A Complete Guide to Shift Left Testing

Timothy Joseph Timothy Joseph | October 26, 2021

A Complete Guide to Shift Left Testing

In a conventional software development project, testing happened right before the software was released into production. This meant that if defects or usability concerns were discovered, the launch would be postponed until those issues were resolved.

In this approach, testing became a significant bottleneck, making it difficult for projects to be completed by the set deadlines. Because development and quality assurance (QA) were different entities, projects could not adapt to shifting requirements and expectations, resulting in unfavorable business results.

One way to avoid this is by implementing shift left testing. If you want to improve your software development process, keep reading! In this article, you'll learn about the fundamentals of shift left testing: shift left’s meaning, what is a shift left strategy, as well as how to put it to use in your own company.

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What Is the Shift Left Approach?

Shift Left is a movement that advocates changing the way we handle software quality improvement. In the past, we used to rely on a waterfall approach in which developers and quality assurance specialists had completely separate roles and responsibilities.

Shifting left refers to bringing the testing stage of the software development life cycle (SDLC) earlier into the process. By doing so, teams become more collaborative and share information as quickly and frequently as possible.


What Does It Mean To Shift Left in QA Testing?

Shifting left in testing and QA refers to the earlier integration of testing operations with requirements of information gathering, design, and development. Shift left takes care of issues when they arise and ensures fewer flaws later on in the SDLC.


Why Adopt a Shift Left Testing Strategy?

When testing is scheduled to be performed at the very end of the development process, any issues that do appear are usually more challenging to resolve. Because all code has been written, the only way to fix the problem is to completely overhaul software and re-write the code. As a result, costs rise, and the time to market lengthens significantly.

The sooner bugs are fixed, the better. Shift left testing involves a process that allows developers to find bugs quickly and frequently. The easiest bugs to correct are those found when the developers are writing or reviewing code since these code blocks are small and easy to manage.

After being combined with the primary development branch, the scope of the code increases, as does the amount of time it takes to hunt for errors. In this approach, Quality assurance engineers will act more like specialists, providing their expertise and guidance from the start of the SDLC to completion.


Benefits of a Shift Left Testing Strategy

By implementing the left shift testing approach, organizations can put quality as a top priority from the outset of a project and work to uncover flaws as early as possible in the life cycle. The following are some of the significant advantages of shifting left.

  • Improves Efficiency and Quality

    It is essential for delivering high-quality software quickly. To reduce rework and disruptions, developers move testing to the beginning of the process, or more rightly put, to the left to minimize extended test cycles, avoid flaws, and manage risks early in the SDLC rather than later.

  • Reduces Development and Testing Costs

    If each build is tested, issues become easier to identify and may be fixed for lower costs. Doing quality assurance as we move along the process also means avoiding high costs and extra work of going back and redoing everything.

  • Gain a Competitive Advantage

    Shifting left helps you gain an edge over your competition, reducing the time to market. Using incremental innovation, development teams can move quickly, establish, and maintain their credibility. The challenge of faster progress without losing quality is addressed by shifting left.

  • Automation

    Shifting left allows you to automate testing more effectively. In addition to minimizing human error, test automation also increases coverage, reduces production problems, and frees up testers' time to work on more exciting and satisfying projects.


How To Plan a Shift Left Testing Strategy

Here are some of the things you can do to shift your software testing to the left:

  • Demand Planning

    Demand planning is an essential aspect of the shift left strategy since it serves as a springboard for test lifecycle tasks. By collaborating with management and operational stakeholders, testers can obtain a better understanding of future demand. You can plan and confirm the budget, resource allocation, and testing strategies beforehand with this insight.

  • Static Testing

    Static testing is done in the early stages of a project and comprises requirements and design validation. Using static testing, you can uncover problems early in the project's life cycle before they become too costly to fix.

