Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Basics of Configuration Management - Part II

In part 1 we talked about some of the basic steps you should take to make sure Configuration Management (CM) is working well in your company. Following strict rules around CM provides the foundation for product innovation. In this post I want to cover a few of the rules you should follow to make sure CM is helping support your business properly.

Change Processes

The first set of rules you should evaluate covers how changes are initiated, tracked, and completed. There should be as few options here as possible. Do not provide the ability for anyone to use any type of ad hoc process they choose. Two or three options is all you really need: Simple and Low Risk (75%-80%), Complex and Medium Risk (15%-20%), Complex and High Risk (0%-5%); that's about it. Audit change processes, and make sure no one is going around them for a "unique" change. There should be accountability and penalties for those who do not follow the prescribed change processes. Your system should be set up so that NO WORK CAN BE DONE unless they have come through an approved change process.

Working on change practices can have a very significant impact on your projects. Those who have excellent change management practices are much more likely to achieve or exceed project objectives. This usually leads to happier customers, and more revenue for you.

(Procsi, 2009 Best Practices in Change Management Benchmark Report)


The most basic approach to CM is to make sure the final product matches the original requirements. There must be a way to capture these requirements, and checks to measure conformance at each stage of product development. Many companies have some requirements that initiate a product, but as the process progresses there is no linkage back to these requirements. At the end of product development a working product may be produced, but if it matches the original requirements is anyone's guess. Implement a strong PDM system that can track requirements and provide a global view of as-planned vs. as-released states. Hold people accountable for decisions they make that are not in line with these original requirements.


Create baselines to "freeze" the product at certain points in the development process. Baselines are very important since they allow us to go back to a valid design at any time. We can analyze these baselines, share them with partners and suppliers, evaluate with marketing and sales, and use these for product reuse to start a new valid project. Most companies do not have a good way to create a valid baseline. Have you ever sent something to a supplier, and then wondered what version you actually sent them? Baselines eliminate all these problems, and allow a smooth error-free design process.

Making CM an important part of your business will provide many benefits. It doesn't happen overnight, so keep working on it. Once you make this part of how everyone works, it will become second nature. I will provide a few more insights in part III.

What do you think?


No comments:

Post a Comment