Embracing the Shift-Left Approach and Continuous Testing 

By Ammar Salosevic, Program Architect at Authority Partners

In the dynamic landscape of quality assurance, the pursuit of delivering applications faster and with high quality is more relentless than ever. Amidst this quest, two pivotal methodologies have emerged as game changers: the Shift-Left approach and Continuous Testing. These strategies not only enhance the SDLC process, but also significantly improve the end product’s quality, reliability and user satisfaction. 


The Shift-Left approach is predicated on the concept of ‘shifting’ the testing process to the earlier stages of the software development lifecycle (SDLC). Traditionally, testing was a phase that occurred after the comprehensive development of the application, right before its release. However, this approach often led to the discovery of bugs and issues at a stage when fixing them was more costly and time-consuming. 

The cost of identifying and correcting defects in software grows significantly as time goes on in the software development process. The graph below illustrates how the effort required to identify and fix defects increases as software progresses through the five broad phases of development. 

Shift-Left testing advocates for integrating testing activities from the get-go. By doing so, its aim is not just to identify and rectify, but also to prevent errors much earlier in the development process. This early detection mechanism not only reduces the time and resources spent on fixing issues, but also ensures that the software development team can work more efficiently, with a clearer focus on quality from the outset. 

Cross-Functional Team as an Enhancement 

In the traditional model, teams often work in silos, with developers handing off their completed work to testers, who then identify issues that need to be fixed, leading to a time-consuming and inefficient feedback loop. The Cross-Functional team dismantles these silos, bringing together diverse expertise and perspectives in one team. 

This cross-functional collaboration is critical for addressing complex issues that require input from multiple disciplines, such as security, usability and performance. For instance, when a feature requires both user-friendly design and stringent security measures, developers, UX designers and security experts can collaborate from the outset to ensure these requirements are seamlessly integrated into the development process. 

Moreover, this collaborative framework accelerates the learning curve for all team members. Developers gain a deeper understanding of testing methodologies and quality criteria, while testers devel a better appreciation for the technical challenges involved in development. This shared knowledge not only improves the efficiency and effectiveness of the development process, but also enhances team cohesion and job satisfaction. 

The impact of cross-functional teams on a Shift-Left approach is transformative, leading to a culture where quality, accountability and innovation are shared responsibilities. This cultural shift not only elevates the product quality, but also contributes to a more dynamic, engaged and productive team environment, ultimately driving the success of software projects. 

The Essence of Shift-Left Testing 

We mentioned Shift-Left is about starting the QA process earlier, but is that going to solve the problems that we had with the traditional approach… The answer is NO. It will help of course, but the true power of the Shift-Left approach is awoken when integrated with the cross-functional team.  

Working as a team and embracing each phase together is the true essence of the Shift-Left approach. There is no free space in between phases. While the DEV is doing one thing, the QA is doing something else in parallel. The team is starting and finishing the functionality together, not DEV finishing and moving to something else while QA tries to test the functionality. 

This approach ensures that testing is not a bottleneck, but rather a continuous process that aligns with the pace of development. It fosters a culture of quality and collaboration, where developers, testers and operations teams work together towards the common goal of delivering outstanding software products efficiently. 

Real-Life Scenario:  

One of my major challenges were “Requirement issues.” Issues were raised because there was a discrepancy in understanding of what the functionality is about and how it should work. Which is fine. You can give 5 people the same sentence and everybody will try to interpret it in their own way.  

By implementing this Shift-Left + Cross Functional approach, this was resolved. 

With both parties DEV + QA working on analysis together at the same time, it gives the opportunity to collaborate and analyze together. There is an opportunity to discuss what the functionality is about, how it will behave, how they will implement it/test it. There is no room for interpretation anymore as the team is on the same page. This was crucial for me in order to lower requirement issues. 

In emphasizing collaboration beyond mere analysis, it’s crucial that each phase of our workflow is done as a team. For instance, upon completion of test case writing, it’s beneficial to consult with the team to ensure nothing has been overlooked. The unique perspective of DEV, who are deeply familiar with the nuances of the system’s implementation, is invaluable. They can highlight critical areas of the system that may necessitate broader testing coverage, offering targeted advice that enhances our quality assurance efforts. 

The “Automation” Challenge 

The challenge of incorporating automation within the SDLC is well-recognized. Traditionally viewed as a concluding step, automation often suffers from neglect or deferral due to competing priorities. To address this, our approach places automation at the forefront of the testing process. As developers concentrate on coding the functionality, QA professionals focus on automation in parallel. This concurrent attention ensures that upon development completion, automation tests are ready to be executed, leaving only manual scenarios, if any, to be addressed. This methodology significantly benefits the project by preventing the accumulation of automation debt, as functionalities are not considered complete until their corresponding automation is finalized. It effectively eliminates redundant efforts seen in traditional models, where scenarios are manually tested before being automated. 

I recognize that achieving 100% automation prior to the completion of development is an aspirational goal rather than a consistent reality. ere, the value of cross-functional teamwork becomes evident. Through collaborative discussions and planning before development commences, teams can define and agree upon key elements such as functionality, elements, identification methods and API parameters. This pre-emptive coordination aids in mitigating the issue of attempting to automate functionalities that are not yet fully implemented. 

