Shift left has been a catch phrase in the software testing and quality assurance world for a decade now. The focus here has been on moving from a world of quality control to a world of quality assurance where the testing effort shifts left in the software development life cycle. Testers get involved from the early stages of product ideation, design and requirements gathering, leveraging not just dynamic testing techniques, but more importantly static techniques too, to find defects early on in the life cycle. It is an industry-accepted fact that finding defects early on has a whole array of benefits including reduced cost of quality and faster time to market. Although, in principle the industry saw the value of a shift left approach, it had challenges applying it in practice, especially during the days of the waterfall lifecycle implementation, when testing was relegated to the prod3 stages of the development effort. Testers often had to succumb to release pressures and hardly had any time to test – not to mention, their reputation at stake, when issues were then caught live in production. The Agile manifesto made it easier to adopt a shift left or rather an upstream quality approach engaging testers early on in the lifecycle.
You may ask, what is new about all of this discussion?
I was at the STC QAI conference last week and had a great opportunity to network with several professionals from the testing discipline along with sitting in on several great sessions, talks and discussions. I myself did a keynote on “The New Gives and Takes in a Software Tester’s Role”, where I harped on the need to give away a few tasks on one’s plate and instead take on newer tasks to empower the entire team own quality and move into a phase of quality confirmation from assurance. This was also in alignment with the conference’s main theme for this year. While most others also talked about a shift left approach, one of the key note speakers emphasized on a shift right approach, which was interesting. An approach where he is not suggesting relegating quality to the prod3 stages of product release, but an approach where we move right and align quality goals with business processes and business value; an approach where we move right to bring in end-user representation holistically rather than being driven purely by engaging early, to understand product design and finding defects sooner in the game. While all of these sound exciting, they are easier said than done. On one hand, we are working towards shifting left and promoting quality assurance and on the other, we are beginning to look at moving right to promote quality confirmation. Is this a tug of war in the world of quality? Which direction should the tester really move in? It will take time for the industry to acknowledge and accept the value from both the shift left and right approaches, and to allow the tester to create the required equilibrium himself. This is a balance which will take the tester himself some time to achieve but at least the industry has started thinking about such a two pronged approach sending out the message loud and clear that quality is ready to move into the next stage of its evolution cycle.