What is continuous testing?

The continuous testing market is estimated to grow from USD 1.15 billion in 2018 to 2.41 billion by 2023. This represents an annual growth of around 16%. Illustrating the growing need for the timely delivery of high quality software. 

Organizations across all industries are seeking to bring forward their digital transformation to enhance their business operations. Many consider continuous testing as an essential element in this transition, to help them minimize the business risks associated with software assets. 

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The rapid acceleration of continuous testing is being fuelled in part due to the growth in demand for mobile-based applications and software. 

Enterprises are realizing there’s a need to test their technology platforms and improve management of their connections with people, machines, and information. Continuous testing empowers organizations to seamlessly integrate their software with legacy systems and boost business efficiencies. 

Read on to learn:

What is continuous testing?

Continuous testing in DevOps is a type of software testing that involves testing at every stage of the development life cycle. The goal of continuous testing is to evaluate the quality of the software as part of a continuous delivery process, by testing early and often. 

Traditional testing involves software being handed off by one team to another, with a project having clearly defined development and quality assurance (QA) phases. The QA team would require extensive time to ensure quality, and quality is generally prioritized over the project schedule. 

Businesses of today, however, are requiring faster delivery of software to end users. The newer software is, the more marketable it is, and therefore the more likely it is to offer companies the opportunity for improved revenues. 

In a continuous DevOps process, a release candidate (software change) continually moves from development to testing to deployment. 

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Continuous testing involves many stakeholders including the development team, DevOp team, Quality assurance (QA) team, and operational staff. 

Continuous testing and quality assurance

Quality assurance (QA) is the process of achieving or maintaining a desired level of quality in a service or product. QA aims to deliver consistent results by using a standardized set of procedures, and includes all activities centered around ensuring software meets certain requirements before being released. 

QA doesn’t involve the actual testing of products, but focuses on the procedures that will ensure the best outcomes—I.e., it is process oriented. QA helps a company create software that meets the expectations of customers and encourages customer loyalty. 

Testing on the other hand involves identifying errors and bugs in software. 

Software testing and QA therefore address different issues but how they work together may be critical in delivering the best software to a customer. When it comes to QA, issues can include everything from end-user experience to poor navigation and slow load times. 

 

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Traditionally, quality assurance has been brought into processes relatively late in the development cycle. For example, the finished software gets produced and passed to the QA team who offer feedback and send the software back to development so they can fix any problems. 

In an agile environment, however, everyone—including the QA team—work collaboratively together, to make improvements on a continuous basis. Developers, operators, and testers share the responsibility for making sure they deliver a high quality product. 

The best way to minimize defects whilst maximizing user experience is to include software and quality testing throughout the entire software development process. The QA team should be embedded alongside the developers in a continuous testing scenario. 

The benefits of continuous testing in QA

A QA team will find many benefits in continuous testing. Firstly, it means more members of the company get involved in the QA process. With continuous testing, quality is owned by everyone in the process, so that the entire culture is focused on driving quality. 

Right from the start, from the idea stage, QA can be involved in designing the flows and behaviors of the application. 

Continuous testing enables QA to make their test environments more closely resemble the production environment where customers interact with the business. 

Being more involved earlier on in the software lifecycle also means they will be better prepared to answer questions about performance and whether the app will scale (often the last step before shipping a product to a customer). 

Continuous testing in DevOps

Continuous testing was first introduced in order to reduce the time taken to get feedback to developers. The main goal being to test more often, especially at an early stage of development, and then to test the unified codebase in its entirety. 

Continuous testing generally involves many automated tests that are carried out at regular intervals each time code changes are made. These tests are performed as part of the software delivery pipeline in order to drive rapid feedback on recent changes which have been pushed to the code repository.

Every software instance is built differently and it needs constant updating in order to meet customer requirements. Previously, when the development and deployment of processes were rigid, it took extensive time to make changes and deploy features. This was mainly down to the fact that there were strict timelines for development and QA stages, with codebase transferred from team to team. 

Continuous testing in DevOps helps teams explore critical issues in the initial stages of development, mitigating the risk of bugs beforehand, saving companies the cost of fixing errors further down the line. 

