Before we set out to define configuration management it is important to understand why we need it in the first place. How does it come into the play?
Now, let’s consider a situation wherein you are working on one of the work packages and looking at WBS dictionary for acceptance criteria. You have completed the development of the deliverable and sent it to the Quality Control. You are surprised to see that the quality control team rejected the deliverable stating that it is not meeting the acceptance criteria. To clear the confusion, you approach the member of the quality control team and he shows you the WBS Dictionary where acceptance criteria for the same deliverable are different. The thorough analysis of the situation concludes that you were using the old version of WBS Dictionary. To avoid such issues in future, you need a concrete system called Configuration Management.
Now, what is Configuration Management?
PMBOK® Guide Sixth Edition Defines Configuration Management as
“A subsystem of the overall project management system. It is a collection of formal documented procedures used to apply technical and administrative direction and surveillance to: identify and document the functional and physical characteristics of a product, result, service, or component; control any changes to such characteristics; record and report each change and its implementation status; and support the audit of the products, results, or components to verify conformance to requirements. It includes the documentation, tracking systems, and defined approval levels necessary for authorizing and controlling changes.”
Let’s discuss one point at a time; this would make it easier to understand the definition:
- It’s a formal defined and documented procedure first to identify and document physical and functional characteristic of the Configurable Items
- Once identified control changes to the characteristics of Configurable Item
- Record the history of changes done on configurable items
- Support the audit of these Configurable Items to verify conformance to the requirement
How implicate these points in a Project?
We need to first start from Configuration management planning, and the result of this planning could be Configuration management Plan.
PMBOK® Guide Sixth Edition Defines Configuration management plan as,
“The configuration management plan defines those items that are configurable, those items that require formal change control, and the process for controlling changes to such items.”
Configuration Planning will tell us what all project items are configurable (Configurable Items CIs), which all items (say Scope Statement, WBS Dictionary) needs, formal change control and what would be the process of controlling changes to these items.
Configuration Management Plan will also recommend which tool will be used to manage Configurable Items , what versioning scheme will be used, For example a Document Version will have 4 segment aa.bb.cc.dd , first segment will represent product, second will represent deliverable etc. In the configuration management plan, we also define how the baseline CIs will get identified differently, usually we have clear versioning scheme which helps in identification of baseline CIs, like when you have multiple version of Project Scope Statement, you should be easily able to get baseline version of Project Scope Statement.
Configuration management plan may go beyond your project boundaries, since the product you are developing may already be in existence before your project commenced and will also remain in existence after your project is over.
Since, configuration management is all about managing changes in CIs, we will see Configuration management activities in the Perform Integrated Change Control Process,
Some of the configuration management activities included in the Perform Integrated Change Control process:
We have done a broad level of Configurable Item identification during planning, but while performing integrated change control process we identify which all items are Configurable. Prior recommending a change in any item we should also ensure that Configuration Plan is followed for all identified CIs.
Configuration Status Accounting
If I am approving the change in the scope statement, I need a record that the new version of this document would be coming for this approved change. And, once the change is implemented, Configuration Management system will ensure that everybody gets the latest version.
We can consider Configuration status accounting as just like recording the changes as they are taking place as per configuration management plan, like changing the version, maintaining the version history etc.
Configuration Verification and Audit
At a defined frequency, the project team should have a process to verify and audit that configuration management plan which should be followed. Some of the verification points could be, is the team managing the CIs version as defined, Isteam maintaining the record of changes, Cansystem produce the old version without any issues etc.
PMBOK® Guide Sixth Edition defines Configuration Verification and Audit as,
“Configuration verification and configuration audits ensure the composition of a project’s configuration items is correct and that corresponding changes are registered,assessed, approved, tracked, and correctly implemented. This ensures the functional requirements defined in the configuration documentation have been met.”
To summarize, the entire Configuration Management process:
- It’s all about ensuring that we do not get into the pile of documents where we do not know which one is the right version and which document is compatible with the other
- Configuration management manages configurable items, in the typical project configuration; items are made of baseline plans and project documents. The items like operating procure, instruction sheets may also become a part of configurable items
- For PMP Exam, do keep in mind that the configuration management activities (Configuration identification, Configuration status accounting and Configuration verification and audit) are done in Perform Integrated Change Control
By now you must have completely understood the basic concepts underlying the configuration management and how does it impact the software project. Good Luck for your PMP® Certification Exam.
You can watch and listen to the live video presentation on configuration management here:
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