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Why Does DevOps Recommend Shift Left Testing Principles?

Organizations can revolutionize their software testing by embracing the shift-left approach embraced by the DevOps community. This strategy is crucial in delivering high-quality software and applications quickly while safeguarding customer data. This article will explore how organizations can optimize their DevOps processes with shift-left testing, prioritizing improved security and automation. We will address the most common questions about shift-left testing and highlight the changes in implementing this strategy. By the end of this article, you will gain a deeper understanding of how to fully utilize shift-left testing in your organization.

Table of Contents show

What is the concept of Shift-Left Testing?

Shift-Left Testing is about moving security and testing to the start of the software development process. It’s closely tied to DevSecOps, a way of working that brings development, security, and operations teams together to ensure applications are secure from the beginning. The key to Shift-Left is “test early and test often.” By catching issues early in the process, teams can resolve them more efficiently, saving time and money. Utilizing continuous testing and continuous development, Shift-Left improves the chances of creating a high-quality, successful product. It’s a proactive approach that detects and fixes problems before they become significant.

What is the DevOps philosophy, and why does it recommend Shift-Left Testing?

The software development landscape constantly changes, with new expectations and requirements emerging regularly. This is where DevOps shift-left testing comes in – by proactively identifying and addressing issues early in the software development lifecycle (SDLC), teams can keep up with these changing demands and deliver high-quality products. If you’re new to DevOps, resources like DevOps Foundation classes are available to help you get started.

Traditionally, testing in software development frameworks is done near the end of the development cycle. However, if issues are not identified until this stage, they can be much more complex, time-consuming, and costly to address. Shift-left is a methodology that prioritizes detecting and resolving issues before they become bugs. This approach is closely tied to the principles of continuous testing and development in DevOps and helps teams deliver high-quality products more efficiently.

In today’s business environment, smaller budgets and faster delivery timelines are driving the need for more efficient development and testing approaches. DevOps can help speed up the SDLC, but without the right testing principles, development projects can still be hindered by bugs and delays. One solution is to adopt a shift-left approach, which emphasizes testing earlier and throughout the entire SDLC. This approach helps teams deliver high-quality products faster and more efficiently.

What is Shift-Left Testing?

Shifting left in testing is about testing earlier in the software development life cycle (SDLC) and more frequently. This approach ensures that bugs are caught early before they become major issues that can delay product launches or increase costs. By testing consistently throughout the development process, teams can catch and address problems as soon as they arise rather than waiting until the end of the production process.

The shift-left approach also promotes collaboration between developers and testers, as they work together to identify and fix bugs early in development. This improves the overall quality of the application and reduces the need for costly workarounds or repairs later on.

In addition to improving the quality of an application, shift-left testing also helps improve the development process’s efficiency. By catching problems early, developers don’t waste time applying workarounds to flawed implementations, and operations teams don’t have to maintain faulty applications. This ultimately leads to a faster development cycle and a more successful product launch.

By shifting testing left, teams can also identify critical aspects that need testing early in development, making planning and executing effective testing strategies easier. This approach ensures that software is designed from the ground up with quality in mind, making testing an integral part of the organization’s DNA. This empowers developers to become more competent in automated testing technologies and more efficient in their daily tasks.

How does Shift-Left compare with Shift-Right Testing?

Shifting left and right in DevOps refers to the different stages of the development cycle. The development cycle can be considered a continuum, with the left side representing the pre-production stage and the right side representing the production stage.

On the left side, teams focus on developing and testing their apps in pre-production. The goal is to ensure the software meets specified design criteria, such as functionality and usability. This stage is critical for identifying and fixing bugs and issues before releasing the software to users.

On the right side, the focus is ensuring that software meets reliability and business requirements post-launch once it is available to users. This includes monitoring the software for issues, troubleshooting problems, and making necessary updates and improvements.

