Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Basics of Configuration Management - Part I

Configuration Management (CM) is like a seat belt: it might be uncomfortable, unfashionable, and painful, but without it, you just might be dead. When I say CM what am I talking about? Well, here's the short definition that I like to use:

Configuration Management is a set of inter-related processes meant to enable people to work together better. 

The Basics

There are many aspects to this discipline and very few companies will likely apply all of them. However, I want to mention 4 areas where you can start to use CM to support innovation and collaboration today.

1) Initiate basic rules in your company that support CM - Many companies think too many rules will stifle creativity; nothing could be further from the truth. As I mentioned in my previous article, The Tortoise and the Hare: a PLM Story, there is no way to support collaboration and innovation if you do not have very strict, formal rules that are followed by everyone; that leads me to point #2:

2) Make sure people actually follow your rules - It doesn't make much sense to spend time formalizing rules and procedures, only to allow people to do whatever the heck they want. Make sure you audit your processes and make sure people are following CM rules, whatever they are. If people know your rules are only weak suggestions, they will not follow them.

3) Automate as much of the CM process as possible. If you expect people to enter information or update details manually, it won't happen. With good tools in place you can automate much of your work without depending on the potentially limited brains of your workers. But, remember, process leads, tools follow; when tools lead, fools follow. Create your business processes first, then use tools for support.

4) And, finally, don't try to do everything at once. Remember, incremental improvement is better than delayed perfection. Start in one area, like Engineering Change Management, and walk the walk. Once you have processes and tools to support you in one area, you can grow into other areas. Your users will get use to following CM processes, and additional changes will seem less gruesome.

Good luck with all your efforts at Configuration Management; more on this later.

What do you think?

- Jim

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Jim for this detailed explanation. I really liked the seat belt metaphor. Indeed, being well organized by implementing rules and be sure they are actually considered is essential. But configuration management can also provide much more. Due to an efficient configuration management, companies improve products portfolio and processes (as you said, “don’t try to do everything at once”) and benefit from a global view composed of scores of heterogeneous data. Configuration management is key component of an efficient PLM, if you want to know more, click or copy paste the following link: