating tests and run them early and often.
- Automating deployment of new builds.
Applying these practices to your application lifecycle workflow should make the shifting left transition all the smoother.
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