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Shift Left: The Secret to Faster, Safer, and Cheaper Software?

Published at

Wednesday, 3 July 2024

by Deividas Simanavicius

Back in the day, when the waterfall framework dominated application development, we did everything in stages. Applications were fully developed first, then thoroughly tested, and finally presented to the buyer. Today, the Agile framework has basically revolutionized this process by breaking it down into smaller chunks, shifting testing activities left—earlier in the development cycle. Can a so-called game-changing movement actually be a secret to faster, safer and cheaper custom software development?

Spoiler alert—not only can it be that change, but we’ll reveal exactly how.

Behind the Shift Left Movement: What’s with Shifting Left?

Traditionally, testing, security, and quality assurance were tasks reserved for the end of the development cycle—essentially, the right side of a project timeline. The Shift Left movement changes this approach by moving these crucial tasks to the beginning of the process. In other words, we now tackle them early on, during the initial stages of development.

Transformative Results with Minimal Effort? Game-Changing Benefits of Shift Left

Speaking of benefits, we must say—nothing but the best feedback. Introducing automated testing and security checks in the early stage of development means every single chunk of code gets the proper attention it needs, which leads to fewer bugs and better and safer applications. It also means:

  1. Increased software quality

  2. Developers getting continuous feedback 

  3. Software released faster

Let alone a chance to reduce custom software costs and maybe even enhance a competitive edge in the market. By identifying and addressing issues early in the development cycle, organizations can avoid the high costs associated with fixing bugs later on and enjoy the perks of faster time-to-market.

To be clear, this game-changing movement isn’t exclusive to cloud software development. However, we can only agree with other experts—it’s particularly effective and commonly used in that context. Here's why:

  • Automation: Cloud environments facilitate automation tools for testing, security, and deployment, which are key to shifting tasks left.

  • Scalability: Cloud resources can scale on-demand, allowing for extensive testing and continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipelines.

  • Collaboration: Cloud platforms often offer tools and services that enhance collaboration among development, operations, and security teams, aligning with the Shift Left philosophy.

  • Agility: The cloud supports Agile development practices, where rapid iteration and early feedback are crucial. Shifting left fits well with this approach.

Sounds like ideal conditions to maximize Shift Left benefits? Well, they indeed are. Solid grounds to transition to the cloud if you still haven't.

About that (Relatively) Minimal Effort

Fact: Implementing the Shift Left movement in cloud software development does come with its challenges.

On the other hand, whether you're growing your business or are a part of an ambitious team, you probably noticed that significant, valuable changes rarely (or never) come without effort. Dare we say that compared to Shift Left benefits, required efforts are relatively minimal.

What do you need to implement it?

  • Firstly, automating processes takes time and investment, requiring initial setup and integration of tools. However, the effort pays off as we can often reuse these solutions across multiple projects, especially those based on the same technology stack.

  • Another challenge is the need for a cultural shift within the organization. Teams must embrace early testing and collaboration, which can require training and a change in mindset. 

  • Additionally, integrating security early on demands a robust DevSecOps strategy, which might require new skills and expertise.

How would it look without a Shift Left mentality today? 

Teams would either revert to the waterfall framework or work in Agile but focus only on development during sprints. This would mean that testing is not done regularly, with developers testing mainly new features, leading to a higher likelihood of bugs remaining in the code.

Despite these challenges, the long-term benefits make the investment worthwhile. We, as well as many other organizations, find that the initial effort to implement Shift Left practices leads to significant efficiencies and even a competitive edge in the market.

Real-World Implementations: How Companies Are Embracing Shift Left in Cloud Development

Many companies are already implementing DevOps practices, which introduce CI/CD flows. With DevOps, pipelines are widely used, and one of the possible flows is to build/deploy applications to the Development environment on every Build or Pull Request and, once deployed, run an automated test to check if the required functionality is still working.

  • By simply creating a Pull Request, which developers do constantly, the application gets deployed and tested in the background.

  • If the tests succeed, developers can then complete their Pull Requests. 

But why stop there?

Additional tools can be integrated inside the pipeline that can do more checks:

Static Code Analysis: You can implement static code analysis tools, like SonarQube, which can even leave comments on PRs if something is not done correctly (so developers can be forced to fix issues found that were found by static code analysis tools).

Security Checks: As security checks adopted the Shift Left movement, the DevSecOps framework emerged. Now, more and more tools, such as OWASP ZAP, Burp Suite, and Snyk scanners, are becoming DevSecOps friendly, enhancing security integration within the development pipeline.

Generally, implementing a Shift Left mentality is a great addition to existing Agile frameworks. Some Agile frameworks, like the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) DevOps, describe it as a necessity for effective development.

Implementing Shift Left mentality is a great addition with existing Agile frameworks. Some of the Agile frameworks like Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) DevOps - Scaled Agile Framework, has it described as a necessity for effective development.

Unlock Scalability & Growth: The Expanding Horizons of Shift Left Integration

The best part is that pipelines are super scalable.

If they are created properly (an essential criterion), using templates, adding extra tests, or other tools like code digital signing and code obfuscation can be done in one place, and it will be picked up by all projects using the same templates.


Any enhancements or new tools integrated into the pipeline will automatically benefit all projects using the same templates.

Because more and more tools are becoming DevSecOps friendly, more opportunities appear each day to implement something new. For instance, integrating security tools like OWASP ZAP, Burp Suite, and Snyk scanners can enhance security measures across the board without requiring separate configurations for each project.

The highly scalable nature of these pipelines allows organizations to grow their development processes efficiently:

  1. Expand their testing and deployment capabilities without being bogged down by manual adjustments for each new project.

  2. Speed up development cycles but also ensure higher quality and more secure software, possibly gaining a competitive edge in the market.

Naturally, developers are the primary stakeholders who will feel the impact of the Shift Left movement the most. With each iteration, they receive immediate feedback on their work. As new features are added to the code, existing features will be automatically tested to ensure nothing is broken. This continuous feedback loop helps developers quickly identify and fix issues, leading to more reliable and higher-quality software.

So, let's wrap it up. Is it a game-changer in the industry? Definitely yes. Adapting to new work habits and environments can be challenging, but it isn't really about moving mountains. Shift Left rewards us with better-quality applications, time, and expenses saved. And, by the way, the whole movement fits in most of the Agile frameworks.

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