Continuous Testing In Agile and Continuous Delivery Environments

Continuous Testing In Agile and Continuous Delivery Environments

Delve into the essence of continuous testing in today's Agile-driven tech landscape. As an advocate for Agile development, in this article I will demystify how testing seamlessly merges with development, driving innovation and quality in tandem.

Agile development, along with the practices that it promotes such as continuous integration, continuous testing, and continuous delivery (CI/CT/CD), is the key to remaining competitive in today’s technological landscape.

For an Agile environment to flourish in your organization, testing needs to happen earlier in development than it does in traditional development environments like waterfall. We call this “shift-left testing” and it’s crucial for Agile teams to succeed truly. Also, after you release to prod you still want to learn about the quality of the application and the user satisfaction, which is called “shift-right testing”, also very important for a continuous testing mindset. 

There are several software quality assurance activities to focus on that will help you in your efforts to reach the agile and continuous testing mindset in continuous delivery environments, allowing for the quality checks you want to have in each build.

Continuous Testing Is Change

Within the Agile environment, continuous testing represents a transformative approach to software quality assurance. By seamlessly integrating continuous testing into the development process, organizations can swiftly react to changes, thereby enhancing the delivery speed of high-quality software. This approach is not just about executing automated tests; it's a commitment to revolutionizing the software testing process.

By achieving testing processes that are agile and responsive, continuous testing enables teams to tackle challenges head-on, swiftly adjusting to code changes, and enabling the continuous delivery process to align with tomorrow's business demands. Leveraging the power of continuous testing tools and methodologies, teams can produce software that’s innovative and meets evolving user needs.

Continuous Development

Continuous development is a testament to the ever-evolving software development landscape. The concept works as an umbrella that includes many DevOps processes like Continuous Integration, Continuous Delivery, Continuous Testing, and more. As the pulse of software development quickens, the role of continuous testing within this agile methodology becomes paramount. It isn't just a phase in the software development process; it's an integral aspect.

Continuous testing, incorporated within continuous development, examines every code change, enabling the robust software release candidate to be always ready for the continuous delivery pipeline. By melding continuous testing with development, we bridge the gap between code quality and rapid development cycles, enabling a more fluid and responsive software delivery pipeline.

What are the Benefits of Continuous Testing?

The merits of continuous testing are manifold. First and foremost, it provides fast feedback, offering immediate insights into the impact of code changes on the larger software ecosystem. This immediate feedback mechanism significantly reduces business risks, enabling teams to address potential issues head-on.

Moreover, continuous testing helps in early defect detection, leading to reduced maintenance effort in the production environment. This proactive approach helps the software release candidate to be always in a state of readiness, paving the way for a smoother continuous delivery process. With continuous testing, we move away from retroactive fixes and shift towards a proactive, agile testing approach that enhances the overall software development cycle.

Summing up, the key benefits of continuous testing include:

✅Lower the cost of development
✅Reduce waste
✅Reduce risk upon release
✅Increase system reliability
✅Release to production faster
✅Compete more fiercely in the marketplace

What is Continuous Testing in Agile?

In the dynamic arena of software development, continuous testing is akin to a compass for the agile methodology. Agile organizations prioritize delivering innovative software, and testing is the magnifying glass that enhances every intricate detail to be in place.

Continuous testing in Agile isn’t merely about running a set of automated tests after code changes. Instead, it signifies the weaving of testing processes into every phase of the software development process.

This approach offers a beacon of fast feedback, shedding light on the implications of every code alteration, thereby minimizing business risks and fostering early detection of defects. This not only results in a stronger software release candidate but also sets the stage for a smoother journey through the continuous delivery pipeline.

Many teams today are trying to build or refine their continuous testing machine. We believe that in order to improve the results of software production, it’s necessary to consider three fundamental pillars that are closely linked together: processes, tools, and people. 

Teams can improve by bettering their processes, but the tools and the team members must also adapt for the new and improved processes to stick.

For instance, within Agile, teams may find themselves in frameworks like Scrum that create a process, for which they will find themselves using various types of tools for everything from communication to task management and there will typically be great focus on the motivation and commitment of the team.

