Organisations need to ensure the consistency of the functional performance and other attributes of their core products to continue providing great value to their customers. One of the most important systems engineering and governance processes that can help organisations in this objective is Configuration Management.

This is a management framework that emphasises the important functional relationship between the different parts, systems, and subsystems of a project or product in ensuring a more effective control of system change. A good configuration management programme allows the more efficient management of change, while also improving information reliability.

The Configuration Management Process

Like all processes, configuration management involves several key phases. An understanding of these phases is crucial to the effective and efficient implementation of the configuration management initiative. The following are the fundamental phases of this type of systems engineering.

  • Planning

The planning stage of the configuration management process aims to describe the different procedures that are specific and crucial to a project. It also determines the extent of application of the project and the different procedures. One must understand that configuration management planning is an important activity of project management planning.

  • Identification

Some authors recognise this phase of the configuration management process as a sub-step of the planning stage. This is because managers need to dissect the different items defined in the planning stage. It allows the organisation to identify the smaller parts or components of a configuration. Each configuration item gets its own referencing system.

  • Control

This phase of the process focuses more on the effective and efficient control of the different changes that may occur in any configuration item. The emphasis is on the control of test plans and item specifications to ensure effective quality control.

  • Status Accounting

During this stage of the configuration management process, the organisation generates reports about the project deliverables and the relevant and accurate information about the project’s configuration.

  • Audit

Activities during this stage of configuration management are focused on ensuring the conformity of deliverables to the requirements. It makes sure that the result is commensurate with the configuration information.

  • Close-out

This phase includes the finalisation of all activities related to the configuration management programme.

Principle of a Configuration Item

A configuration item is an important element of configuration management. In simple terms, an item is a self-contained unit within an existing configuration. Its main purpose is to serve as an identifier and as a change control parameter.

For example, a typical configuration in modern organisations may include documentation, a station, and an operation control centre. The documentation component of the configuration can include incidents, release notes, and site modification instructions as the self-contained units. In other words, these three units under documentation are the configuration items.

Configuration Management vs. Version Control

There are some organisations that use version control and configuration management interchangeably. While this may be true in the past, recent developments have created a very distinct line between the two concepts.

A superficial understanding of both concepts will reveal that they are somewhat similar. Both have something to do with the efficient management of stored data. However, this is where most of the similarities between these two frameworks end.

Version control focuses only on keeping track of the version development of a product or project. For example, a product may be labelled as “version 1.0”. Further developments of the same product may require the storage and management of new information related to the development improvements. This latter ‘version’ of the same product may then be labelled as “version 2.0”.

Configuration management also includes information about a product’s evolution vis-à-vis its version development. However, configuration management is also concerned about other elements or components that version control may not account for.

This leads to the current understanding that version control is one of the fundamental parts of an effective configuration management. Version control is a very important tool for implementing the third phase (control) of a configuration management programme.

The second principal aim of configuration management is to manage change. Since a configuration has many components, the organisation will have to manage the different changes that may come from any of these components.

Our Favourite Agile Books

We found these books great for finding out more information on Agile Scrum:

Configuration Management Process Activities

The different activities of the configuration management process are a function of the different phases of the management platform. These can include the following.

  • Planning
  • Define the policies, scope, principles, and objectives of the configuration management.
    • Determine the need for updating of the configuration model.
    • Review the change task inherent in the configuration management programme.
    • Update the configuration data model and modify or create a new one, if necessary.
    • Review and update the policies of the configuration management, if needed.
  • Identification
  • Identify the different configuration items that need to be controlled.
    • Validate the task that requires the creation of a configuration item.
    • Check the existence of reference data and create one if needed.
    • Determine the library that is best suited for the configuration items.
    • Register the configuration items by assigning them to an owner and a specific support group.
    • Record the relationship information.
  • Control
  • Review the configuration management change task.
    • Evaluate the accuracy and completeness of change task information.
    • Assess the reasons for rejecting a change task.
    • Collect and document the different details of the rejected task.
    • Adjust the details of the configuration management change task.
  • Status Accounting
  • Review the updated configuration item.
    • Determine the need for additional policy review or validation.
    • Report policy changes to stakeholders.
    • Inform stakeholders about any event that relates to any configuration item.
    • Validate the updates to the configuration item.
    • Collect relevant and accurate data for the creation of a status report.
    • Distribute the configuration management status report to stakeholders.
  • Audit
  • Ensure the congruence of standards and baselines with the actual components of the configuration.
    • Verify and document the accuracy of product and service attributes.
    • Verify and document the authorized and correct versions of each configuration item.
    • Verify and document the physical existence of identified and described configuration items.

Configuration management is an important aspect of an effective project management programme. It allows organisations to manage change in a more effective manner. Such a framework also improves the reliability, accuracy, and validity of information that the organisation can use as future reference.

Translate »