Every enterprise struggles to combat some ingrained partialities but, after 23 years in the QA industry, I’ve found that there’s a particular pattern of bias against static testing. It’s no industry secret that this testing technique gets a bad rap even though it helps avoid costly errors early in the development cycle. From my experience, high initial costs and potential time delays are primary reasons only about a quarter of companies decide to engage in it.
But there are other challenges associated with it. Static testing doesn’t always find problems that matter. So, in addition to being time-intensive, static testing often uncovers mistakes that are too insignificant to endanger the application. The bugs, especially when static testing is concerned, depend on deeper context, not simple metrics. For starters, static testing doesn’t test the code to check if it’s doing what’s it’s designed to do. Static analysis tools won’t reveal if client requests have been met and business logic is correct. In that sense, finding the balance between pointless and imperative can be a challenge, which can only add to time delays. Plus, the fact that static analysis helps catch only up to 10% of software quality defects deters many industry players. From that perspective, static testing is by no means a panacea for all software quality problems.
Then there’s the issue of performing static testing automatically. Companies are limited to only a few programming languages that, in the end, can provide a number of false positives and false negatives. What’s more, automated tools only scan the code and cannot isolate weak points that may cause problems in run time. Without performing manual static testing to investigate the application, the automation shortcut won’t deliver as needed.
The list goes on: It doesn’t validate interfaces and their behaviors, or that the segments of the application work together and interact with other systems. It also won’t tell you if the system will hold up under load, how susceptible it is to hackers or the degree of the application’s user-friendliness.
Yet, its positives compensate considerably for the negatives. Here’s a list of ways enterprise leaders can get the most out of static testing:
Performing static testing early in the development cycle keeps rework costs down and boosts productivity.
Unlike dynamic testing that searches for bugs inside the code of the program, static testing is performed without code execution. Instead, QA professionals check the specifications to identify defects, and because this is done before coding, there’s little need for revision later.
This is done by identifying issues and gaps in the functional requirements to ensure they’ll be addressed so that developers won’t have to guess what the functionality should look like or how it should perform. Let’s say that a registration form in the application has a few requirement fields whose values haven’t been entered. There’s no specified length for the field containing the person’s first name, and there’s no specification whether it should accept letters only. If a user enters incorrect information, what will the error message say?
With static testing, developers don’t have to lean on their previous experience to make imprecise assumptions about the functionality or the aesthetics of the application, which can result in errors. It frees testers to focus on higher-value tasks, and as a result, costs go down while productivity shoots up.
Implementing static testing throughout the life cycle ensures efficiency and user-friendliness.
Static analysis tools validate that the feature is designed with the user’s perspective in mind. They ensure that the value behind every user story, however casually the functionality may be described, is embedded in the system.
The same rule applies to the basic layout and structural guidelines of the product’s blueprint. If testers don’t validate information architecture and general user flows, the final presentation may look and act differently than originally conceived.
When the software requirements specification doesn’t include this information, developers will often begin coding without asking for the required data. Testers, on the other hand, will identify those missing gaps and make sure that the requirement captures all the details.
Formally or informally, when testers conduct walkthroughs as part of static testing to review documents with peers, managers and other team members, they’re able to gather feedback and reach a consensus. Testers rely on this method to find anomalies, consider alternative approaches and evaluate conformance to business or industry standards. Presenting results to clients is also common, which improves process efficiency.
Measuring static testing ROI helps companies determine if they’re on the right path.
There’s no point in going along with a testing practice without knowing its investment-gain ratio. Follow these steps to justify static testing ROI:
- Calculate the total number of hours spent on static testing.
- Translate those hours into a dollar amount.
- Convert the number of defects found through static testing into the number of hours required to fix them via traditional testing.
- Convert the number of proposed hours required to test for and fix the defects into a dollar amount required.
- Subtract the dollar amount from step No. 2 from the proposed amount calculated in step No. 4. Your outcome is the sum that you would be saving by applying static testing in your development cycle.
Is static testing on your to-do list?
Imagine building a house but forgetting to specify the height of the garage, the porch’s capacity or the material of the kitchen pantry. It’s no different in the world of software. Application architects may forget to check these details, but static testers surely will not.
Static testing enables enterprises to identify defects early, fix them quickly, predict errors and correct bugs before they’re coded. But the most important benefit of static testing is that it saves enterprises valuable time and money, far offsetting the initial cost to carry it out.