Want Agile DevOps? Shift Left.

BrandPost By Mark Summers
Mar 31, 2016
IT Leadership

Accelerate digital projects with a new quality approach

shift left cio

The office of the CIO exists to enable the business to do business! That mission is achieved through the design, delivery and operation of the innovative systems and solutions that each business requires. The challenge CIOs face is keeping up with exponentially increasing demands and the business expectation to deliver solutions fast, at a lower cost and with higher quality. You’re already doing all you can, right?

What more can you do? Try “Shift Left.”

What’s Shift Left? It’s the practice of focusing on quality from day one of a project in order to identify and fix defects as they arise. Adopting a Shift Left approach is also the key to delivering systems and applications 25% faster, with higher customer satisfaction, lower labor costs, greater quality and higher production availability.   

There’s no magic. Sound too good to be true? To pull it off, your teams will need to step up their project planning and execution capabilities. With Shift Left you begin testing and quality assurance activities earlier in the SDLC, having a laser focus on understanding and delivering on the business partner requirements and SDLC process optimization. 

Departments with lower levels of maturity often don’t begin these critical activities until the later stages of construction in the SDLC. This then results in high levels of defect slippage into the construction phase or into the production environment where they are very expensive to fix and can be highly disruptive to the business. The earlier you discover defects, the cheaper they are to fix. A defect discovered in the requirements phase will cost $18 to fix, $180 in the construction phase and $1800 or more in production!

More on-time, as-planned. Beginning quality assurance activities earlier also ensures more accurate estimates and planning, a proper test data and technical environment, test cases properly designed, test automation assets in place, and high readiness that your team is prepared for overall test execution.

Automate. Run. Repeat. Starting earlier has efficiency advantages too. Because your team is building its portfolio of automated business process tests earlier and expanding it over time, the same tests can be run again and again at each phase – even after deployment.

Key Components of Shift Left

Define the testing lifecycle

  • Define the full testing lifecycle with SDLC phases, activities, tasks, steps, roles, work products, templates, metrics, and tools
  • Move appropriate testing and QA activities to the initial project planning, requirements and design phases rather than beginning these in the construction phase
  • Integrate the testing process with the PMO, development and enterprise architecture processes

Leverage formal test design techniques

  • Implement and require the usage of formal test design techniques like decision analysis, equivalence class partitioning and orthogonal analysis
  • Leveraging these techniques will ensure the minimal number of test cases need to be written to provide the broadest amount of functional coverage

Validate the requirements

  • Implement a formal inspection process to aid in early defect discovery
  • Inspections will dramatically shorten the construction phase by removing ambiguous requirements and identifying missing requirements
  • Inspections should be initially applied to requirements, functional design and technical designs. Later this can be expanded to test plans, test cases, business models and source code.

 Govern both the process usage and process outputs

  • Identify the critical phases, tasks and activities that need to be audited
  • Establish a formal compliance scorecard containing these critical activities
  • Conduct gating audits at the end of each SDLC phase
  • Report compliance to the executive leadership team and take action on non-compliance

Implement quality controls

  • Put quality controls in place to assist project teams in determining the health of a project at each phase of the SDLC. For example, if there is a high requirements volatility rate in the construction phase, then the PM will need to take action to get control over requirements and scope changes.

Use professionally trained software testers

  • Or have current associates performing this role get ISTQB certified

 Business Benefits of Shift Left

Quicker delivery & deployments for the business

  • By discovering defects earlier during the requirements phase, teams can speed up project delivery by 15-35%.
  • A well-organized process provides the most efficient and effective way of accomplishing work on-time and with fewer surprises. Quality Assurance is focused on developing, documenting these processes, and then measuring and continuously improving them.

 Lower costs

  • Rework costs for defects that slip into production can cost companies multi-millions of dollars per year. At $1800 or more in direct costs (not to mention the business impact of defects) to fix a single production defect, improving the defect removal efficiency (DRE) rate by just 8% can result in substantial cost savings for an enterprise.
  • Reduced operational costs due to fewer production incidents for higher availability and reliability can result in a 2% reduction in operational expense.

Higher business process quality & glitch-free execution

  • Whether you call them “incidents” or “production defects” or “glitches,” early defect resolution will ensure that there are fewer of them, and that every business process functions as it should out-of-the-gate at deployment.
  • Early defect discovery in the requirements phase also ensures that your team fully understands business requirements prior to development. It’s critical to eliminate all ambiguity from requirements so that your team delivers on the needed features and functionality.

Satisfied business partners

  • It’s simple! If your teams deliver the features and systems requested by the business faster and with higher customer satisfaction, lower labor costs, higher quality and higher production availability…. You’ll be a super hero!

There’s absolutely no reason to wait in adopting a Shift Left approach. Please don’t hesitate to contact me to talk about how you can get started today.