What Is Continuous Testing?
So, What Is Continuous Testing?
Continuous testing is a software testing methodology that helps identify and address risks at all stages of the development pipeline. In other words, it means testing all potential code changes as early as possible to minimize business risk and impact on users.
Automated tools help software developers make better release decisions with in-the-moment feedback about critical software defects. By reducing costly manual testing, often occurring only at the end of the development cycle, continuous testing balances the demand for quick delivery of features with high-quality code.
By treating test code as if it were production code, faulty code rarely finds its way into a production environment. Before software is ready to be released into the wild, continuous testing can give software vendors confidence that code changes will have maximum impact with minimal risk to their business's bottom line.
You might be asking, what is the difference between continuous testing vs. test automation?
Test automation is the use of tools and software to automatically execute tests that verify software functionality. In contrast, continuous testing is the full spectrum of tools, processes, and organizational changes that validate the quality and functionality of software applications upon any code change.
5 Steps to Continuous Testing
1. Stable Automation
The first step on the path to continuous testing is to establish stable automation. Stable automation is achieved when all testing issues have been remediated and smart reporting clearly discerns between real issues and false negatives.
A key consideration in automated testing is a team’s skillset. Assess the experience level of your team so you can determine whether code-level scripting such as Selenium, Appium, or even Espresso/XCUITest makes sense. Otherwise, you may want to select a codeless or low-code solution. If you choose a tool that does not match your team’s skillset, you will struggle to reach stable automation.
2. Daily Cycle
Your next phase is to add a limited amount of scripts into a repetitive pattern that run at least once a day, automatically, unattended, and successfully on more than a single platform (mobile and/or web). Note, you cannot move forward unless you have your test scripts running robustly with little to no false negatives. When you are running with minimal false negatives you demonstrate to your organization that you have a reliable automation process. This trust is a crucial milestone in the path to continuous testing.
3. Increase Coverage
Once stable automation is running reliably, the next phase is focused on how to ensure test coverage. Numbers can vary, but the ultimate goal is to reach valuable and meaningful functional and non-functional test automation coverage. The actual coverage number may be 95% or even 90%. But remember, everything not automated will occur only at the end of the cycle, which impacts speed.
In this stage, focus on a low-maintenance yet up-to-date lab. Your lab should support scaling up, as you will need dozens of concurrent exactions as well as smart reporting to filter the noise from the true failures.
4. Reach 95% Coverage
In the next step on the path to continuous testing you strive to reach 95% coverage. To do this you will need additional layers of environment control and capabilities such as network virtualization, service virtualization, and sensor mocking. In addition, you’ll need high-value, high-trust testing to run reliably from your CI — that will allow you to meet the continuous delivery maturity goal.
At this stage, your team will run dozens of concurrent executions and your reporting needs to be able to scale to millions of lines of actions, huge amounts of data, screenshots, videos, and more. Also be aware that ineffective reporting solutions tend to break at this stage.
5. Continuous Testing
The final stage is continuous testing. At this stage, the process moves from automated testing “each night” to “multiple times a day”(CI/CD). The benefit of this is even faster feedback, more accuracy, and minimized risk. Continuous delivery mandates this stage. This gives you even more flexibility during the development cycle and usually cuts defects fixing time by 50%.
Continuous Testing Benefits and Values
Continuous testing helps ensure software features are ready for primetime well before release. Actionable feedback helps developers and managers discover and fix critical defects while code is being built, not afterward.
Risk-based insights from automated tools help cast a much wider safety net for business risk coverage than traditional (and time-intensive) manual testing.
Instant feedback also helps developers make better design decisions in the moment — giving managers all the data they need to properly assess a release.
Smarter Release Decisions
Agile, DevOps, and continuous delivery have shortened the timeline for design, development, and delivery of software updates — with releases occurring as quickly as every two weeks to several thousand times per day.
To stay competitive and deliver features customers want, it is increasingly necessary to use automated testing to keep up with accelerated release processes. Without thoroughly understanding business risk, poorly-vetted release candidates can cause more harm than good.
Risk-based feedback using a continuous testing tool can help developers decide when and how to release new changes. Automated tools are helping more and more companies find a balance between increased code complexity and the demand for faster application delivery.
More Efficient Testing
Continuous testing benefits developers and managers by helping them conduct the right tests at the right times — allowing them to determine whether a shift left or a shift right is necessary in their delivery pipeline.
End-to-end testing with automated tools helps cut out the false positives and timeouts often seen in standard test environments. When testing is done at each stage of software development this way, developers can be confident they’re building a secure, highly-flexible framework.
By cutting out redundancy and saving valuable time, continuous testing ensures software companies have the strongest architecture in place for the future expansion of their applications – especially as users demand new features.
More Stable User Experience
One of the most important aspects of continuous testing is ensuring faulty code doesn’t reach users and disrupt their experience. Software developers must find a balance between delivering new features that users want while not disrupting the experience they’ve grown to love.
Since software has become the primary method for connecting businesses with customers, one poor user experience can be counted as a business failure.
In-depth continuous testing ensures that all aspects of the user experience are preserved and accounted for — helping maintain a vendor's brand and reputation once their software is ready for primetime.
Continuous testing helps ensure that each team member in the development pipeline works effectively and efficiently together. Long gone are the days of handing off production-ready code to siloed QA testers.
Since quality is assessed at all phases of the software development cycle — not just at the end — teams are better integrated and more aware of each step of the pipeline.
Today, software companies rely on continuous testing to ensure high-quality code is being built the moment development teams start to code.
Flexible, Modern APIs
Continuous testing helps developers and software companies stay competitive. Meeting today’s fast-paced business demands means that software vendors must use Agile and DevOps processes to keep up with accelerated release schedules.
The Key Pillars of Continuous Testing in DevOps
The continuous testing process includes four stages: test creation, execution, lab setup, and analysis. Each of these stages must mature significantly to allow DevOps and continuous testing to thrive. Here are the details of each stage:
Test creation needs to shift from being the most manual and time-consuming stage to simpler, high-coverage test automation.
Test execution cannot scale before it is robust and covering ample functionality. Once it scales, teams need to focus on increasing the platform coverage. Successful test execution can grow beyond 25+ permutations that run in parallel concurrently to reduce the overall execution time.
The testing lab component is possibly the most important pillar for success. When the lab is unstable, outdated, and cannot support hundreds of concurrent executions across different mobile/OS permutations, continuous testing is slow and flaky. Mature DevOps relies on a lab that can support this exact level of scalability and elasticity.
Teams cannot move fast enough when they have no abilities to quickly analyze test results and filter noises among huge piles of test data. Mature CT in DevOps depends on being able to get quality visibility, analyze root cause analysis of issues, and optimize the overall quality activities in the pipeline.
With faster, more flexible software delivery and stronger code, continuous testing is quickly becoming the mainstay for software vendors looking to quickly roll out new features while keeping their user experience stable and strengthening their brand.
Continuous testing at every stage of software development helps minimize business risk and ensure companies are delivering high-quality, modern code ready for the future.
Perfecto is proud to offer the only unified continuous testing solution on the market. It covers each of the four key pillars: streamlined test creation, scalable execution, and smart analysis. And it’s all based out of a leading cloud-based lab.
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