All aspects of Agile approaches are well designed to be adaptable to change, which is its main focus. The idea is to assume that what the customer needs is not fixed nor established in a contract. Thus, it is essential to work on constant adaptations in a way that does not cause the project costs to skyrocket or become unmanageable.

For any team, the most typical problem that arises when introducing changes in a system is fear: fear of breaking something that was already working before and not realizing it until after it has reached the customer's hands. When a user is given a new version of the application, there is nothing worse than finding that what always used to work no longer does. 

To address this problem, teams must be able to detect any errors of any kind as soon as possible. When speaking of errors, we are referring to any kind of error or bug: a miscalculation, performance problems, security vulnerability, aspects of usability or accessibility, maintainability problems (e.g., code quality factors) or anything that may inconvenience a user. And what we mean by “as soon as possible” is as soon after when the error was inserted into the system as possible.

Thus, important practices like continuous testing, which goes hand in hand with continuous development, emerge and gain importance for Agile teams.

How to Speed Up Your Continuous Testing

Consider the process of refining a performance car's engine; each component should harmonize for maximum efficiency. Similarly, in the world of continuous testing, the development and testing processes must intertwine seamlessly. Employing cutting-edge continuous testing tools tailored to one's unique software development needs can be a game-changer.

For outstanding code quality, executing static code analysis and automated tests efficiently is paramount. The latter demands tools equipped for diverse tests, from unit tests to API tests. However, running these automated tests is half the battle; interpreting test results and acting on them swiftly, without falling prey to false positives, is the real challenge.

Moreover, mastering test data management can propel your testing endeavors. Proper handling and curating of test data enable relevant scenarios to be under scrutiny, providing teams with insights that can drive improvements.

Ready to Reach The Next Level of Software Testing Maturity? Take our 9-question assessment to find out how your testing stacks up and get custom tips for your software testing strategy.

Faster Time-to-Market and Time-to-Impact

In today's software development race, speed is gold. Continuous testing plays a starring role in trimming the timeframe from ideation to deployment. 

By optimizing testing processes and melding them with the continuous delivery process, the gap between software conception and user interaction shrinks. An agile testing methodology, when applied meticulously, creates a delivery pipeline that's both efficient and effective, improving time to impact.

Every stroke of a painter's brush is deliberate, informed by the overall vision. Likewise, every code change in the software development process should be guided by actionable feedback. Continuous testing equips teams with this fast feedback mechanism, ensuring every action is deliberate and aligned with the overarching goals. 

By fusing agile testing with immediate feedback channels, the path from ideation to delivery becomes more predictable and refined, catalyzing the delivery speed of high-quality software.

Building a Continuous Testing Framework

A robust continuous testing framework is your blueprint for success in the modern software development landscape. This framework becomes the scaffolding, addressing all facets of the software testing process. It embraces continuous integration, laying the groundwork for every code change to be scrutinized thoroughly, molding a resilient software release candidate. 

With tools that have evolved beyond legacy software testing tools, organizations can craft a bridge that spans the distance between fast-paced software development cycles and impeccable code quality.

Continuous Integration

Continuous integration is the canvas on which the colors of development and testing blend harmoniously. It brings together every code change with its respective tests, aiming to move closer to the horizon of a cohesive and higher-quality product.

Continuous integration tools act as the instruments that aid in this process, fostering an environment where every software iteration is well-prepared for the delivery pipeline. All this collectively works to reduce the likelihood of bugs, and issues arising in the software code or the product under development, taking measures to minimize the chances of such issues occurring.  

Risk-Based Testing

In the vast sea of software components, not every module is created equal. Risk-based testing embraces this reality, focusing on areas that pose the most significant business risks.

This method prioritizes tests based on the potential impact of code changes, enabling high-risk areas to receive heightened scrutiny. By incorporating continuous testing principles, teams can quickly identify vulnerabilities, making risk-based testing an invaluable asset in the agile methodology.

Important practices like continuous testing, which goes hand in hand with continuous integration (CI), emerge and gain importance for Agile teams. Basically, continuous integration proposes building and testing the solution frequently, building a potentially customer-shippable product with a frequency that depends on each team, varying from one new version after each commit to one every day or week.

