How to use feature flag management for better app testing

Feature flag management is more than just a technical term for Testlio; it’s a systematic approach to controlling, testing, and delivering features within an application. Furthermore, teams that utilize feature flag management simplify code commits, operate new features in a (semi) risk-free environment, and improve communication between devs, QA, and end product.

Feature flag management employs feature flags to control the visibility and accessibility of various components within a software application, allowing developers to release, test, or hide specific functionality.

Dive into the blog to learn how Testlio uses feature flags and controlled feature availability to decouple feature releases from code deployment, facilitating flexibility, rapid iteration, and A/B testing.

Definition of feature flag management

This practice enables development teams to decouple the release of features from the deployment of code, providing greater flexibility, faster iteration, and the ability to perform A/B testing or experimentation with different feature variations. It also allows teams to manage potential issues or bugs by quickly toggling off problematic features without a complete code rollback.

Why Testlio clients use Feature Management

Feature management products create a single system of record for feature flags, including a set of metadata utilized to manage the lifecycle of a flag. Here’s a snapshot outlining the benefits of using feature management:

  1. Software delivery speed: By removing barriers and enhancing collaboration, features can move from development to production more swiftly and smoothly. QA teams can utilize metadata to create more targeted and efficient test plans. They know exactly what’s being tested and who to contact with questions or issues.
  2. Developer productivity: Developers can continuously innovate without the pressure of full batch releases by decoupling code commits and unique features from when and how the software gets exposed across environments and users. 
  3. Streamlined communication: The metadata establishes a common language between QA and dev teams. They can quickly understand the state of a feature and make aligned decisions. Dev teams can continue working on features without worrying about code freezes or conflicts with other development tasks. 
  4. Shifting right: Feature flags enable continuous monitoring in a live environment – making it easier to manage and measure performance, making ongoing testing more dynamic, and acting as a bridge between shift left and shift right testing.
  5. Risk mitigation: Both QA and dev teams can understand dependencies and how features are rolled out through metadata. Feature flags enable continuous monitoring of features in a live environment. If a problem is discovered in the live setting, feature flags allow for immediate disabling of the part, minimizing impact while the bug is squashed. 
  6. A/B testing and experimentation: Feature flags create a sandbox environment where new features can be tested without affecting the entire user base and compare alternative feature design concepts ahead of broader production rollouts.

Tip: Maximize the visibility of feature flag metadata

Feature flag name, type, on/off status by the environment, status change date stamp, description, tags, release build, client SDK vs. Server, targeting rules, etc. 

Metadata acts as a coordination framework and positive feedback loop between stakeholders through a feature management capability or platform. Metadata informs updates to test cases and testing priorities to ensure testers are not inadvertently reporting false positives or negatively impacting other testing. Access to this metadata ensures that runs are feature flag-aware. 

Feature management, through the adept use of feature flags and their metadata, brings transparency, agility, and a unified approach to software development life cycles.