  • Unified Testing Strategy

    With a unified test strategy, you can evaluate constraints on automation, stubs, environments, and test data, guaranteeing that the respective teams can meet the requirements. In general, this is a high-level approach for end-to-end testing, from unit tests to user acceptance tests (UAT) to operational readiness tests (ORT) and post-deployment tests (PDT). All QA responsibilities and steps will be covered by this strategy.

  • Risk-Based Analysis

    Using risk-based analysis, the consequences and probability of failure are determined for every test case. Functional, non-functional, and regression testing can all be carried out using this method.


Is the Shift Left Testing Strategy Always Appropriate?

In a real-life setting, a shift left testing strategy may not always be successful in delivering optimal results or improve functionality. In such cases, a shift right testing approach might help improve customer experience, allowing for test automation and ensuring improved test coverage.

With the shift right approach, you will test a fully developed and functional application to check its performance and usability characteristics. Reviews and input from specific users also aid in improving the software's quality.


How Can Organizations Implement the Strategy?

It can be implemented in your company by following these steps.

  • Decide on Coding Standards

    An excellent place to start is by establishing code standards for your development team. All developers must have the same understanding of the project. It allows them to check code more quickly and ensures that the code is of greater quality. Since these coding standards prevent incorrect or unsafe code, they should reduce the frequency of errors.

  • Implement Testing Early in the SDLC Process

    Figure out which tools can be helpful for your codebase as a group. Aside from that, the group should consider how testing will be included in the SDLC early on. One strategy is adopting the agile method, which works with tiny code increments known as sprints.

    However, many organizations are unable to make the transition to an agile approach. As a result, the project team may agree on building unit tests for every new feature. This gives them confidence when developing business logic.

    At a later stage, integration tests should be written for these different bits of code to ensure that they work together seamlessly.

  • Embrace Test Automation

    Since it requires regular testing, test automation tools should be adopted by the project team. Conducting tests for every code increment should also be automated, in addition to the release of new builds. This will relieve the load on QA responsibilities and bring faster feedback on the code's reliability.


Changes Observed after Implementing This Strategy

Here are a few things to expect if your company decides to use shift left testing.

  • Greater Customer Involvement

    According to many agile methods, involving the customer in the software development process is critical to its success. Shifting left while involving customers in your testing process is advantageous for you.

  • Less Time Required for Testing

    In traditional systems, testers must wait until developers have completed establishing software features before testing. By shifting left, testing is prioritized earlier in the development process, as well as more frequently. As a result, there will be less time spent waiting for testers.

  • Adherence to the Testing Pyramid

    When deciding which automated software tests to undertake, teams and organizations can use the test automation pyramid. According to the pyramid, unit tests are advised since they are easy to execute, cost less to set up, and require less effort on the developer's part.

    If your company uses shift left testing, then developers will almost certainly create unit tests before or after generating production code. As a result, you will also be following the recommendations of the testing pyramid.

  • Increases Coverage

    It has the added benefit of increasing test coverage. If you have more people creating tests more regularly and starting earlier, you'll have a more significant percentage of your software evaluated by tests.

  • Involves a More Diverse Team for Running Performance Tests

    It's becoming more normal for everyone in a software company to carry out testing these days. This is not only beneficial but also necessary for genuine shift-left testing. It's impossible to make testing a comprehensive, ongoing activity without enlisting all available resources. Fortunately, there are tools available today that allow even non-programmers to create extensive tests in previously unimaginable ways.

  • Prevents Unnecessary Maintenance Tests

    One of the most challenging aspects of test automation is tedious test maintenance. When your test suite is full of flimsy tests, even the tiniest modification to the codebase can cause a test to fail. As a result, managing the tests becomes a big chore, jeopardizing the entire test automation effort.

    When you use shift-left testing, you must pay special attention to test maintenance issues since you will have more tests of various kinds.



Increased efficiency and quality have been made possible thanks to shift left testing. Each member of the shift left testing team is equally responsible for creating high-quality software. If your organization is trying to shift to the left, remember to keep what we've shared in mind. You'll be able to achieve the goal of delivering an excellent product at a faster rate in no time.

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