Conducting testing, quality assurance, and performance evaluations in a live environment is called shift-right. Shift-right ensures the final product can withstand real-world usage while adhering to high-quality standards. This approach can help identify issues that may not have been caught in pre-production testing and can improve the overall quality of the software.

What are Shift-left Testing Principles?

The basic idea behind shift-left testing is that it’s better to find and fix bugs early in the software development life cycle rather than later. By finding and fixing bugs early, teams can avoid the need to rework code that has already been written.

There are several key DevOps practices that you can follow to help make this happen:

  • Automate everything: The more you can automate your testing, the easier it will be to get started early and find defects quickly.
  • Build quality from the start: The shift left testing approach prevents defects, so focusing on quality from the beginning is essential. It means writing high-quality code and using techniques like test-driven development.
  • Test continuously: Continuous testing means testing throughout the entire software development process. It helps you to find defects early and fix them before they cause problems.
  • Shift left on everything: It’s not just about shift left on testing – the whole team needs to be involved. Everyone should think about quality from the start and be responsible for ensuring that the final product is high-quality.

What benefits do DevOps teams get with Shift-left Testing?

As you know by now, shift-left testing is a methodology that promotes the early detection of errors and defects in the development process, reducing the risk of problems downstream. The benefits of successful implementation are abundant and include the following:

Why does DevOps recommend shift-left testing principles?

Reduced Development and Testing Costs

The benefits of catching and fixing bugs early in software development cannot be overstated. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the cost of resolving defects during production can be significantly higher than if addressed earlier in the life cycle. The cost differential is especially pronounced for security bugs, which can be up to 60 times more expensive to fix later. Implementing shift-left testing practices can significantly reduce the risk of these costly issues.

Debugging can prove to be a difficult task in the software development process. When bugs are discovered later in development, they become increasingly difficult and expensive to fix. For instance, if a payment application detects a security vulnerability after its latest version has been released, it will entail a substantial amount of additional time, resources, and cost to rectify the issue. Shift-left testing can help developers identify and fix bugs early in the development process, reducing the complexity and overall cost of resolving issues.

The earlier bugs are detected, the less expensive they are to fix, and this is because the cost and consequences of fixing bugs increase over time. Shift-left testing is a practical methodology for identifying and addressing issues early in the development process, helping to reduce the overall costs associated with development, testing, and resolution. Gartner estimates the cost of network outages to be $5,600 per minute, highlighting the importance of catching issues early.

Shift-left testing is a technique that involves conducting testing after each build to identify and fix errors as soon as possible. This approach can significantly reduce the overall cost of development, testing, and resolution, as defects are found early. Additionally, the complexity of implementing changes in a production environment makes it difficult to do anything after the fact, not to mention the associated total cost of late maintenance. Shift-left testing is a crucial part of any development process to minimize costs.

Launch on Anticipated Release Dates

It’s important to catch bugs early in the software development life cycle to avoid costly repairs later. One of the most detrimental effects of late bug detection is the potential for a product’s release date to be delayed. Companies may face the difficult decision of either delaying the release of their software or releasing programs with known defects. Shift-left testing is a proactive approach that can help companies avoid this predicament by identifying and resolving issues early on. This saves time and resources, reduces risk, and prevents unexpected expenses, allowing you to release on time.

Better Quality Software

Shifting left in operations allows teams to work closely with development, creating the opportunity to establish testing and deployment processes. By catching bugs early through automated tests, companies can avoid frantic hot fixing and confidently meet deployment dates. The left shift principle not only aids in finding and fixing bugs but also prioritizes prevention over detection. This mindset shift allows for a more thorough and proactive approach to building a high-quality product from the ground up. By focusing on prevention rather than detection, companies can ensure they deliver a stable and high-quality end product to their customers.

Increased Competitive Advantage

Launching quality software on time is crucial for staying competitive for most businesses. Adopting shift-left testing principles can give a company the upper hand by improving product quality, preventing issues, and increasing efficiency during development. Corporations can reach their milestones and cut expenses by catching bugs early and automating testing processes. Investing in shift-left testing is a wise decision for the present and the company’s future success. Thus, businesses can gain a significant competitive advantage in the market by utilizing shift-left testing in their software development process.

