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October 14, 2022

Why Shift Left Testing is Important for QA

Many modern software companies use the agile methodology to develop software with rapid efficiency. However, in many cases, development teams alter the standard agile approach to suit their specific development needs.

Often, such changes to the agile approach include pushing QA work to the end of a sprint or iteration of development. As a result, the testing team must employ a more traditional procedure similar to the waterfall model, in which a product passes sequentially through each process from design to delivery. 

Moreover, for new people learning QA skills, most testing certifications focus on traditional approaches. Only a few have sections on agile practices, despite their advantages.

Agile methods to integrate testing with design and development phases can help QA engineers detect bugs early on. The early testers find defects, the less money the company must spend to resolve them. Research from the Ponemon Institute estimates that weaknesses found in the first stages of development cost nearly 100 times less to fix than issues found after product deployment.

By implementing shift left testing, we can reduce pressure on the QA team and detect software issues early in the product’s life cycle. In this article, I will explain what shift left testing is and how we should expand its definition to help us improve the quality of the entire development process.

What is Shift Left Testing 

Imagine software development as a linear process starting from requirement analysis (on the far left) and ending with deployment (on the far right). Shift left testing proposes we move testing to the left in this process and begin as early as possible. 

With shift left testing, QA engineers plan tests in the design phases and execute them as soon as developers create the product’s first modules. Shift left testing corresponds directly to the V model, which associates different types of testing with stages in the software life cycle.

Software Lifecycle from development to launch.
Software Lifecycle

Following the V model, QA engineers work with designers to plan tests based on the product’s requirements and features. In the early coding stages, the QA team begins with unit testing, then conducts integration testing (for APIs, Microservices, databases, etc.), system testing, and acceptance testing

By collaborating with designers and developers, QA engineers build more comprehensive tests and improve the product as it develops. Early testing, thus, reduces defects and development costs while improving product delivery speeds.

Expanding the Definition of Shift Left Testing

In my work as a QA professional, I apply the shift left methodology to test design and execution and to the development process itself.

In addition to product quality, QA work concerns the rate of development and testing processes. It is not enough to only test as early as possible. QA professionals must also evaluate work processes and refine them early on too. We must embrace process definition as one of our main tasks.

By sharing our ideas and knowledge with project managers and team leaders before the project starts, we can help define the production process and prevent issues from arising later in the life cycle. QA teams should monitor each development cycle and suggest improvements for the next one. 

Enhanced development processes help us create the best products we can. As with early testing, improved processes reduce development costs and increase delivery speeds.

Conclusion

To find defects early, reduce costs, and improve delivery speeds, I recommend incorporating shift left testing in your QA strategy. But, more importantly, I urge you to rethink shift left testing as a method to evaluate and refine the quality of development processes. 

Expanding the shift left approach to include early contributions to process definition will help you maximize the quality of development and, thus, the quality of the final product.  

Author

Pablo Lucini