The shift left approach is a common buzzword in the industry. Most testers know that it makes good sense, but are you implementing it correctly?
Shift left testing is all about delivering the highest quality solution at the lowest possible cost, by shifting your testing to earlier in the project process. Although shift left approach testing is what’s widely used, we’ve found that the most effective approach is what we call ‘Shift left and compress’.
- What is shift left testing?
- The benefits of shift left testing
- Lower overall development costs
- More efficient and streamlined processes
- Easier to get stakeholder buy in
- Better product
- Faster completion
- What do we mean by compress in ‘Shift Left and Compress’?
- How do you implement shift left testing?
- Demand planning
- Develop coding standards
- Implement a risk based testing strategy
- Introduce static testing early in the project lifecycle
- Insist on a consistent test strategy
- Implement Root cause analysis
- Consistency in shift left testing
- Can I still use a shift left testing approach if I’m halfway through my project?
What is shift left testing?
Shift left testing is the process of moving testing that normally comes at the end (or right) of a process flow of a project life cycle, to the start (or left).
As you’ll know, traditionally high cost activities like defect identification and testing normally happen towards the end of a project. But the shift left approach moves these nearer to the planning phase.
The benefits of shift left testing
Spotting a problem in a requirements document at an early stage rather than a week before the product deadline can save considerable time and budget. Although this front-loads the testing cost, it often avoids unforeseen costs later.
Risk based testing also comes into the shift left testing approach, which you can read more about here.
If you’re trying to explain the benefits of shift left testing to a stakeholder, they can be summarised very simply: defect prevention not defect detection. By shifting your testing to the start of the project lifecycle, you detect and prevent issues before they happen, instead of finding them once they’ve emerged.
This isn’t the only reason it’s a good idea though. The main benefits of shift left approach testing are:
1. Lower overall development costs
By finding risks and bugs earlier, you’ll have sunk less work and cost into faulty software, saving you money.
2. More efficient and streamlined processes
If you implement a shift left approach you should naturally have a better industrialisation of processes. This will mean greater project consistency, and in turn a more efficient process.
3. Easier to get stakeholder buy in
By starting the test process earlier you can demonstrate the value of testing quickly, especially if stakeholders are well informed.
4. Better product
Your software will be less likely to be built on bugs, meaning better software, better code base and fewer patches.
5. Faster completion
What do we mean by compress in ‘Shift Left and Compress’?
Shift left and compress is Experimentus’ way of emphasising the need to personalise a shift left testing approach to your own business and product, as that will give you much better results.
The key is consistency and spending time making your test processes as efficient as possible, by considering factors such as:
- Uniformity of testing processes
- Responsibility for risk assessments
- Prioritisation of risks
- Wait times on test environments
- Utilisation of your test environments
By using the shift left and compress method, your process becomes more streamlined, meaning you need fewer testers for less time to do the same amount of work. It also helps to eliminate the learning curve for testers joining new projects as there are consistent processes already in place, making your project more scalable.
If you want to learn more about the shift left and compress framework and how to use it to reduce delays and cut costs, download our Shift Left and Compress whitepaper here.
How do you implement shift left testing?
There are six key elements in implementing a shift left testing approach:
1. Demand planning
Shift left is all about identifying problems earlier to save time later. That means not plunging into a project head-on. Instead, you need to spend time reviewing the requirements documentation and testing that standards and processes are fit for purpose first.
It’s essential you get stakeholder buy-in at this stage, or you might be met with reservations about testing this early and perceived delays. You’ll also need a good understanding of the scope of your testing budget and resources as early as possible, as this ensures your early testing plan is realistic.
2. Develop coding standards
Coding standards provide consistency and defect prevention, which is integral to the shift left approach. You’ll need to document these standards and ensure that everyone is aware of them and sticks to them.
3. Implement a risk based testing strategy
Risk based testing will help you understand which risks could cause the greatest damage to each specific project and prioritise your tests accordingly. It’s important not to just presume you know what you need to start with based on what you’ve done before, but actually use your analysis to complete the tests relevant to the highest priority risks for that project.
4. Introduce static testing early in the project lifecycle
It used to be that static testing was implemented towards the right or end of the testing process or seen as an optional extra. Shift this to the left by using appropriate checklists to verify and validate your project’s design and requirements earlier, and you could reduce defects significantly.
5. Insist on a consistent test strategy
The shift left approach should be part of your overall testing strategy. Along with coding standards, having a unified testing strategy that everyone understands and is using consistently is critical to maintaining good efficiency.
6. Implement root cause analysis
As you identify defects, subject them to root cause analysis to find out why they happened. It could be that you need some tooling changes, training, or perhaps need to enforce the coding standards further. A successful root cause analysis will stop the defects happening again.
Consistency in shift left testing
In our experience, consistency is a hugely important and often overlooked factor in successful testing, especially when implementing the shift left approach.
Making tests more consistent is a habit: when consulting I always talk about having a consistent set of processes that are understood by everyone who needs to know them within an organisation. So often, defects or testing problems are caused by a lack of consistency across the project processes.
There are various ways to ensure everyone is consistent, like having clear coding standards, a central repository and training documents. The question to ask yourself is, if you were a new member of the testing team, would you know what to do?
Can I still use a shift left testing approach if I’m halfway through my project?
Don’t worry if you’re already halfway through your project. You can still implement shift left approach testing and benefit from it by using root cause analysis on your defects.
For example, we worked with a client who kept having multiple defects in one particular area but couldn’t work out why. When they did the root cause analysis, it emerged that they had boilerplate text in one of the original coding standards documents that was ambiguous, allowing developers too much wiggle room. This was the heart of the performance issue. Once they updated the wording to be more straightforward the number of defects reduced.
By adopting the defect prevention aspects of a shift left approach, they prevented similar defects from reoccurring.
If you want more information on how a shift left and compress approach could benefit your team, our consultants are on hand for a no-strings-attached conversation about how we could help. Just get in touch by clicking the image below!