At Automox, maintaining a high-quality application testing strategy is crucial to ensuring the security and stability of our product. Untested code is unsafe code, so we follow the shift left mantra of "test early, test often" to identify and remediate bugs quickly and efficiently. Until fairly recently, automated testing has been a "not my problem" proposition in the software development world, with comparably minimal quality control being done outside of an organization's Quality Engineering team. But times are changing, and testing has become a first class citizen within the application development lifecycle. Thanks to new tooling, better practices, and a renewed sense of ownership, quality is now the responsibility every member of an organization's engineering team.
Because of the growing importance of testing at every stage of development, I was recently asked to participate in a webinar to provide some perspective on the impact of automated testing on software developers when introduced earlier in the application development process. Hosted by Sauce Labs, a web and mobile application testing platform, Inserting Quality Into Every Step of Deployment was a panel discussion about continuous testing — what it is, why it is important, and how to incorporate it into an existing development lifecycle. In addition to myself, the list of panelists included automated testing experts Greg Sypolt, Director of Quality Engineering at Gannett | USA Today, and Mike Mackrory, Lead Software Engineer at NIKE.
As a software developer, testing has become an integral part of my day. Where once my job might have entailed some basic manual testing, I now find that I spend just as much time, if not more, planning and writing tests than I do application code; and that's a good thing. From my perspective, as someone as "left" in the product development lifecycle as you can get, writing tests makes me better. Tests give me confidence in the code that I write by validating my assumptions and verifying it against pre-established acceptance criteria. They ensure that whenever that code is changed in the future there are no unintended consequences, and they allow me to identify and resolve problems long before users have an opportunity to encounter them. And although it is generally understood that creating and maintaining a quality test suite is time consuming, the payoff is that they ensure the team can move forward at a safe pace, without having to stop and repair defects in long-forgotten code.
By implementing an automated shift left testing strategy, ownership and accountability become spread across an organization. This reduces contention between teams and encourages everyone to work together towards a common goal: creating a high quality product. But, while automated testing strategies and their impacts were covered in some detail, one of the most popular topics addressed in our discussion was how to actually get started with automated testing. Many organizations understand that testing is important, but find that incorporating it into an existing product development lifecycle feels like an insurmountable task. The larger a product is, the more tests you need to cover it, but one of the key takeaways was that testing is not a switch; it's a dial. Deciding to automate application testing can start with just one test, and then another, and another until coverage and confidence start to climb. It's not about getting it right the first time, it's about committing to getting it right the next time.
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