Continuous Testing Benefits and Challenges

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Software has become a key business differentiator for organizations worldwide. As a result, software development teams are challengedto deliver more innovativesoftware faster to meet the dynamic needs of the industry as well as to be responsive to constant change. One way in which organizations are achieving this is by embracing approaches such as Agile and DevOps that accelerate the delivery pipeline. But as lean methodologies enable organizations to release software quickly, the time available for testing decreases dramatically. A study reports that of the 70% organizations that have adopted Agile, only 30% automate testing. With application architectures becoming increasingly distributed and complex and combining endless mixes of protocols and technologies, traditional testing approaches can prevent development teams from achieving the expected benefits.

The Benefits of Continuous Testing

As software delivery cycles become shorter and shorter, traditional testing processes are too slow and too unresponsive to address the dynamic needs of the industry. Since even a small software glitch can have severe repercussions for the business, organizations are no longer willing to accept a trade-off between quality and speed. With traditional testing methodologies preventing organizations from delivering quality software at the desired speed, concepts like continuous testing are becoming extremely popular.
Continuous testing introduces automated tests into the process of developing and delivering software. This allows developers to get timely feedback on the business risks associated with the product. By providing fast and continuous feedback about the level of risk, it helps in determining if the software is ready to progress to the next state. The benefits of continuous testing are many:

  • Since testing is done early and continuously in the lifecycle, risks are exposed as soon as they are introduced – enabling development teams to prevent risks from rolling onto the next stage
  • As the action is taken immediately, the time and effort spent in finding and fixing defects is reduced dramatically
  • As testing getting embedded within the development process instead of at the end, the chances of software failure are substantially reduced.
  • Developers can reduce the probability of error and increase the speed and frequency at which quality software is delivered
  • Since software quality efforts and testing are aligned with business priorities, development teams can focus their efforts on tasks that will have the greatest impact.
  • Developers can continuously assess the quality metrics to evaluate the development process and increase the effectiveness of the tests.
  • By executing the right set of tests at the right stage in the delivery pipeline, developers can eliminate the chances of a bottleneck
  • Development teams can continuously review and optimize the test suite to eliminate redundancy and maximize business risk coverage

The Challenges

Continuous testing is a radical shift in the way testing is performed in the software industry. By executing test suites earlier in the software lifecycle, continuous testing increases software quality, shortens test cycles and reduces the possibility of software defects making their way into production code. Although along with Agile and DevOps, continuous testing enables organizations to deliver quality software as rapidly as possible, it brings with it a different set of challenges.

  • Even though continuous testing accelerates the feedback loop for identifying risks, the roles and responsibilities of team members are usually poorly defined. Since tasks are not clearly assigned, it’s unclear which team member is responsible for ensuring the code deployed by different teams is working well together. Having frequent scrum meetings where team members state their individual contribution can help in defining the roles of each member in the team.
  • Although businesses invest considerable time and effort into transforming their testing processes to meet business demands, they still depend on legacy processes and tools for continuous testing. This restricts them from achieving the intended objective. To get the most out of continuous testing, organizations must adopt modern tools that can help them in building quick and efficient feedback loop.
  • Since modern applications are highly distributed, continuous testing typically requires access to dependencies that may not be readily available for testing. By using service virtualization, developers can simulate interactions with the missing or unavailable dependencies.
  • Although continuous testing helps in identifying risks early in the life cycle, analyzing the output to see if it can be fed back into the testing loop to improve quality can be a mammoth task. Providing visibility to developers into continuous testing analytics and enabling them to see the potential impact of their efforts is essential to enhance results.
  • The infrastructure for continuous testing is often not scalable. Developers, thus, may have a tough time in continuously executing the test suite. Developers can address this challenge by focusing tests on the business priorities and adopting several application release automation tools for improved efficiency.

Increase Speed of Quality Software Delivery

With software becoming the primary enablerofevery business, the consequence of any application failure could be, in all probability, business failure. Hence, techniques like continuous testing have become an important means to detect application-related risks. When executed correctly, continuous testing can serve as the foundation of Agile organizations. By executing automated tests as part of the software delivery pipeline, developers can achieve continuous risk-based feedback, reduce the probability of error and increase the pace of modern application delivery.

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