Testing is shifting Left

With the DevOps movement and the notion of packaging your Software as a Service (SaaS), many traditional concepts are being shaken up. Whether you like it or not but the truth is that in today’s ever changing and globalized market, the old ways to develop software are not working.

Look at facebook for example. Have you ever seen a notice like this?

“Services at facebook will remain closed from this date to that date (or for these hours) for maintenance purpose. You’ll not be able to access your accounts during this time. We regret the inconvenience caused by this.”

Obviously not because that is so much 1990’s way of upgrading an Internet based service. Facebook instead follows the mechanism of “changing the wheels while car is moving” rather I’d say “changing the engine while the jet is flying”. Yes, facebook has a policy of deploying new changes daily since long and you don’t even know when it was updated with newer features. All this has only been possible through lots of changes in the way software is developed, deployed and maintained.

One of the key features in such situations is to shift Testing to the Left. There are other significant pieces too which I’ll try to talk in some future posts but let’s now focus on Shift Left of Testing.

These pages will help you get the concept in a much better way and I’d recommend reading them. If you are one who like to get someone read articles for you and give you a nice summary, I’m here to help you with this: “Traditionally Testing is done after a feature is developed. Shift Left refers to shifting testing to left (think of classical waterfall model where things moved from left to right in phases), such that it becomes an integral part of Developing the feature”.

(The image is taken from here.)

This concept is not now. Agile Testing introduced the principle of Testing being done by all team members with Power of Three or Three Amigos. Lot of talk has been on testing early in the process for long. But in all such suggestions, the onus of testing remains on the Tester in the team and others come in as helpers. Like when Testing team says that we need to Test early (kind of let’s shift testing to the left), what they usually mean is that a Tester should become part of the design discussions and should start writing/executing tests as early as possible. But here

We want Testing to happen early regardless of who does it.

It’s kind of funny that for years we were told that Developers (though I prefer the term Programmer but writing it Developer to refer to that point of view) are superior than Testers and Testing itself is a B grade job that should go to such workers. Now all that inferior work is suddenly becoming such an important task that it will be done by the Developer.

What does it mean for you if you are a Programmer?

Yes, you got it right. As a Programmer, you should be writing tests as you write the feature. As Matt Brigs states in this post:

A senior developer will understand that this job is to provide solutions to problems, not write code.

So become a Senior Developer all of sudden by realizing this. Write tests and run them even before you commit changes to ensure that solution is being written, not the code.

What does it mean for you if you are a Tester?

You need to let go of the mentality that “Testing is something that Testers do”. Rather you should help the team do testing by improving the Testing machinery or the tooling needed by the team. Spend more time in helping Programmers write more tests. Make systems that help run Continuous Testing as part of each step as Dan Ashby mentions that we test even more in DevOps. Remember that Rob Lambert  shared a lesson during his company’s transition to  weekly releases from yearly releases:

Testing as an activity, has to become central to the team.

In our team, we have started this shift recently and I hope to write more on the lessons learned in coming weeks and months. Wish us luck!

Have your team joined Shift Lift movement yet? What are your observations so far?

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One response to “Testing is shifting Left”

  1. website says :

    I definitely concur that a shift-left mentality is happening and it really is unavoidable. However, I’d like to just mention that I think many people assume that the shift-left is only applicable to automation when, in fact, exploratory and manual testing is a part of that shift. The sooner you can get the shift to happen within all areas of the company the better the products you will end up with.

    Like

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