Gone are the days when production-ready code is handed to QA teams in a silo, only to await feedback with bated breath. Why does this methodology cause anxiety? It’s because the chances are that an efficient QA team, capable of digesting the requirements in full and one that tests the obvious and every nook and corner of the product from various perspectives, might, in most cases, report issues that would require a whole lot of effort and cost to fix.
The most recent World Quality Report survey shows that a bug found post-release would cost $16000 to fix. But the same bug, if found earlier, would cost just $25 to be fixed. It’s not just a matter of money but things like brand reputation, customer feedback, and retention percentages that are at stake. The only way to safeguard your brand is to deliver quality code, and the quickest, safest way to do that is to implement continuous testing.
What is Continuous Testing?
It is a process that helps teams identify and address issues and risks at all the development lifecycle stages. Testing all the newly built code and code changes as early as possible concerning the existing code and other external factors is an alternate way to define it. The target of Continuous Testing is to minimize business risks, reduce defect leakage to production and thereby reduce the impact on users. Test-Driven Development — the concept of writing code that would fail a test before going on to write the code that would pass it is a key enabler for continuous testing as it puts testing at the forefront, even before a single line of code is written. Research shows that 85% of the bugs are introduced into the system in the design and build phases of the development, and that’s when, most often, there isn’t a single line of code written.
Shift left testing is another method that facilitates Continuous testing as they are based on the same principles — involve testing through all the stages — from requirements to design to planning to code and then during the release. A variety of Automation tools can implement continuous testing. It also plays a key role in Continuous Integration (CI) success, which guarantees rapid delivery if done right.
Continuous testing is vital for an Efficient DevOps process.
Automated testing tools help software teams to discover and fix issues at the earliest. Automation scripts integrated to CI servers are ideal for this purpose. They enable teams to make better decisions regarding the releases with in-the-moment feedback about the code changes that have gone into the latest build. Continuous testing ensures that software teams find the right balance between pushing new features into the market as quickly as possible without compromising quality.
The secret is to treat each release as if it was done to production. In this way, buggy code making its way to show can, in due process, be made a rarity. Continuous testing gives the confidence, through every stage, to software teams and stakeholders that whatever code changes that have gone into the build that’s been released have minimal to no impact on the business bottom line.
Major Advantages of Continuous Testing
- Quicker time to market — be it an initial release or upgrades to an already released application.
- Builds confidence within the team that they are always releasing high-quality code to market, and none of the existing functionality has been impacted.
- Puts a full stop to the DevOps bottleneck.
- Helps teams to decide smarter when it comes to releasing schedules.
- Provides meaningful, risk-based, and timely feedback that can be taken as immediate action items.
- Continuous testing is more aligned with the ideology of Agile.
- It provides more time-efficient, consistent, robust, and reliable testing and feedback loop.
- Acts as a key facilitator for teams to work in a coordinated fashion.
Mapping Development Stages to Testing Types
One of the key things to do in Continuous testing is to delineate each stage of the development process from the first code commit to production deployment. Once this is done, it’s essential to map each stage of development to an appropriate testing type. Take this example where your development team wants to ensure that they haven’t introduced any new bugs into the system after a code merge. Continuous integration tests are the most appropriate in this instance. Similarly, the testing stage must appropriately map each stage of development to a testing type that then provides the most relevant and valuable feedback expected in that stage. This ensures bugs are fixed when the code is developed and not when all development is done and dusted.
Risk-Based Automated Testing
Using automated tools, risk-based testing, and feedback provide a much wider safety net than traditional time and effort-intensive manual testing. Immediate feedback that identifies crucial impacts helps the team assess the most recently developed code in the best way possible.
Better Release Decisions
The race between the complexity of software and time to market has been neck to neck. As we try to solve complex practical problems, code complexity increases. On the other hand, the never-ending demand for new features from end-users, with the risk of switching to another product, has significantly brought down the time to market. Continuous testing will help in maintaining a balance between the two. If poorly tested builds are released to customers, the potential to cause more harm than good is obvious. Continuous testing with automated tools provides the necessary coverage in terms of devices and different data, which, along with risk-based feedback, help teams to better decide on when and how software should release new changes to end-users.
