The DevOps goal to reduce lead times by accelerating software deliveries presents a serious challenge for assuring the quality of the software that is delivered. As I indicated In my SlideShare post, “The Quest for Quality at Speed,” testing activities span end-to-end software value streams and often account for more than 50% of bottlenecks.
The answer to these DevOps testing challenges is referred to as continuous testing (CT), which is more than simply automating tests. My blueprint for continuous testing identifies eight pillars of practices, each with strategies to reduce bottlenecks. In this article, I enumerate the strategies for each of the eight pillars of continuous testing and explain how to approach implementation for greater adoption of CT across an organization.
Continuous Testing Pillars
Continuous Testing Tenets
There are five tenets which are guiding principles that enable continuous testing:
• Shift Left: Conduct each test as early in the pipeline as possible.
• Fail Early: Arrange the tests so the most likely problems are found during the earliest possible stage in the DevOps pipeline.
• Fail Often: Run tests frequently and with many different conditions.
• Test Fast: Arrange tests to run in quick cycles.
• Be Relevant: Focus on the most important tests and results.
Leadership and Culture
Leadership and culture practices have a major impact on influencing behaviors and habits of everyone involved in testing across the DevOps value stream. Bottlenecks to CT include inadequate funding of testing due to lack of quality vision and goals at the executive level, and bottlenecks caused by distrust and lack of cooperation between Dev, QA and Ops. Executive sponsors need to clarify the definition of quality for the organization, and emphasize quality’s importance. Executives can communicate the vision and goals for quality and establish incentives that foster a culture of collaborative behavior.
Test Strategies and Plans
Test strategies and plans are needed to guide testing approaches for each product/service pipeline. Bottlenecks to CT include confusion caused by lack of product/service test strategies, and unplanned testing activities and resources are not included sufficiently in planning process. It is important to establish test coverage standards, test case standards, gate criterion and planning process that include testing requirements. CT strategies include making sure test coverage requirements are defined, all types of tests required are identified, allocate tests that are required at input gates, indicate test results are required at output gates and enforce that test tasks are included in planning backlogs and sprints.
Test management is needed to coordinate testing resources and test schedules. Bottlenecks to CT include poor utilization of test resources due to lack of visibility and schedule bottlenecks due to lack of coordination of test schedules. It is important to have a database of tests and test resources, and test scheduling tools. CT strategies include version management of tests and resources, an inventory of test resources and dynamic test scheduling.
Designing, creating, selecting and executing tests in an automated fashion to get to a verdict as fast as possible is the primary strategy to accelerate testing. Bottlenecks to CT include slow test creation, slow test execution and slow time to realize verdicts. It is important to have effective automation strategies for test design, test creation, test selection, and test execution. CT strategies include test design templates, advanced test creation tools (E.g., TDD, keyword, behavior, model-based), dynamic test selection, tests designed for fast verdicts and horizontal and vertical scaling tests.
Test tools are designed to automate specific types of tests and integrate with DevOps platforms through APIs for orchestration, execution and reporting. Bottlenecks to CT include test tools that are not designed to scale, limited test configurations and lack of complete APIs, which make integration with DevOps platforms inefficient and error-prone. It is important to have scalable test tools with good APIs. CT strategies include limiting the selection of test tools to ones that are DevOps-ready or DevOps-native and that have well-defined, stable APIs.
Test Environment Management
Scheduling and setting up resources into the needed topologies for running different types of tests for developers and testers can be a major bottleneck if not managed efficiently. Bottlenecks to CT include lack of test resource scheduling, which causes conflicts for resources, manual test setups, which are time consuming, causing long wait times for testing and delayed retesting. It is important to have test resources scheduling, test environment orchestration and resource utilization management. CT strategies include test environment inventory tools, test environment sharing tools, test environment orchestration tools and monitoring test environment utilization.
Test Results Analysis
Reporting and analyzing test results can be a major bottleneck after test execution is completed. Bottlenecks to CT include poorly written tests which can report confusing results and that take a lot of time to analyze. It is important to have design standards for test results and test results reporting standards. CT strategies include test verdict design in test cases, common test reporting tools and test analysis tools.
Steps To Implement Continuous Testing
Start with one or two services and a small set of critical CT practices, then expand to more services and more advanced CT practices.
A gap assessment is a great way to determine the current state of CT practices, and will help focus the implementation plan. Given a list of practices from each of the pillars in the continuous test blueprint, a cross-functional team of developers, testers and ops people can assign scores to measure importance and current level of practice to generate a gap score. The combined set of gap scores will give guide and direct current priorities for the CT plan.
For example, beginning CT priorities could be to establish a strategy sponsor, define quality goals, obtain an inventory of test resources and requirements, put in place version management for tests and test standards, tool selection and test refactoring to match the standards.
An intermediate CT goal could be to complete tool integrations with DevOps platforms, automate test scheduling, orchestrate test environments and optimize test results reporting.
With maturity, advanced CT goals could be to put in place advanced test creation strategies, accelerated test execution, automated test environment management and optimize test results analysis.
What This Means
Testing activities are typically a major source of bottlenecks that slow the quest for quality at speed. Continuous test strategies that accelerate all aspects of testing can have a major impact on speeding up lead time for continuous delivery of quality software. Implementation strategies that start by applying specific continuous test strategies to a targeted small number of applications, and then expand to more advanced strategies applied to more applications is an effective approach to CT adoption across the organization.