Shift-Left Testing Is a Reality
June 02, 2021

Rob Mason

Plenty of organizations are already underway with shift-left testing — i.e., conducting the testing of features immediately after they are coded — according to a survey of more than 1,800 QA, product, engineering and DevOps professionals and practitioners around the world on the topic of shift-left testing, conducted by Applause in April 2021.

In fact, 86% of organizations are doing this type of testing already, representing a vast majority.

Is Shift-Left Helping?

When it comes to large organizations and enterprises, the process of shifting left is leading to a variety of benefits across their software development lifecycles (SDLCs). Respondents at large organizations pointed to three top benefits they hoped to achieve by shifting left:

1. Reduce the number of bugs released to end users.

2. Save on costs related to fixing bugs at a later stage in development.

3. Reduce the need for hot-fixes.

The impact of shift-left can also be found among developers and QA teams, who are now testing more often. The survey found that for organizations with 500+ employees focused on releasing new features multiple times per month:

■ 44% have their teams working eight+ hours a week on testing right after coding

■ 27% have their teams spending between five to eight hours a week on testing right after coding

A noticeable majority of large organizations now have teams working a full work day or more per week just on testing code right after it is developed. Not only can that cause burnout for internal teams, but it also means that higher-value projects are not being done because there is not enough time left in the day. If the majority of developers at an organization are spending a full work day each week testing, for example, then they are missing out on valuable development time.

The survey found that over half (52%) of teams that rely on developers for eight or more hours of testing per week agree that the testing of new features is having an impact on developer productivity.

Developer Coding vs. Developer Testing

The survey also looked into what barriers are standing in the way of organizations that are not shifting left and found that:

■ For 45% of these organizations, developers are too busy with coding.

■ For 37% of these organizations, development and QA efforts are too siloed.

■ For 31% of these organizations, test results are too slow.

■ For 18% of these organizations, developers have not bought into shift-left.

Part of the issue with developers being too busy is, they are challenged to re-acclimate to code that they or someone else worked on days or weeks earlier, with 44% of developers sharing that context switching is a challenge for them.

Overall, shift-left testing has gone from a new concept to seeing the vast majority of organizations implement it. It's bringing benefits where it matters most, to the end experience for customers, and the bottom-line for businesses. But developers and QA teams are still facing challenges with adopting and adapting to this approach. Like all new processes, it may take time to smooth out the bumps and create an ideal setup for everyone.

The key for organizations will be balancing the needs of their internal and external clients so they can deliver high-quality digital experiences to end users quickly and on an ongoing basis. Many enterprises are now looking to crowdsourced providers as a way to get the in-sprint testing they need to successfully shift left without bogging down developers' workloads with frequent testing requests.

Rob Mason is CTO of Applause
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