Organisations everywhere are under increasing pressure to drive growth and respond to rapidly changing market conditions. The ability to roll out high-quality, reliable applications at speed can drive an increase in customer affinity with a brand, a first-mover advantage that can unlock access to new markets.

Today, businesses must provide the highest level of application availability and reliability, if they are going to meet the demands of their customers.

As the development of new applications continues to pick up speed, testing teams are under increased pressure to test applications quickly and thoroughly, without sacrificing quality, while supporting a wide variety of user devices such as laptops, tablets and phones.

The demand to develop applications quickly can increase the risk of errors and have a negative effect on a company’s reputation due to visible feedback channels.

So, while organisations seek to simultaneously cut their technology costs and increase customer satisfaction through faster time-to-market and higher quality products and services, they will also have to meet today’s testing challenge: balancing quality, speed and cost.

The shift to new testing services and methods is happening cross-industry with the initiation of new test automation frameworks and platforms. A mature test automation architecture and underlying tooling frameworks can help increase repeatability of test execution, reduce cycle times and enable earlier identification of quality issues – resulting in higher quality, faster time to market and overall cost savings.

Given that IT executives in Australia spend as much as 10–12% of the annual IT budget fixing core application problems, it is no surprise they are seeking improved application quality, speed and cost.

Test automation as ‘a first-class citizen’

As organisations transform their delivery practices to become more agile and focus on faster speed to market, test automation becomes a necessity. Shorter feedback cycles require more frequent execution of the same tests, which becomes an expensive undertaking if performed in the traditional testing model.

In the past, test automation was more of an afterthought focused predominantly on regression testing. In the new delivery world, test automation becomes a first-class citizen with the test automation architecture front of mind during the application development phase.

Instead of testing for quality at the end, organisations should focus on making quality a consideration throughout the application life cycle. The test automation architecture should provide techniques and tools that are fashioned to each activity in the life cycle.

Making it easier to avoid defects in the first place is the cheapest and fastest way to improve quality. In short, test automation must go much further than simply automating scripts that would otherwise have been executed manually.

‘Shift Left’

Organisations should adopt a ‘shift left’ approach to help improve upstream aspects of the testing process rather than trying to find defects in later phases. They should focus on improving the quality of requirements, the release and software configuration management and the software development process itself.

For each aspect of quality, one should identify the earliest possible point (furthest to the left) where feedback is possible even if that feedback might not be to production standards. Faster feedback is always better for learning about the behaviour of the solution and to allow for a course correction early on when it is cheaper to do so.

Further testing can be performed at a later stage when all that is left to do is to validate the user experience, the functionality and test that performance meets production standards. Many techniques and tools have evolved to support the ‘shift left’ of testing which in turn has helped to reduce the need for large test teams towards the end of the delivery life cycle.

The new demands for application testing services have arisen amid an accelerated delivery speed and the increasing dependency on digital technologies. These new realities are pushing organisations to rethink and reinvent their approach to testing and quality.

By making test automation ‘a first-class citizen’ and adopting a ‘shift left’ approach, organisations can reduce the overall cost of quality, and limit the risk of critical defects reaching production and impacting the reputation of the organisation.

The good news is that all this is possible without increasing the overall operational cost for testing by focusing on the right automation architecture throughout the delivery life cycle.