Cleaner, Higher-Quality Code

The Shift Left testing approach not only streamlines the testing process but also significantly impacts overall code quality. One of the key benefits of starting the testing process from the beginning is the ability to promptly evaluate all aspects of the software, including features, functionalities, and performance.

Moreover, incorporating regular and rigorous code quality checks into the testing process helps ensure that the end product is stable and of a high standard. This is achieved by promoting timely correspondence and feedback between stakeholders and developers.

Finally, the use of automation tools further aids in making the shift left testing process easily consumable for agile teams. By automating repetitive and time-consuming tasks, teams can focus on the more complex and critical aspects of software testing, improving code quality.

Coordination of Bug Resolution

Shift-left testing improves the speed and quality of software development and promotes better collaboration between developers and testers. By starting testing earlier, shift-left creates a shared understanding and common goals between the two disciplines. This alignment is crucial in fast-paced environments where speed and quality are essential for success. Shift-left testing is the most effective approach for achieving this harmony between development and testing teams.

Time Savings

By implementing shift-left testing, teams benefit from finding critical bugs early on and strike a balance between timely delivery and maintaining high product quality.

Improved Customer Satisfaction

As you realize by now, shift-left testing is a powerful approach to software development that results in refined, superior-quality, and more dependable code. By starting the test execution early in the development process, teams can identify and fix bugs quickly, increasing test coverage percentages and overall software quality. This approach ensures that the code produced at the culmination of the development process can go into production with minimal apparent faults, meaning users don’t have to wait for new versions to be released.

Improved Workflow

Implementing a shift-left strategy is worthwhile as it allows for a deeper examination of the software and the implementation of cutting-edge testing solutions. By starting testing early in the development cycle, the QA team can become more proficient in utilizing the tools and techniques. Additionally, shift-left testing streamlines various elements of software engineering, making it an efficient and practical approach to ensuring high-quality code.

Shift-Left Security Concerns

Incorporating security measures into the software development process has recently become crucial. However, security testing is traditionally conducted at the end of the development cycle, leaving little time for remediation if vulnerabilities are found. This can lead to delays in deployment or the risk of releasing software without proper security measures.

Adopting a shift-left approach for security means integrating security best practices throughout the development process rather than waiting until the end to address vulnerabilities and potential issues. This allows for identifying and resolving potential security issues early in the process and makes addressing security concerns easier, faster, and more cost-effective.

In addition, the shift towards automation in IT has further highlighted the need for security left. Development productivity and velocity have increased significantly with the ability to provision resources and deploy environments quickly. However, this also means less time for post-development security assessments and evaluations of cloud infrastructure settings. By shifting security left, organizations can ensure that security is integrated throughout the development process and identified vulnerabilities and addressed before they become critical issues.

Shift-Left and Test Automation in DevOps

The question is no longer whether to implement test automation but how to implement it effectively within an agile environment. Various options are available, such as commercial products requiring programming, building custom automation frameworks, and utilizing code-free automation tools.

However, choosing the proper automation framework for your organization is essential, as a poorly chosen one can cost more time and resources than it saves.

How does test automation fit into the Shift-Left Testing Philosophy?

Automation is vital to a shift-left strategy, as it allows for faster and more efficient testing. By automating repetitive and time-consuming tasks, teams can focus on more high-value activities and catch errors before they make it to production.

One of the key advantages is that automation accelerates the feedback loop, allowing developers to receive feedback on their code and make necessary adjustments quickly. By identifying and fixing problems early on, shift-left testing can prevent minor issues from becoming major ones. Additionally, catching and resolving errors more quickly leads to higher-quality code overall.

