Continuous Testing: The Gatekeeper of Quality in Continuous Delivery

Published on
June 7, 2022
Ryan Thornton
VP of Marketing

The emergence of Continuous and Agile delivery methods has given birth to a new approach to testing: continuous testing. But what makes continuous testing so special, and why it is b̶e̶c̶o̶m̶i̶n̶g̶ a m̶o̶d̶e̶r̶n̶-̶d̶a̶y̶ necessity for QA teams today?

In today's market, businesses require faster and more frequent delivery of software to end-users. This has led to changing market conditions where technical teams have started embracing lean approaches to software delivery such as Agile, DevOps, and Continuous Delivery while moving away from traditional waterfall approaches. However, despite streamlining many areas of the software development lifecycle (SDLC), teams still find that their testing process prevents them from achieving the expected benefits associated with moving to lean delivery methods.

Automating your way to efficiency

Continuous testing involves the automated execution of testing within the software delivery pipeline. The ongoing automated execution of testing provides businesses with the ability to obtain feedback on the risks associated with software releases in the fastest possible way. Furthermore, the automation involved in continuous testing addresses the increased complexity and speed demanded by current software delivery trends.

Continuous testing aims to ensure that once code is integrated, it gets tested automatically. This is achieved by sending code integrations built during the continuous integration phase into a predefined pipeline of various tests - such as integration, system, regression, and user acceptance - and executing them automatically without human involvement. This process greatly speeds up deployment time and removes the QA bottleneck associated with other approaches to testing.

Why is continuous testing necessary?

Changes in the industry have increased what is required from testing and have made test automation more challenging (especially when it comes to traditional tools and methods). Software architectures have become increasingly elaborate and dispersed, featuring APIs, cloud infrastructure, and microservices, which have in turn created boundless combinations of technology within a single event.

Furthermore, given software is the central interface for many businesses, its failure equates to business failure. Something that may seem trivial, such as a small glitch, can have major consequences if it impacts the user experience. This means that software-related risks have to be considered with the utmost importance, even by non-technical business leaders.

Through the increased adoption of Agile, DevOps, and Continuous Delivery, software can be released as frequently as hundreds of times a day. This has resulted in a dramatic reduction in the time available for QA teams to design and maintain tests, as well as execute them. Traditional testing methods that rely on manual testing and automated GUI tests requiring regular updates simply cannot keep pace.

It saves valuable time

As testing is initiated early on in the SDLC and executed continuously, risks are detected soon after they are introduced. Continuous testing means development teams are always able to stop issues from proceeding to the next phase of delivery. This makes for a big reduction in the time and effort needed to identify and fix future defects, ultimately increasing the speed and frequency at which quality software can be delivered.

It enables close cross-department collaboration

Unlike waterfall testing where conclusions from testing are provided after the testing cycle is complete, continuous testing keeps feedback and actionable tasks coming in continuously. Additionally, as continuous testing involves close alignment with business expectations, such as risk, test execution tends to produce actionable tasks rather than conclusions that require analysis. 

The above enables the entire delivery team to continually prioritize and direct efforts towards tasks that have the most significant impact on broader organizational goals.

It promotes process improvement

Another benefit that arises from the adoption of continuous testing is insight into the software delivery process itself. As teams are continuously executing tests across the SDLC, they collect metrics that not only reflect on the state of the software but on the actual process. That data can then be utilized to examine and optimize the effectiveness of the process, including the tests that are carried out. These rapid feedback loops compliment any DevOps approach by allowing teams to continuously enhance their software delivery pipeline while enjoying steady improvement in all-round performance.

End-to-end quality across the entire SDLC

No business wants to let their customers down through negative software experiences. Implementing continuous testing across the entire software development life cycle enables a level of continuous quality that delights customers. Not only does it help to ensure end-to-end quality, but it also ensures that teams can identify defects rapidly, speeding up the overall quality and delivery process.

However, there are a couple of points to consider when implementing a continuous approach to testing. One such consideration is ensuring that all teams involved in the software development process, including QA, Operations, and Development, have visibility and are able to contribute to continuous testing efforts.

When considering the shift left in testing, developers need to be able to easily obtain immediate feedback when building new features. When considering the shift right, customer experience feedback and behavior in production environments need to be easily accessible by teams, as it gives insight into how the software is being used. This information can inform teams where testing or development efforts are focused going forward.

In conclusion, continuous testing has the potential to facilitate the adoption of continuous delivery approaches to software development, and therefore improve efficiency in organizations. It does, however, need to be approached carefully and partnered with smart automated testing approaches. Book a demo with us to learn how Virtuoso can integrate into your SDLC and put your quality first.

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