Configuration management is one of the many aspects of project management. It is applicable to certain projects that need to track components. There are two major types of configuration management.
- Identification, tracking and managing of all the assets of a project. This definition would be especially relevant on software development projects where the “configuration” refers to the collection of artifacts, code components, executables, etc.
- Identification, tracking and managing of the metadata that describes the products that the project is creating. In this definition, the configuration is basically the detailed specifications of the product. For example, if you are manufacturing a laptop computer, the configuration would refer to the size of the hard drive, speed, DVD specifications, etc.
The following items make up the Configuration Management Process.
- Planning. You need to plan ahead to create the processes, procedures, tools, files and databases to manage the configuration. You also may need to gain an agreement on exactly what assets are important, how you will define them, how they will be categorized, classified, numbered, reported, etc. The results of this up-front planning are documented in a Configuration Management Plan.
- Tracking. You need processes and systems to identify when assets are assigned to your project, where they go, what becomes of them, who is responsible for them and how they are disposed. Since a project has a concrete beginning and end, ultimately all the assets need to go somewhere. This could be in a final deliverable, into the operations/support area, scrapped, etc. You should be able to dissect each major deliverable of the project and show where all the pieces and parts came from, and where they reside after the project ends.
- Managing. Managing assets means they are secure, protected and used for the right purposes. For example, it doesn’t do any good to track purchased assets that your project does not need in the first place. Also, your tracking system may show expensive components sitting in an unsecured storage room, but is that really the proper place for them? Managing assets has to do with acquiring what you need and only what you need.
- Reporting. You need to be able to report on the configuration, usually in terms of what you have and where they are, as well as financial reporting that can show cost, budget, depreciation, etc. If you are tracking configuration metadata you should be able to report out a complete set of the current product specifications.
- Auditing. It is important that the integrity of the configuration process be validated periodically through audits of the status of configuration items. This can include physically inspecting or counting these items and comparing them against the expected results of your configuration management system. You will also want to audit the configuration change process to endure that the appropriate processes are being followed.
If you practice configuration management on your project, it is suggested that you have a specific person identified as the configuration manager. This may be a part-time role, depending on how much asset tracking and management your project does. This person is responsible for the overall process, with focus on the planning, management and auditing responsibilities.
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