Assure Quality by Adopting a Shift Left Mindset

Today’s consumer demands modern technological improvements in software with little to no imperfections. To serve this growing need information systems organizations are embracing an evolutionary mentality, of shifting towards building out quality engineering teams.

Software projects are based on a varying combination of three baseline factors: time, budget, and quality. The common denominator in these is dictated by the logic, to deliver top quality projects on time, with the optimum amount of resources. In order to account for these factors and achieve efficiency in the Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC), a number of proven approaches have been put to use.

The process of shifting left is not new; it has been making the rounds for several years amongst organizations that seek to attain true efficiency. While the steps may vary between Agile and traditional Waterfall methodologies, this article will shed light on the process of shifting left within the Waterfall methodology.

What is Shift Left, as it pertains to software quality engineering?

The process of shifting left entails the ability to involve a quality engineering team in software projects early in the SDLC, in order to reduce reaction time, and deploy systems to customers in a timely manner.

By involving the Quality Engineering Team during the Planning Phase, a wholesome picture of the system’s scope is embedded within the minds of those vetting the system. This not only helps prevent leakage of defects to a live environment but also ensures that requirements are being dealt with appropriately.

Finding defects later in the SDLC proves to be both expensive, and disruptive to an organization’s day-to-day operations, as it can trigger an ‘all-hands-on-deck’ scenario. It is not ideal to have business and technology teams scurrying at the eleventh hour to remediate issues identified at a later point in the Software Testing Lifecycle.

Figure A: Depiction of the increasing cost of a defect when found late in the SDLC.

 

There are numerous reasons to instill this process into an organization’s quality engineering activities:

1. Deliver software projects on time.

2. Contain requirements and design defects within the Planning Phase.

3. Allot more time for improving the software’s design, thereby improving the end user’s experience.

4. Give the development team ample time to fix defects.

5. Create quality engineering Subject Matter Experts in the process.

What are the steps to implement Shift Left into existing Waterfall processes?

Your information system organization is ready for an upgrade. Here is a list of steps to aid in evolving your quality engineering team from being reactive to being proactive, by adhering to the Shift Left mindset:

1. Involve one or more quality engineering resources in the Planning Phase of the SDLC. This will trigger the identification of downstream impact and data preparation constraints early.

2. Conduct requirements analysis & review meetings to ensure traceability, and to lock down the scope.

3. Require quality engineering to sign off on all SDLC gates, leading up to Test Planning.

4. Establish a new set of performance indicators and quality controls that track quality metrics against all phases of the SDLC.

5. Generate a repeatable testing framework, that encourages Test Planning. Creating quality checklists helps streamline the Software Testing Lifecycle.

6. Maintain constant communications with the User Acceptance Testing Team that vets the system against business functions, thereby ensuring their partnership throughout the SDLC. This certifies and ensures that the business vision stays true and active at all times.

7. Encourage quality engineering resources to become Subject Matter Experts in the systems they test.

If you are interested in learning more about how to integrate the Shift Left mindset within your Agile/Waterfall organization, please reach out to us.

Author: Srinivas “Sri” Aravamudan, Certified ScrumMaster & Associate

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