4 Key Elements of a Successful Continuous Testing Process
One of the biggest changes in software development in the last few years has been the speed at which teams are now asked to deliver. Organizations that used to deploy new versions of software solutions twice per year now often operate according to a weekly or daily schedule.
To meet business objectives, teams rely on modular applications that evolve over time, powerful tools, Agile development methods and more gradual changes to the code base, allowing them to deliver different modules and functionalities over the course of several iterations.
To ensure optimal software quality, manual testing is simply no longer sufficient to keep up the pace. To be successful and continue to be leaders in their respective markets, organizations must rely on a continuous testing process.
What is Continuous Testing?
In a traditional waterfall development process, testing only takes place at the very end of the development cycle. As a result, many errors, bugs and other issues can find their way into the live version of a software product, resulting in additional work and extra costs.
Continuous testing completely changes the development team’s relationship with testing. Instead of only taking place at the very end of the development cycle, testing now occurs early and often, allowing developers to test features and functionalities as they evolve. In the context of an Agile project, a continuous testing process can provide the development team useful data all throughout the development cycle, instead of only adding value at the very end. In a continuous testing process, developers are always asking the question, “Is it possible to test?”
The Key Elements of a Successful Continuous Testing Process
To put into place a continuous testing process within your company, you’ll need at the very least the following four elements.
1. A Continuous Integration Tool
A basic continuous integration tool allows the team to integrate new code that has been deposited into a central repository to produce a new build of a software solution. Before depositing new code into the central repository, team members can work independently to develop a new feature or new functionalities without affecting the version used by other team members.
2. Environment Provisioning
Having to create a test environment every time a team member wants to test a feature adds unnecessary steps (update the application, update the database if necessary, restart the services, etc) that slow the development team down and end up wasting a ton of time over the course of an entire project.
A platform like Docker can make this process much smoother and much simpler. Creating images requires an initial investment, but in the long run, you’ll likely save time. The container-based provisioning step can also be managed through a continuous integration tool as well.
3. End-To-End Testing
Environment provisioning and a continuous integration tool allow team members to verify new changes faster and more efficiently. After that, end-to-end testing, which integrates test scenarios, test scripts and test automation tools into a single platform, ensures software quality by testing the application from beginning to end and generating detailed test results. Using these results, it’s very easy for developers to identify the source of an error or what caused software quality to regress, allowing developers to fix these issues quickly.
Moreover, test automation doesn’t leave room for human errors, which means test results are always reliable. Thanks to the power of end-to-end testing, teams can control the quality of the software solutions they produce much more easily.
The last key ingredient of a successful continuous testing process is very simple: teamwork! A continuous testing process seeks to integrate testers and quality assurance specialists directly into the development team, allowing them to work side-by-side with developers to elaborate test strategies together. In the end, the code that the team develops is much more solid, as the entire team is involved into the quality assurance process.
Produce Test Reports Frequently
Continuous testing also allows you to produce test reports that are regularly updated. During meetings, you can display those results publicly to create transparency and help the team identify gaps in test coverage. Instead of being reactive, the team becomes proactive.
Implementing a Continuous Testing Process
The technological environment, development methods and tools that an organization use all affect the continuous testing process, meaning the specifics of how a continuous testing process is implemented will always vary from one organization to another. If your organization is not ready to put into place a continuous testing process, you can still start by integrating useful components such as a continuous integration tool or test automation into your projects.
Overall, it’s a good idea to constantly be reevaluating your tools ecosystem, seeking small improvements and optimizations. Your tools are very much part of your work, as they can elevate your abilities and productivity. To get the full benefits of continuous testing, you’ll need to put tools and processes into place that allow you to deploy and test applications quickly and smoothly.
If your tools become a barrier of entry, it will have the opposite effect, dragging the team down instead of allowing everyone to shine.
To get started, look for tools that can integrate or be integrated into the tools you’re always using. From a tools perspective, continuous testing and continuous integration can feel like one big puzzle to solve, so make sure all your pieces are compatible. One great place to start is to look for tools that can be integrated into Jenkins, an awesome open-source CI tool. GitHub is also (obviously) a must. Lastly, tools that have rich documentation can help you get started faster.
You’ll inevitably run into problems while using various tools, so you’ll need to be able to find answers quickly.
Implementing a continuous testing process won’t happen overnight, but don’t be scared. Little by little, you’ll improve your testing methods and everyone on your team will see the clear benefits of continuous testing. With continuous testing, you can make a huge step towards ensuring optimal software quality.