Continuous integration tools allow for defining a sequence of tasks to be performed automatically, among which typically include:

  • Updating code to the latest version
  • Code quality checks by static analysis
  • Building the solution
  • Deploying the solution in a specific environment (dev, test, UAT, etc)
  • Automated checks at different levels (unit, API, UI)
  • Security, accessibility, performance, and other checks that can be automated

And the list can go on with hundreds of integrations and tests that one may wish to add.
Keep learning about this topic in our Continuous Testing Guide!

Automate More Tests

Embracing automation is at the heart of agility. Automated testing tools facilitate an expansive coverage in shorter timeframes. However, a discerning eye must also be cast on tests that occasionally pass and occasionally fail without clear reasons – the so-called flaky tests.

Addressing these inconsistencies by refining or eliminating such tests is crucial. This dual approach, of expanding test automation while ensuring reliability, optimizes the testing process, paving the way for software that meets tomorrow's business demands with confidence.

For the implementation of Shift-Left Testing, it is necessary to constantly work on the automation of the validations in a Continuous Integration framework, and ideally in a practical CI/CD engine.

By implementing Continuous Integration practices, such as automated tests in a pipeline, we can disengage from these validations and wait for feedback. This implies automating the execution of automated tests in the software building process and gaining the ability to cut this process, depending on the feedback from them.

This way, it is possible to correct errors earlier and decrease the costs of software creation, with the possibility of repeating it as many times as necessary until we fail no more, to achieve a given product increment in our sprint.

The practice of Shift-Left Testing benefits a lot from automation because it allows us to save time validating things we already know (that is why it is good to talk about automatic validations or checks and not automatic tests). This gives us time to do better manual testing and discover what we don’t know, as well as to know the risks and problems that can impact the end user and go unnoticed.

Implementing Shift-Left Testing practices is fundamental to achieving early analysis of quality and creating better software, agile and efficient, not only to solve but also to prevent quality issues. However, Shift-Right Testing offers other great advantages to improve testing strategies. Have you ever wondered if both practices can be combined? Find out in this article.

Continuous Testing in Continuous Development: The Practical Side

Having laid down the importance of continuous testing within the continuous development paradigm, it's imperative to delve into real-world scenarios. How do these methodologies translate into actionable steps and discernible results in the modern software landscape? Let's exemplify what we've discussed with two hands-on examples that highlight the synergy of continuous testing, shift left, and shift right methodologies.

1. Continuous Accessibility Testing in an Online Banking Application

As part of their continuous development strategy, a banking application development team champions continuous testing, starting with a shift left testing approach. This emphasizes early-stage testing, and they incorporate an accessibility linter (a tool that analyzes the source code of the UI and checks it against particular criteria, typically the WCAG standard) into their CI/CD pipeline. 

Every code change triggers the static analysis and also some automated tests with Axe DevTools library to ascertain that interactions remain accessible to users, irrespective of their physical capabilities.

In tandem with this, they also employ shift right testing. Here, monitoring tools in the production environment gather real-time feedback from users, improving the observability in such a way that developers can adjust features and ensure optimal accessibility, even post-deployment.

2. Continuous Performance Testing in an E-Commerce Platform

With the e-commerce space being fiercely competitive, a seamless user experience is paramount. Employing a shift left testing methodology, the development team of a budding e-commerce platform works with seasoned testers who integrate small performance tests early into their development cycle. 

These tests simulate small high-traffic scenarios and compare the results (response times, throughput, resource usage) to historical data to detect degradations, maintaining the platform's resilience and responsiveness, even during peak sale events.

Moreover, as a part of their shift right testing approach, the team deploys observability tools in the live environment, allowing the team to analyze metrics, logs, and traces. These tools also detect potential performance bottlenecks and send alerts for real-time rectifications, striving to provide customers with uninterrupted shopping, even as new features roll out.

About Federico Toledo


Driven by the challenge of making a positive impact through quality software, Federico Toledo boasts 18 years in the IT field. He's the co-founder and Chief Quality Officer of Abstracta, a global company dedicated to creating impactful software solutions. 

Federico holds a degree in Computer Engineering from the Universidad de la República in Uruguay, a Computer Science from the Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha in Spain, and is also a proud 2021 graduate of the Stanford + LBAN SLEI program. A renowned speaker and author, he hosts the "Quality Sense” podcast and its namesake conference, showcasing his unparalleled commitment to software excellence.