Makes Testing More Efficient
Continuous testing essentially drives you to gain more value from the effort that you put into testing by conducting the right type of testing at the right stage of the software lifecycle. End-to-End testing with the help of automated test scripts ensures no false positives or timeouts that are frequently observed in test environments. Continuous testing also gives the desired confidence to the developers that they have built a scalable, secure, and highly flexible framework. This essentially cuts down redundancy because issues are found early and fixed at each stage of the development. There is adequate confidence regarding the basic architecture and its potential to be scalable for further features to be built in, in the future.
Continuous testing with the help of automated tools can be Functional automation tests, Automated API tests, Automated Performance, and Load tests, and Automated Security and Vulnerability tests.
Deliver Stable User Experience to Existing Customers
In-depth, continuous testing with automated tools ensures that all the aspects of user experience are accounted for. Since testing is ongoing, there is minimal chance of faulty code reaching your customers and disrupting the experience that they have grown used to. With continuous testing, you can maintain your brand reputation by delivering features that are of top-notch quality without your customers having to wait too long.
The days of QA being a separate entity have now faded into oblivion, all on its own. This age of continuous testing requires every team member to work together as testing of one kind, or the other is supposed to be done during each stage of development. This process helps everyone in the team be more aware of the proceedings and pitch ideas and solutions that demand their line of expertise.
In a nutshell, the continuous testing process makes sure that everything necessary for your team to build high-quality code is in place right from the moment coding starts.
Steps to Attain Maturity in Continuous Testing
1.Achieve Stability in Automation
The first step in achieving stability in automation is to pick the right tools that match the skill set of your resources and one that’s best suited for the application under test. If your team is light on coding experience, it’s best to choose a low code automation tool. If there’s a misstep at this stage, then it’s a struggle throughout. Also, make sure that all the QA reported issues had been remedied and whether there is a clear discernment between the real problems and the false negatives.
2. Daily Automation Execution
Exercise your test code repeatedly, at least once a day, by adding small increments daily. The more you run the code, the higher the chances of finding new issues with the application and the better the chances of finding new loopholes in the automation code itself. There is no moving forward if your scripts aren’t stable and don’t handle the different sets of data and the different environments with consistency. The automation reports should also be completely devoid of false negatives, and only then can you claim that your automation process is stable.
3. Increase Coverage Incrementally
Once you have attained the status of stable automation with your limited number of scripts, it is time to focus on the next phase, which is to increase the coverage. Carefully increment the logic in your automated test scripts. Increments should make sense, should not be redundant and be designed in a way to support reusability. The tool’s reporting mechanism should cut the clutter and provide an easy classification of false and true negatives. Not everything can be automated, but whatever is automated should be stable and whatever isn’t should be tracked diligently and tested by other means.
4. Reach 95% Test Automation Coverage
Achieving 95% automation coverage depends on many other factors apart from a reliable test code being continuously executed in CI. Service virtualization and network virtualization are two key essentials to make this number happen. When you are close to attaining this stage of continuous testing maturity, it’s also important to ensure that the reporting mechanisms in your automation test lab are scalable as they need to cover multiple concurrent executions, be capable of handling numerous screenshots, huge amounts of data and so much more. Ineffective reporting solutions tend to give away and break at this point.
5. Multiple Runs a Day
Continuous integrated testing in its early phases was prescribed to be run at least once a day to avoid doctoring with the code in the later stages to fix a bug that was discovered late. But after attaining this stage of maturity, continuous testing needs to be elevated from being executed as a nightly build to multiple executions per day. The benefits here are obvious — much faster feedback, even more, accurate results and further risk mitigation. Even if the 95% coverage is not attained, the multiple runs per day phase of continuous testing is mandated as it has been observed to cut down the defect fixing time by as much as 50%.
It’s a well-known fact that if your end product has issues and doesn’t meet customer expectations in terms of usability, you are bound to observe significant revenue loss. The modern-day end user doesn’t think twice before switching to a better alternative. After all, there is no dearth of similar options. Delivering bug-free software without delays is the best way to continue expanding your customer base. Continuous testing will help you to achieve that by testing your product efficiently, effectively and reliably, every step of the way.