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The Shift Left Methodology

In this article, the Shift Left Approach is introduced as one of the core elements of DevOps methods and a crucial part of Agile Software Development.

The problem with traditional methods is that testing occurs very late in the software development process, leading to significant effort and high costs for fixing errors. The methods of the Shift Left Approach ensure early testing, minimizing both the costs and effort required for error correction while maintaining the quality of the product.

Other than maintenance of the quality of the product, this article will help you understand how the shift-left approach enhances teamwork and collaboration with the team. Similarly, this article focuses on the core aspects of the approach along with its guidelines.

Colleagues working on an Agile Software Development

Traditional Methods vs. Shift Left Approach

In traditional software development methods, it is often a problem that tests are placed very late. This behavior can be seen in typical models such as the waterfall model or the V-model. The outcome arises from the sequential nature of the model, with each phase succeeding the previous one. The testing phase is relatively far towards the end of the model, allowing the entire product to be tested in a phase shortly before release.

However, this often leads to problems being recognized only very late, resulting in high effort and associated costs for correcting the issues. The Shift Left Approach offers various guidelines to conduct tests at an early stage, enabling the identification and resolution of problems quickly and cost-effectively.

As depicted in the diagram, testing is shifted to the left, meaning to an earlier stage in development.

Testing is shifted to the left

The fundamental idea is to continuously gather feedback through automated tests as much as possible. This ensures, on the one hand, that the product meets the desired quality standards and, on the other hand, helps to minimize the effort and costs associated with testing.


Shift Left Approach Guidelines

There are no hard and fast rules about the implementation of a Shift Left Approach. However, based on our experience, we have formulated some guidelines suggested by the approach:

  • Collaboration: Different teams, such as developers and Quality Assurance, should work closely and early together, to better address various product requirements and benefit from each other’s expertise.
  • Continuous feedback: Gather feedback from testing and QA throughout the development process, rather than waiting until the end.
  • Automated testing: Automating tests facilitates efficient testing, thereby reducing the time and costs associated with testing.
  • Iterative development: Use an iterative development approach, where small changes are made and tested frequently.
  • Error Prevention: The goal is not only to detect errors but also to take measures to prevent errors early proactively. This can be achieved through training, coding guidelines, and best practices.

Example for Integration of Shift Left Guidelines

Typically, in many companies, different teams are assigned to different tasks in the development pipeline. The development team writes the code for the product, the Quality Assurance team conducts tests and ensures that the product meets the desired quality and the DevOps team attempts to automate and optimize processes for both teams. The Shift Left Approach promotes closer collaboration among these teams.

Testers should be involved early on. When testers are involved in the product planning phase, they can better understand the product’s requirements and design tests accordingly. Additionally, their experience allows them to identify potential issues early on and inform the developers.

Furthermore, testers should have some coding skills. While no one expects them to be experts outside their core competence, if testers can perform minor bug fixes themselves, the development team can focus on more significant issues.

Additionally, developers should consider testability to facilitate quick and straightforward testing for testers, such as using unique IDs for each element and performing some smaller tests themselves. Typical tests that can be done by developers themselves are automated security tests.


Automation of Security Tests

An important type of test are Security Tests. For this purpose, some tools enable automated testing for security risks. Various types of tests can be conducted to examine the product for different errors and vulnerabilities. This could include, for example, a Static Application Security Test, or SAST for short, where source code is checked for vulnerabilities before compilation. Many tools also guide how to address the found issues with minimal effort. These tests can be automated in a way that developers receive independent feedback on their code and can easily address problems.

For instance, the version control tool Github utilizes automation, where with each push, the code is checked for data that poses a security risk. This could include credentials for logging in or authentication keys. If GitHub detects such risks, the developer is automatically alerted to prevent critical information from being exposed to the public.


Conclusion

Overall, this article has demonstrated the core elements of the Shift Left approach and the guidelines it provides. It has shown how late testing can be problematic in traditional software development models and the advantages of incorporating the methods of the Shift Left approach into one’s projects. The results include not only a reduced time investment for a high-quality product but also improved collaboration among individual teams.

However, there are some challenges in restructuring the development pipeline, but the benefits it brings can pay off in the medium term. Scalefrees consultants in the DevOps and Cloud domain are experts in integrating and automating practices such as the Shift Left Approach in their projects and are pleased to assist you.

If you wish to learn more about technical testing, the following article presents various methods to implement tests in a Data Vault-powered EDW.

About the Author

Picture of Damian Hinz

Damian Hinz

Damian supports the Cloud Team, specializing in DevOps strategies and implementation. With a wealth of experience in agile methodologies, Mr. Hinz seamlessly integrates DevOps practices into business workflows. His expertise extends to cloud computing platforms such as AWS, Azure, and GCP, enabling smooth transitions and optimized operations in the cloud environment. Additionally, Mr. Hinz excels in utilizing IaC Tools like Terraform to streamline infrastructure management processes. Damian Hinz holds a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science.

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