I love to cook. And a lot of my passion has to do with the science behind it, the process, and the rhythm that - when you get right - results in an explosion of flavor that makes you exclaim “Mmmmmm!” and go back for more. And as odd as it may seem, there’s a lot of correlation between cooking and continuous testing.
What do cooking and continuous testing have to do with each other, you ask?
Here’s what I mean: these two practices are similar because their success relies on an inherent, ongoing system of checks and balances throughout every stage of development, whether you're developing flavor or new code. And, if NOT practiced, both lead to bad results. The illustration below easily highlights this.
"You're right, of course, Monsieur… my deepest apologies! Had I conducted more frequent functional, regression, and smoke testing as I developed the dish's flavor, I may not have recommended the chef special tonight."
Even if you had the world’s most talented sous chefs, each working diligently on different components that would come together as a featured dish on the menu, if the master chef isn’t taste testing at each of the junctures when individual aspects of the dish come together to ensure a balance between ingredients, then your dinner guests may end up with a pile of unharmonious and rather disgusting combinations of flavors that just don’t work together, whether they were delicious on their own or not.
Now, let’s back up and better define the “dish” that is continuous testing, examine the ingredients (tools and techniques for continuous testing), and review the recipe instructions (general how-tos of continuous testing). Don your aprons and let’s get cookin’!
The recipe: definition of continuous testing
In the fast-paced and dynamic landscape of software development, delivering high-quality applications to users is the ultimate measure of success. The rapid increase of complexity in technology environments and the speed at which development teams are being asked to churn out high quality applications leaves little-to-no room for error while also working at what feels like lightspeed. Because of this, more traditional testing practices just don’t work anymore.
For example, with a more traditional, waterfall-like approach, developers develop something to the point of testing readiness, and then the testers test it. When the results of those tests come back, reports are shared with the developers on any issues that are discovered, or if testing was successful, the application can move on to release. This is a structured, neat, and thorough process. But consider the inefficiencies…
The developers can’t do any more work on what they're developing (adding features or capabilities, progressing or innovating on the application, etc.) until the testers are done with both the testing and the analysis of the results, and have provided the necessary feedback.
Additionally, the waterfall approach works well when you’re developing just one thing at a time, this is because you can test it and know where the problem is if the results are unsuccessful. But what if what’s being developed involves elements from 4 (or 40!) other components that make up a whole technology ecosystem. For example, a contact center platform relies on a multitude of elements working together - network connections, databases, a CRM, integrations, and third-party service providers, to name just a few. If you hold all of the testing until the end, only to find out that what you’ve developed doesn’t work, you only know that it’s not ready for production and are still left guessing at where on the development journey things went wrong.
With so many moving pieces and components that rely on each other, it’s near impossible to find tiny breakpoints that need fixing if you’re not regularly checking how any micro-level changes are impacting your systems as a whole. This is where continuous testing emerges as the key to releasing quality, innovative and high performing software with speed and efficiency.
Continuous testing is a software testing approach that addresses the need for ongoing quality assurance throughout the entire software development lifecycle. Like I touched on earlier, conventional testing occurs at the end of the development process, while continuous testing integrates testing activities seamlessly into each phase of development, from initial coding, through to final deployment. This means that you’re able to identify and rectify issues as early as possible within your development process, aligning quality assurance to development and reducing the likelihood of critical defects that might otherwise reach production and, unfortunately, your customers.
The ingredients: tools and technologies of continuous testing
To keep this (pardon the thematic pun) digestible, below are just five (of the many) key tools that support continuous testing practices. For a deeper dive into these, check out our continuous testing page.
- Test automation frameworks: These frameworks enable the creation and execution of automated tests. They offer functionalities for writing and/or generating test scripts, managing test data, and automatically populating reports.
- Continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) tools: Continuous integration and continuous development (CI/CD) tools automate the building, testing, and deployment of applications. They integrate with version control systems and testing frameworks to automatically trigger tests upon code changes.
- Test management solutions: These tools assist in organizing and managing test cases, test suites, and test execution results. They often integrate with CI/CD pipelines to provide comprehensive test coverage tracking.
- Performance testing tools or services: For evaluating an application's performance and scalability, these tools or continuous testing services employ multiple test types to do things like simulate user loads and stress-test applications, identifying bottlenecks and performance issues.
- Monitoring and logging tools: Continuous testing extends into production environments with monitoring to provide real-time insights into application behavior and performance in production.
The final dish: the tasty benefits of continuous testing practices
At its core, continuous testing fosters collaboration between development and testing teams. By automating the testing process and incorporating it into the CI/CD pipeline, developers receive rapid feedback on the quality and functionality of their code. This streamlines development and also enhances the overall quality of your software, improving what you’re able to put in front of your customers.
By adopting continuous testing practices or leveraging continuous testing solutions, software development teams can achieve faster release cycles, higher confidence in their codebase, and ultimately, deliver software that better meets user expectations and stands up to the challenges of our modern digital landscape.