Benefits of implementing codeless automation in shift-left testing

If your team lacks the code expertise to implement a robust automation framework using more stable modern frameworks, exploring codeless automation tools could be the ideal solution. Codeless automation tools provide an intuitive graphical user interface (GUI) that enables users to quickly create automated tests with no code. However, be aware of the pitfalls of taking this route, such as limited test coverage, a lack of flexibility, and potentially escalating automation costs.

Also, not having more advanced automation engineers could present an issue when it comes time to validate that data is persisting correctly and ensure load tests adequately match real-world use cases. Data validation requires more comprehensive integration and functionality tests, while load testing requires a deep application understanding.

Let’s dig into some benefits automation can have, specifically codeless automation.

Eliminate developer dependency with codeless automation

It is essential to remember that automating functional UI tests should not solely be left to developers. Business users and quality assurance professionals can actively create and maintain these tests by utilizing codeless automation technologies.

This approach not only broadens the pool of individuals who can contribute to the automation process but also ensures that the tests accurately reflect the needs and expectations of end-users.

In conclusion, adopting codeless automation technologies for functional UI tests enables organizations to benefit from the perspectives and insights of a broader range of stakeholders, leading to more comprehensive and effective testing.

Utilization ease with codeless automation

Efficient onboarding is crucial for the successful implementation of test automation, and a solution with a quick onboarding process can get non-technical testers up and running with automation faster. Investing in visual test automation pays off in terms of time, cost, and effort compared to the alternative of scripting automation for testing.

A visual approach streamlines the testing process, making it more accessible and less resource-intensive. By relying on visual elements rather than code, visual test automation empowers a broader range of users to contribute to the testing process without requiring technical expertise.


Low-maintenance automation tests make for fewer headaches. Visual automation technologies provide an advantage in diagnosing the source of errors quickly and efficiently, which is essential in shift-left testing. Instead of manually sifting through the code line by line to identify the problem, these tools allow you to spot the issue almost immediately. With a clear view of what went wrong, you can resolve automation failures with minimal effort and time. This ensures that your automated tests are stable and reliable without spending much time maintaining them.


With built-in reusability, tools enable scalable automation efforts as projects grow. This is because the tool can be used repeatedly and adapted to new project requirements without building new automation processes from scratch each time, which helps, given the faster shift-left pace.

Acquaint testers with coding

For teams that do not go the codeless route, having a foundation in coding enables testers to play a more active role in code review and development teams. The skill to read, comprehend, and modify code, including writing automated tests and refining core functions, is a fundamental requirement for a well-rounded tester.

Common challenges faced while implementing test automation

Total Build Time

Creating a test automation framework is a tempting idea for businesses, but the reality is that it requires a significant investment of both time and money. When coding frameworks, ensure expectations are realistic, the framework leverages supported packages and supports both present and future automation needs.

Steep-Learning Curve

Person practicing computer programming.

Managing a test automation framework using code-based open-source solutions like Selenium is a technical challenge for businesses. Technical staff must maintain the framework, which can compete with more critical tasks and high-value jobs. The issue compounds as non-technical business users are more adept at their processes and may encounter difficulty when learning the tools and managing the framework. The reliance on technically trained employees limits the effectiveness and efficiency of test automation in businesses.

High Maintenance Cost

The widespread adoption of static scripts by test automation systems creates limitations, as they are slow to respond to alterations in the user interface. Introducing new views, buttons, navigation, or inputs can break scripts, requiring frequent maintenance. On the other hand, dynamic script-based frameworks are better equipped to handle these changes and require less maintenance.

Solutions to these challenges

There are two solutions to these challenges, either implement a flexible modern framework that addresses the pitfalls of Selenium, or attempt to implement no-code solutions.

Flexible Framework:

Adopting a flexible framework like Cypress streamlines your development process, slashing maintenance costs and time. Modern frameworks tackle the limitations of traditional automation tools by incorporating implicit waiting for screen elements and utilizing HTTP requests within tests. Compared to Selenium or no-code solutions, frameworks like Cypress boast faster performance and are ideal for projects with technical testers.

