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In the software delivery and maintenance world, DevOps is no longer unfamiliar territory. 

Teams, big and small, have long been embracing the concept to improve software application delivery quality, speed, and efficiency. 

One of the key reasons why DevOps enables such benefits is through Shift Left. By shortening the feedback loop and reducing the time taken for the product to move along the release pipeline, it brings down the failure rate and minimizes the many wastes associated with software development. 

The Benefits of Shift Left

DevOps, with its Shift Left principle, empowers individual team members to focus on quality development – from the very beginning. 

By shifting the process of reviewing, testing, issue detection, and resolution to the left, it helps teams proactively work on preventing problems and wastes – instead of working in a reactive mode to identify and rectify issues.  

By testing early and testing often, Shift Left enables to: 

• Increase development quality and efficiency

• Shorten long development and testing cycles

• Reduce the possibility of bugs and issues in production

• Lay the foundation of continuous testing and continuous deployment 

• Automate the provisioning and deployment of software builds

Ensuring Success of Shift Left

The cycle times, complexity (and associated costs) of software projects is only increasing with time. 

Large projects often have large feedback loops and require a large number of resources to drive results; but not all of these resources add value, which leads to several software development wastes that can negatively impact the quality and efficiency of application development.

Here’s how teams can ensure the success of Shift Left: 

1. Get all the stakeholders on the same page: The first step towards shifting development (and testing) operations left is by getting all stakeholders on the same page. It is only when coders, testers, executives, and other stakeholders are working side by side that they can be aware of each other’s responsibilities, agree to the same development and deployment procedures, and detect issues and work on resolutions as one team. 

2. Ensure appropriate testing lifecycle planning: Viewing testing as a one-time activity will most likely not lead to the expected DevOps outcomes. For Shift Left to really work, teams need to ensure appropriate testing lifecycle planning and carry out testing as early and as often – throughout the project. Such an approach helps detect defects and errors early, maintain product quality, and reduce rectification costs. 

3. Make automation your friend: Another great way to ensure Shift Left success is by embracing automation in the coding, testing, and deployment phases of the project. Using automation, teams can develop code faster, execute more tests in less time, and support continuous development activities with greater ease. Automation can also help get faster feedback while allowing teams to incorporate changes quickly and easily. 

4. Enable seamless and frequent communication and collaboration between developers and testers: One of the main premises on which DevOps works is frequent collaboration. Therefore, for Shift Left to drive the desired results, it is critical for organizations to enable seamless and frequent communication and collaboration between developers and testers. Such communication can help both teams work together towards the common goal of developing high-quality software – within the specified time and budget. 

5. Encourage developers to do testing and encourage testers to do coding: Another tip for ensuring success with Shift Left is to enable developers and testers to don different hats: instead of having developers focus only on development and testers only on testing, organizations must encourage developers to do testing and testers to do coding. Such role switching can help developers and testers to accelerate the development lifecycle – without having to depend on others to carry out critical tasks. 

6. Define the right quality controls at each stage of development: Defining and setting the right quality controls at each stage of the application delivery lifecycle can also help ensure that the product being developed meets quality goals. It decreases the margin of critical bugs and errors while preventing costly workarounds and resolutions.

7. Get the right continuous testing tools: Since Shift Left works on the concept of continuous testing, it is also critical to use the right tools to enable early feedback, improve test coverage, reduce the probability and cost of defects, and accelerate release cycles. The right tools can also ensure flawless continuity in the delivery cycle while adhering to tight deadlines and ever-changing customer demands. 

8. Know what you cannot shift left: Despite all the benefits Shift Left offers, it is also important for development teams to be aware of cases or situations when the concept will not work. These include functional testing, code reviews, security code analysis, and UX assessments. Meeting time-to-market deadlines should not put software quality to the backseat. It is important for teams to find the right balance between software quality and product delivery and spend the required amount of time in thoroughly testing the product before it is deployed. 

9. Rely on analytics: Using analytics across the delivery lifecycle is a great way to get an idea of the impact of the actions they take today on the application that is released tomorrow. Analytics can help developers and testers get early insight into issues and roadblocks while making the right decisions on what aspects of development to shift left. 

10. Define continuous feedback mechanism: Having a well-planned, well-thought-of continuous feedback mechanism in place is also a great way to incorporate ongoing feedback and changes into the development cycle. For this, teams must focus on integrating real-time communication across their DevOps pipelines, continuously monitor the changes being made, and evaluate the impact of each change on the user experience. 

It is a well-known fact that detecting and fixing defects earlier can prove to be far more efficient and cost-effective. 

Shift Left in DevOps supports the philosophy of “fail fast, fail often,” helping remove code instabilities and improving overall application quality. In addition, Shift Left supports the concept of continuous testing and continuous deployment, helping teams address the complexity, scale, and speed demands of software releases. 

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