The benefits of continuous testing

The benefits of continuous testing include:

  • Acceleration in speed of software delivery: Finding bugs early not only saves time when it comes to release window bandwidth, but helps to save money and resources. Continuous testing finds and fixes defects using defect prevention strategies, such as shift-left testing.
  • Improved code quality: mitigating the potential of manual errors.
  • Integrates seamlessly into the DevOps process.
  • Enables users to create an agile, reliable process in hours, rather than months
  • Speeds up time-to-market via a continuous feedback loop
  • Merges siloed teams to improve enterprise efficiencies
  • Removes the disconnect between development, testing, and operations
  • Aids security: Continuous testing establishes a support system that keeps applications safe from unexpected changes and attacks—as well as for those encountered after deployment. It ensures the system is stable and recoverable even in scenarios where software fails. 
  • Keeps user experience top of mind: Continuous testing can easily adapt to changing customer requirements. Constant updates are made in the application based on customer feedback. This offers the potential for writing effective test cases so it’s possible to perform the right tests with regard to the customer experience, both front-end and back-end. 
  • Test automation can help improve consistency in configuration for all relevant tests
  • Mitigates business risks with agile development that focuses on business expectations
  • Provides across-the-board test environment access with service virtualization 

How do you perform continuous testing?

To achieve the best results for a continuous testing process there are some proven processes to follow.

Once the code is uploaded to the source code platform it undergoes testing with the assistance of test codes (test automation). Even minor changes in code require testing in order to reduce business risk. 

Whenever a change to source code is made, or there’s been a check-in, code is built and tests are run to ensure it’s ready to move into production. This diagram explains the continuous testing process workflow. 

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3 keys to continuous testing

Continuous testing requires a high level of collaboration, where everyone maintains quality and cooperation. 

Test cases must be described before coding commences or any tests are written, and developers and automation architects need to work together to ensure optimization of code for test automation. Best practices when it comes to continuous testing include:

  • Keeping things as simple and logical as possible to reduce test waiting times with testing carried out at all stages of a delivery pipeline. 
  • Testing must cover all aspects of an asset’s production and QA environment. This will allow feedback to be continuously provided to developers at all stages, and ensure overall quality of the software under development.
  • To be fully successful with continuous testing, organizations need access to the requisite DevOps tools, dependencies, and resources. 

Continuous testing is an integral part of the continuous integration and deployment process pipeline in DevOps.. With continuous testing, the continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipeline code is continually moving from development to testing to deployment. 

Let’s look at three keys to continual testing:

1. Automated testing

As part of a continuous testing strategy, companies need to develop a robust test automation plan. It should focus on all aspects of testing, including API integration testing and UI testing. 

While selecting a specific area for testing may be worthwhile in some situations, organizations must always be equipped with a plan that can accommodate all types of testing as and when the need arises. 

Automation means the execution of a programme without the intervention of human beings. Executing test cases using an automation tool or third party tool is called automation testing or simply test automation. This means automating a manual process to test an application or software. 

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Continuous testing best practice involves automating tests whenever possible in the development cycle. This ensures teams evaluate code validity and quality of software at every stage, thereby offering insights to help identify if software is ready to enter the delivery pipeline. 

With automated testing it’s easier to gain feedback on the risks involved in a software release candidate as quickly as possible. Test automation addresses the complexity and pace of modern app deployment and delivery.

Automated devOps testing makes organizations more agile

The practice of introducing automation enables businesses to implement an ‘agile’ testing strategy where lengthy test scripts are updated regularly with the help of automation. 

Continuous testing embraces both test automation (a way of ensuring how rapidly and efficiently the delivery process through the pipeline takes place) and automation testing ( to perform continuous testing and mitigate manual errors). So continuous testing maintains both quality and speed.  

A test automation strategy is the cornerstone of the final product. It needs to be strong enough to bear the impact of all changes and variables during the testing process. 

While continuous testing requires no manual intervention, automation in general hasn’t yet reached the level where it has completely taken over from manual testing. Bringing more automation on board provides more time for manual testers to come up with better and more effective test scenarios. There are still many essential manual activities, such as exploratory testing and usability testing.

2. Continuous delivery

Continuous delivery (CD) is a practice whereby code changes are automatically prepared for a release to production. CD is an integral aspect of modern-day app development. It builds upon continuous integration (CI), in deploying code changes to test environments after the build stage. 

When implemented correctly, developers will always have a deployment-ready artifact that’s passed through a standardized testing process. 

Continuous delivery allows developers to automate their testing beyond unit tests, in a test driven development environment. This will enable them to verify app updates across multiple dimensions before apps are advanced to customers. Tests may include:

  • UI testing
  • Load testing
  • Integration testing
  • API reliability testing
  • Regression tests

These help developers to ensure the validation of updates is thorough, and enable them to proactively discover any issues.

3. Continuous integration


The cost of IT disruptions has escalated massively over the last few years, as organizations adopt digital transformation and migrate systems and apps to the cloud. At the same time, operational complexity has risen due to the adoption of new technologies across industries to improve developmental agility. 