No-Code Solution:

A no-code test automation platform provides a fast ramp-up, an easy learning curve, and supposed minimal maintenance needs, tackling the issues outlined before. It empowers your business to execute changes in a competitive landscape swiftly.

Whichever solution is the best fit for your project, the following solutions will help you overcome the challenges:

Remove Developer Dependencies

Empower your business staff and QA professionals to create and sustain automation without relying on developers by choosing a dedicated automation engineer team using modern frameworks or a codeless automation tool. These solutions eliminate the dependency on developers for functional test automation.

Ease of use

Accelerate your test automation implementation with a solution that boasts a rapid onboarding process. By following the framework’s best practices, you can ensure your automation will be up and running efficiently for testers in no time.


Choose a test automation solution that prioritizes stability and low maintenance to minimize upkeep efforts. Make sure the reporting features provide clear and concise information for identifying, comprehending, and fixing automation errors expeditiously.

How to Apply Shift-Left Best Practices to Your Project

Adopting a shift-left approach in your development strategy offers numerous benefits, but the journey to reap these benefits is not straightforward. It is a continuous process aimed at enhancing your long-term development roadmap. The key to leveraging DevOps benefits through a shift-left approach is to apply it effectively to your project.

Defining the way forward

The path forward is not simple, but there are a few things your team can do to increase your chances of success:

  1. Adhere to coding standards to guarantee your code’s readiness for testing from the start.
  2. Incorporate testing in the preliminary stages of the software development cycle to capture faults and mistakes before they create issues later.
  3. Embrace automated testing to hasten the testing process and minimize errors that reach production.
The coding path

Addressing possible testing automation challenges

Adopting a shift-left approach in DevOps involves facing the challenges of automation head-on. To ensure a smooth transition, organizations must consider the complexities of automating various processes.

One such challenge is achieving regulatory compliance, particularly regarding certifications such as GDPR. Organizations can streamline the process by automating compliance screening and integrating it into the software development life cycle (SDLC) to overcome this. While the testing procedure may take some time, the long-term benefits of a more efficient and effective process make it well worth the investment.

Another critical aspect of a shift-left approach is ensuring software security, which requires adhering to industry guidelines and standards, such as those established by OWASP. By automating security testing and incorporating it into the SDLC, organizations can build consumer trust and foster a culture of secure software creation.

Using automated technologies

Shifting left in DevOps requires incorporating automated technologies in your workflow. Automation plays a crucial role in detecting flaws early in the development cycle, reducing the risk of human error and speeding up the transition from development to deployment.

Security is a primary concern in software development, and implementing automated security measures can help ensure that applications are secure. DevOps teams can work closely with security teams to integrate security testing and static analysis tools into their workflows and embrace shift-left testing to catch potential issues before they cause significant problems. By collaborating and leveraging automation’s power, organizations can confidently build secure, high-quality applications.

Educating employees

The shift-left approach to DevOps can be a challenging transition for employees who have not previously dealt with risk management in product development. To mitigate potential hazards and ensure a smooth transition, investing in education is key. This education should equip teams with the knowledge of their specific tasks within the workflow and an understanding of how new processes may impact product development. Moreover, being able to handle any potential risks that arise is crucial for success. Efficient testing processes that align with the shift-left approach are necessary to keep up with the rapid pace of development. By providing essential education, individuals and teams can not only navigate the challenges of the transition but also reap the benefits of a more efficient and effective DevOps workflow.

Utilizing dispersed DevOps teams to fill skill gaps

For companies that want to upskill their IT team, in-house training may not always be the most efficient solution. This is why outsourcing DevOps services can provide a cost-effective alternative that yields results quickly. By filling any gaps in skills, DevOps outsourcing can get your project up and running in no time. Another option is to make a few strategic hires with the expertise to lead your transformation and embed them in your existing teams.

