Flaky Test Fallout - The Repercussions of Flaky Tests

by Alastair Wilkes in

Closing Testing Vulnerabilities in CI/CD

Flaky tests are an all too prevalent obstacle for developers. Flaky tests cause a barrier to finding real problems. As projects and test suites grow, decay sets in and introduce increased flakiness. 

The noise generated from Flaky tests slows down the software delivery pipeline. The consequences of flaky tests are often the drain on resources and erode the confidence of developers in the test suites. Unreliable tests are a systemic problem in CI eroding development velocity. Fixing the fallout from flaky tests is critical to the success of your pipeline.

Flaky Tests Negative Impact

Flaky tests are a drain on developer resources. Failed tests require developer time to analyze and retest. It’s common for organizations to experience a lack of ownership for the historic knowledge of past test results. Tribal knowledge is a vulnerability within test suites. Not many keep an accessible, updated database of all this useful information. And the knowledge can be siloed by a team or individuals. Low confidence in tests breeds code mistrust and general test outcome wariness.

The more variables introduced within a test suite, the higher chance of flaky tests because you’re introducing more risk factors. Test types have varying degrees of flakiness likelihood. Unit tests tend to have lower flakiness because of fewer variables. Integration tests introduce additional variables and can trend toward having higher flaky test outcomes. 

End-to-end tests and integration at scale can cause a substantial level of flaky test results with the increased complexity and contributing variables within the test suite. UI or mobile tests add even more risk for flaky results - the app, device, or browser the UI test is running multiplies the potential for flaky outcomes.

The Need For Better Testing Observability 

Development teams have different ways of addressing flaky tests, with varying degrees of effort and resources for mitigating. Identifying flaky tests requires determining if the test is written wrong or if the failure was caused by the environment. 

Development teams often use sprint planning mechanisms to prioritize fixing tests. Unfortunately, this can take months. Other common approaches include running a series of automatic retries. Some will run the test suite five times to see if the outcomes remain. Or at the end of the run, others will re-run all the tests that fail and if results come back the same then they have more signal to confirm whether this is a real issue or if it’s flaky.

Teams can also use code scanning approaches, using tools that push test results into a database. And it’s common to run simulated or mock tests, eliminating systems during testing in an effort to reduce potential flaky variables. Regardless of approach, flaky tests bloat cycle time and cause the DevOps loop to be lopsided.

There is a way to quickly identify and eliminate flakes, regardless of system specifics, allowing you to focus on the real problems. And you can start using it in less than 30 minutes. 

Build CI/CD Resilience with Flaky Tests Insights 

With Launchable’s Flaky Tests Insights, you can gain clarity into the likeliness of a test being flaky based on their score. The Launchable platform is your source of truth that is backed by data for the flakiness level in your test environment such that you can prioritize fixing critical issues first.

Flakes generate significant noise and delay in the CI pipeline. The platform is designed to reduce this noise and it does so by providing data-driven insights. Using the scores, developers know which tests to work through first. Reduce the risk or disruption and gain trust in your test results by adding this layer of testing intelligence.

The state of the art in tackling Flaky Tests

Flakiness is a part of the reality for software engineers everywhere, it’s like a pandemic that refuses to go away. This is happening in your team whether or not you know it, it caused frustrations, failed pull requests, added more stress to a hot fix delivery. Watch the on-demand webinar to learn how software teams around the world has tackled this problem.

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