In essence, by integrating automation early and collaboratively in the SDLC, we not only enhance efficiency and reduce redundancy, but also foster a more agile and responsive development environment. This approach underscores the importance of cross-functional teams and the dynamic interplay between development and quality assurance, driving both immediate benefits and long-term improvements in software quality and team productivity. 

Real-Life Scenario:  

One of the challenges that I was facing was a discrepancy in estimates. Not all phases have the same estimates for DEV and QA. Sometimes the implementation can be 2d and automation 10d.  

The point of a team is to work together. In situations where I had more automation work or even test case writing, DEV is jumping in and helping. Same vice versa; I had situations where QA had less work. QA is then helping with Unit tests. I understand as well not everyone can code at the highest level, so instead of coding, the QA helped with local testing, tackling the issues in advance. There is always a way to help somewhere. 

It’s important to remember that the effectiveness of any process is not solely determined by the rigor of its rules. In fact, over emphasizing formalities can sometimes hinder efficiency. For example, the review of test cases need not convene a formal meeting; a simple, informal check-in—”Do you have five minutes to discuss the scenarios?”—via chat can be just as effective. This approach keeps the process streamlined and avoids unnecessary complications. 

Moreover, there is no singular method for implementing a Shift-Left approach. The optimal strategy will vary depending on the team’s structure, the nature of the project and other contextual factors. What remains constant, however, is the underlying principle: fostering a collaborative, flexible and insight-driven environment is paramount. This ethos ensures that our processes are not only efficient, but also adaptable, reflecting the dynamic nature of software development. 

Continuous Testing: The Backbone of Continuous Delivery 

Continuous Testing takes the principle of early testing further, embedding it into every stage of the SDLC. It’s a practice where automated tests are run automatically as part of the software delivery pipeline. This approach ensures that at any point in the development process, the software can be viable for release. Continuous Testing is critical for supporting Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) practices, enabling a seamless and speedy delivery of quality software products. 

The automation of testing processes allows for a constant feedback loop where developers are immediately made aware of any issues or bugs. This real-time feedback is invaluable, enabling quick fixes and adjustments without derailing the overall project timeline. Moreover, Continuous Testing allows for more thorough testing coverage, including performance, security and usability tests, ensuring a robust and user-friendly product. 

The Shift-Left approach and Continuous Testing are symbiotic, each enhancing the efficacy of the other. Together, they create a robust framework for developing high-quality software at the speed required by today’s competitive market. These methodologies encourage a culture of continuous improvement, where feedback loops and collaborative problem-solving are integral to the development process. Implementing these strategies requires a mindset shift, as well as the adoption of tools and practices that support automation, collaboration and transparency. 

Continuous Testing and the concept of Shift-Left are not rigidly defined methodologies. Their implementation can be tailored based on several factors including the volume of tests, the scale of the infrastructure and the availability of resources. In contemporary software applications, where automation is a cornerstone, it is observed that the testing pyramid often inversely aligns, with UI tests forming the bulk of the automation efforts. Given their inherently slower execution compared to other testing levels, UI tests pose unique challenges within Continuous Testing frameworks, especially when resources are constrained. 

To maintain the velocity of Continuous Deployments without compromising on quality, it’s crucial to navigate these challenges strategically. Running an exhaustive suite of UI tests in environments where there are insufficient resources to parallelize these tests across multiple agents can significantly decelerate the deployment pipeline. A pragmatic solution to this conundrum involves the curation of a more focused test suite. This approach entails selecting tests that are most relevant based on the areas of the application impacted by recent changes. Such a targeted testing strategy not only optimizes resource utilization, but also ensures that Continuous Testing complements rather than impedes the pace of Continuous Deployment, striking a balance between speed and quality assurance. 

Real-Life Scenario:  

One challenge that I faced was that the environment was too large to be constantly deployed via an IaC tool within a reasonable timeframe. One of the solutions that we came up with is deploying a mini environment via Terraform and running our tests on it. This was possible due to our tests being stand-alone and not relying on any data in the database. With this implementation we were able to run our testing smoothly. 

The Benefits of Embracing Shift-Left and Continuous Testing  

  • Improved product quality: Early and continuous testing leads to fewer defects and higher quality products. 
  • Reduced costs and time: Identifying and fixing issues early saves time and reduces the costs associated with late-stage corrections. 
  • Enhanced customer satisfaction: Delivering a bug-free, high-quality product enhances the end-user experience and satisfaction. 
  • Increased development speed: With fewer bugs to fix at later stages, the development process is faster and more efficient. 
  • Better team collaboration: These approaches encourage closer collaboration between developers, testers and operations, breaking down silos. 


The Shift-Left approach and Continuous Testing represent a paradigm shift in software development, emphasizing the importance of quality from the outset. By integrating these methodologies, organizations can not only streamline their development processes, but also significantly enhance the quality of their software products. In an era where the digital landscape is continually evolving, adopting these practices is not just beneficial – it’s imperative for staying competitive and meeting the ever-growing expectations of users. 

Missed our first blog? Learn more about adapting and evolving in the world of QA in Ammar’s first blog of the series: Adapting and Evolving in the Shape-Shifting World of QA 

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