With code deployment cases for devOps teams reaching high levels, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to pull off consistent execution of scalable code without scheduled downtime. 

To combat these challenges many development teams use continuous integration. 

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Continuous integration (CI) is a software development process where coders move projects into a shared repository—up to several times a day—in order to build software automatically and give fast feedback about it’s quality. Automation and testable code are the cornerstones of CI. 

Continuous integration is different from continuous testing. It entails bringing a configuration together in a consistent and repeatable way. This enables developers to automatically build on code commits, execute test suites per build, and apply consistent testing environment handling. CI brings immediate results in terms of feedback and accountability. 

If a build fails, the CI system prevents it from progressing to later stages. Teams receive a report and repair the build quickly—often in just minutes. In this way, the software development process becomes more predictable and reliable, and developers can build new features faster as well as fix bugs quickly before they reach users.

Continuous integration needs all developers on a project to be fully committed to it, and results must be shared with all team members every time there’s a change of code. In the event that a main code branch fails, an alert should go out to the entire development team who will have to take immediate action to fix things. 

Using tools to optimize your continuous testing strategy

Software testing is an integral part of quality assurance. It saves companies time, effort, and cost, and enables a quality end product to be produced. Test automation is considered by far the most effective way to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of any software application. 

There are various platforms and tools that developers can use to automate and orchestrate continuous testing and achieve quality goals. But not all will suit the requirements of your projects. It’s essential to take the time to select the appropriate tool. 

Your chosen tool must provide full test coverage of all the assigned tests on the application being tested. If a test fails, it should never be down to the tool used. 

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A good automation tool should always bring value to an organization by avoiding bottlenecks and activating continuous release and deployment. Thus reducing time and maintenance costs by way of increasing the reusability of code and providing a higher return on investment. 

There are several ways to ensure you select the right test automation tool:

1. Understand your project requirements in detail 

Maintaining application quality by delivering a bug-free product is critical for the success of all projects. Automated testing helps to improve the quality of a project and increase scope and depth of testing. 

To ensure you adopt the right automation tool, dig deep into your project requirements and project type—whether for web, desktop, or mobile—as well as the scope of the project. Also consider your development team’s skills when it comes to coding language. 

No tool should be considered good or bad, but it’s value for your company depends on your needs. What exactly do you need to automate? How many test cases need automation?

2. Examine the features of the test automation

Look at the automation’s spec in detail. Is it a free, open source tool that can test web apps and websites? Does it have a record-playback tool to create and record playback test scripts? Does it provide language support for Ruby, Java, JavaScript, Python, and Node.js? What is customer support like? 

Are your engineering team comfortable with complex coding techniques or will they find maintenance of the solution difficult? Check out browser compatibility, too. 

3. Look at the chief attributes of the automation 

Before deciding on the best fit for your organization, make sure any continuous automation software has the following areas of functionality. 

  • Ease of developing and maintaining scripts: This methodology should be as simple as possible to keep things time-efficient. 
  • Ease of execution of tests for non-technical users: The execution of the test suite should be easy for all project members to run as and when needed. It should also be simple for manual testers without excessive technical knowledge. 
  • Supports web application as well as desktop and mobile: Your automation solution should be able to support all types of platforms. Test automation is complicated enough without you having to buy three different tools to take care of things. 
  • Run intuitive test reports: Reports should be easy to read and simple to understand. 
  • Have cross-browser testing: This is a must-have if you envisage there being multiple end-users without any browser restrictions.
  • Technical support: Automation engineers will require assistance when they are handling complex problems, so a tool that offers technical support is essential. 
  • Language support: Not every test scenario can be recorded, so testers will need to write code. A tool that supports the ability to write new code and customized scripts is imperative. 
  • Support for Keyword and data driven testing: Keyword testing is an aspect of a complex test framework so needs to be supported. 
  • Integration with builds: Support for integrating with continuous integration tools for automated builds and deployments. 
  • Pricing: Depending on the various qualities a software possesses, it’s important to compare price points between the tools available. 

Consider using a matrix to help you pinpoint whether a tool has the right features for your needs

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In software engineering, continuous testing is the process of testing early, often, and everywhere, by automating processes. 

The old way of testing involved a series of handoffs where software was handed from one team to another. Continuous testing removes the disconnect between developers and QA professionals and helps to improve the quality of code, with regular, actionable feedback at every stage of the delivery pipeline.

There are a number of valuable testing and integration tools available to help companies incorporate rigorous continuous testing, all with varying features. So there’s sure to be one to suit your needs, and your budget. 

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