Improving Wetware

Because technology is never the issue

Implications of Shift-Left for Quality Assurance

Posted by Pete McBreen 31 Jul 2022 at 20:59

Most development teams that use Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery pipelines are starting to adopt the Shift-Left approach of making sure that the development team build appropriate Unit, Component and Integration tests into the pipeline. The obvious implication is that the traditional Quality Assurance team – from a testing standpoint – only has to deal with System testing.

But in the spirit of Shift-Left, the Quality Assurance team should be looking to see how to validate things earlier as well.

  • With appropriate Unit, Component and Integration tests, the traditional refrain that the code is working as designed becomes more accurate, so the QA team can no longer write End-to-End tests and consider the the job is complete. QA instead has to poke at the corners between the design of the individual subsystems and instead look at the interactions between those subsystems.
  • The problem of working as designed becomes one of QA validating that the design is indeed correct, basically shifting the validation to before the code is written as a logical extension of the Shift-Left mindset.
  • Similarly, QA has to look at the Requirements and the way that they are elicited and documented to move the validation process further left.

A challenge with this is that the Agilista mindset is that it is only working code that matters. So having validation before the code is written could lead to the suggestion that the QA team is falling back into the old ways and encouraging analysis paralysis.

The resolution of this is to look at the overall workflow from a Kanban perspective and see how long it takes for an idea that comes up in Requirements Elicitation to make it into the Development Queue and hence into the hands of the Users. For most organizations, once the Requirement has hit the front of the backlog queue, the process to deliver is relatively short, typically less than 2 weeks for a simple User Story, but can be of the order of a month or more for an Epic containing multiple User Stories.

So the QA team does have a window of opportunity for validating the Requirements – the gap between Elicitation and Documentation and when the Stories get into the development queue. Validating the Design is harder, since most agile teams tend to do that on the fly…