Software testing often gets a bad rap—it takes too long, requires too many resources, and impacts the production schedule. In various industry surveys, the testing phase is called out as the primary factor for software delivery delays. While testing is recognized as the biggest bottleneck, it is also acknowledged as essential to ensure quality software is delivered. This means that using better methods to improve and accelerate testing processes can have a direct impact on achieving delivery goals. 

Many organizations understand the importance of software testing to improve the time to market for their applications while meeting increasingly complex compliance and security requirements. They are turning to DevOps and Agile development methodologies to update their testing processes and implement effective testing strategies to keep up with the demand for more frequent production deliverables. But while these dev workflows can provide some guidance on code testing considerations, they do not recommend specific steps or best practices to actually improve your test strategies and processes.

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The first step is to perform testing earlier in the development process, aligning test creation with code development during the sprint schedule instead of waiting until code is complete to start verification. This reduces delivery cycle time and increases software quality by integrating test automation within the development life cycle. This is known as the “shift left” approach, which enables testers to provide better feedback sooner in the dev process. In turn, developers can correct defects before releasing the code to production. 

Once teams achieve that shift-left integration, continuous testing is the next step. Continuous testing is the paradigm of automating and running tests continuously throughout the DevOps workflow, repeatedly, in sync with development cycles. It’s important to incorporate the right mix, optimizing valuable manual test practices while automating as much as possible. This will maximize end-to-end coverage for continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) development projects and create a stable test environment that is easier to maintain.

Challenges for implementing continuous testing

Many companies have already realized that they can improve testing performance by adopting an automated continuous testing strategy. The goal is to simplify, accelerate, and optimize test processes while achieving high quality code with fewer bugs. This enables them to obtain measurable results of greater efficiencies, better quality code, and faster time to market. 

With all these benefits, why isn’t every company with software development teams using a continuous testing methodology? More often than not, it comes down to one of these things:

  • Commitment
  • Cost
  • Capabilities

Commit to invest in quality
Let’s review each of these items. Commitment and cost are closely intertwined.

If the company’s leadership doesn’t understand the value of testing and how it aligns to business goals, they won’t have a “Quality First” approach to their software development. Quality needs to be a high priority in the dev/test pipeline to confidently deliver software that will provides a positive user experience. This means that there should be a strategic investment in a scalable continuous test automation process with that quality goal firmly in place. 

If you can accelerate software deliveries with confidence that the applications meet quality goals and user expectations, this will improve the company’s competitive position. A realization that the cost of implementing continuous testing will be more than offset by the return on investment (ROI) will justify the initial expense and effort. Choosing to implement and invest in continuous testing must be a top-down commitment from management that has decided to align testing practices with business goals. These organizations recognize that such process improvements add value to their bottom line, reducing costs, mitigating risk, and improving quality.

Implement test automation capabilities
Automated testing involves using tools and technology that augment the manual tester’s capabilities by creating, executing, and maintaining complex test scenarios within a test environment. Aligning tests with the DevOps workflow enables test runs to occur more quickly and more often, improving test coverage with up-to-date test cases.

Automated testing is a major part of an effective DevOps workflow, but it is hard to do effectively if you don’t have a good set of processes in place to implement the strategy. Some of the challenges include less than ideal testing environments, lack of control over the test environment, and the sheer volume of tests needed for high test coverage. Additionally, the team needs to generate metrics that demonstrate the success and value of testing.

To address these issues, a unified test automation platform can provide useful structure for testing processes that leverage the capabilities found in automated continuous testing. You need to manage complex test scenarios for both UI and API testing and be able to identify test updates needed due to changes in the code. Your users see the UI, but the front-end application relies on APIs for communicating with back-end services. You need to test them both thoroughly to achieve higher test coverage. 

Tool tips for test automation
Test automation is the first step to take for creating reusable tests that address many use cases and can execute without manual intervention, providing better test coverage in a shorter amount of time. To more easily scale testing, the tests need to be fast and easy to maintain. If you want to easily scale your testing, it’s helpful to use an automated testing tool that can create and support repeatable test flows with easier maintenance by leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). A good testing tool will make it easier for you to generate and debug the test scripts, and help you keep the tests updated and maintained as changes occur in the application.

A testing solution that leverages UI tests to create API tests will provide better test coverage for your application. Reusing API tests for continuous load and performance testing extends the coverage further. To maintain those test scenarios, a solution with the capability to identify which tests align to changes in the code will enable more efficient and quicker execution for defect remediation and validation.

If your testing technology correlates test execution data with test coverage data and identifies which tests are necessary to validate the changed areas, you can optimize your test flow after code changes. Smart test execution against only the impacted code will reduce your overall testing time and allow you to focus on continued development.

Additionally, you need to establish control over your test environment to ensure that testing can be completed in a timely manner. Today’s complex applications interface with many services and APIs that need to be validated, but not all of them are available or accessible for testing purposes. Service virtualization enables teams to create a “digital twin” for these interfaces with synthetic data that behaves like the real thing. This reduces the testing time and costs associated with such dependencies. 

By incorporating these best practices for test automation into your continuous testing processes, you can establish a scalable test strategy aligned with your CI/CD ecosystem.