How to move to Shift Left

Continuous Testing

The first step to shifting left is to implement continuous testing. The new code needs to be tested as soon as it is written. Continuous testing helps to find defects early before they have a chance to cause problems later in the programming process.

It also helps to improve team communication, as everyone knows the need to test early and often.

To implement continuous testing, you need to set up a separate testing environment from the development environment, which might be challenging. Still, it allows testing new code without affecting the live site.

You also need to automate your testing process so it can run frequently and quickly. Typically, both automated testing and manual testing are needed to successfully shift-left.

Many tools are available to help with this, such as Selenium, SoapUI, and TestComplete.

Continuous Deployment

Continuous deployment is the next step to shifting left. Once the code has been tested and approved, it deploys automatically to the live site.

This step speeds up development by allowing new features to be released sooner. It also helps to reduce the risk of errors, as there is no need to deploy code manually. Using this ideology, application users can see updates faster.

To implement the continuous deployment, you must set up a continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD) pipeline. It is a series of tools and processes that automate the code deployment process.

Many CI/CD tools are available, such as Jenkins, Bamboo, and TeamCity.

Continuous Feedback

The final step to shifting left is to implement continuous feedback. The teams should regularly provide feedback on the code to improve it.

Demand planning, product backlog grooming, and sprint planning are all activities that help provide code feedback.

By doing this, teams can identify defects early and report them to the programming team.

Conclusion and Summary of the key takeaways

We hope you now understand why DevOps recommends shift-left testing principles for software teams. There are so many benefits to successfully implementing it, but here are the biggest:

Shift-Left Testing: An Essential Approach for Software Testing:

The shift-left technique, commonly known as shift-left testing, is a crucial component of software testing that occurs early in the SDLC. DevOps endorses this method to lower costs, enhance code quality, increase customer satisfaction, and save development time. With shift-left testing, testing becomes an integral part of the development process, taking place before, during, and after development. This results in decreased wait times for testers.

Shift-Left and Improved Security:

By adopting shift-left testing principles, organizations can proactively identify potential security risks early in the development cycle when they are easier to address. This proactive approach to security testing helps to minimize risks and ensure the safety of customer data.

Leveraging Automation for DevOps Success:

Organizations can also optimize many aspects of the SDLC through automated testing solutions. This makes the transition to DevOps smoother and eliminates the risk of errors associated with human-dependent testing. Automated testing simplifies putting software and apps into production, allowing organizations to deliver high-quality products quickly and efficiently.

Additional Frequent Queries

What is a shift-left strategy in DevOps?

Shifting left means conducting testing, quality checks, and performance evaluations early in the software development cycle, moving these tasks to the beginning of the DevOps process.

How do you implement a shift-left testing approach in DevOps?

  1. Engage Testers from the very start by involving them in the planning and design phase.
  2. Develop a comprehensive Test Strategy that incorporates Static Testing.
  3. Embrace automation technology to identify and resolve problems efficiently.
  4. Establish a clear action plan and be prepared with a Risk-based assessment to mitigate potential issues.

What actions can we prioritize to cultivate a shift-left culture?

• Align your approach with the corporate vision and prioritize your scope accordingly.

• Encourage teams to collaborate and work together towards a shared goal.

• Embrace an automation-first mentality to drive efficiency and effectiveness.

• Implement quality gates as a critical component of your shift-left strategy to ensure standards are met.

What changes after you shift to the left?

Adopting a shift-left approach leads to several changes in your team’s workflow. The most notable is a reduction in wait time for testing activities. This is due to DevOps placing a high value on customer involvement, resulting in testing performed earlier in the software development cycle.

Another change is the composition of the team itself. By embracing a shift-left philosophy, more diverse team members become involved in software testing, leading to a more well-rounded and comprehensive approach to testing.

Finally, shift-left testing leads to increased coverage. Testing earlier in the development process makes it possible to identify errors and defects more quickly and effectively, resulting in a more robust and high-quality end product.