Configuration Management

Configuration management is a method for administering an evolving, and often interrelated, set of products and project documentation. The application of effective procedures should ensure the accurate and up-to-date documentation and distribution of all relevant product components and project information. Configuration management should be applied to projects of any significant size, and should be the day-to-day responsibility of a single individual.

The configuration management plan should be produced as part of the project management plan. All of the products and documents that require the administrative controls of the configuration management method being used are called configuration items. Initially the overall end-product (or project deliverable) can, theoretically, be viewed as the only identifiable configuration item. However, an increasing number of configuration items will usually be identified as the end product is sub-divided into the manageable elements represented in the work breakdown structure. A configuration item description record should be used to record the information needed to identify and track each configuration item through its development life cycle.

In the first instance, a configuration item should be created and documented as the first version. The configuration item may then undergo a number of modifications as it is tested and errors corrected, or as changes are requested and these subsequent submissions should be reflected by an increasing version number.

The first baseline for a configuration item will be established when the specification of the item has been prepared, reviewed and agreed. Subsequent baselines will normally be established at points at which the configuration item is ready to be used as a basis for further work in which a major transformation of it will take place. A release consists of a specified set of products from one or more base-lined configuration items, which are issued as a set for a specific purpose. Releases should be authorized by the project manager.

If other projects within the organization are using a configuration management method then this should be considered for the current project, particularly if the two projects share any areas of interest. The following list is the recommended minimum scope required of a configuration management plan. This should be adjusted to suit the needs of each particular project. This should provide a brief overview of the plan and highlight any differences in approach to existing site standards - with a justification. It should also explain the aim of the activities defined in the plan. Any dependencies on configuration management plans from other projects should be identified.

This serves to identify all other standards to be used by the configuration management method.

Configuration Item Identification
This section should specify the naming and numbering conventions to be used for all types of configuration items.

This should outline the full range of tasks in the plan, in particular it should consider all areas that have links with associated projects or that may be bringing in prefabricated components. Any special operating requirements should also be considered. It should also define which items are to be managed under the plan and which are outside the plans control.

Definitions and Abbreviations
This is a short glossary; that should be produced to support the plan if necessary.

The clearest representation is a responsibility matrix, showing which role should carry out each activity in the plan. The configuration administrator will feature often.

This section defines in detail the filing structure to be used for each category of configuration item. This should cover hardware, software, documentation, human and machine readable items.

Document Issue Procedures
This should define the procedures to be used for issuing and distributing copies of all managed documents.

This should define the access security measures for the master copies of all configuration items.

When any member of the project team creates any new item of project documentation that requires distribution to a variety of other project staff, they should submit it to the configuration administrator, or whoever is designated as being responsible for administering the configuration management procedures - in order that they can decide whether or not it constitutes a configuration item.

If the configuration administrator decides that the article does require the formal procedures of the configuration management method they should give it the status of configuration item.

The configuration administrator may decide that the article does not require all the rigors of configuration management and therefore not create a corresponding configuration item. In this case the article should be distributed & administered outside of the configuration management system.

As configuration items are identified, each should have a configuration item description record created for it - which should then be forwarded to the configuration administrator for filing. The configuration item description record should contain all of the information needed to identify and track the item through its development life cycle.

Issue and submission procedures are concerned with the submission of and access to the identified configuration items. These procedures will relate to administrative items as well as those pertaining to the evolving products. Without careful control over the issue and submission of configuration items the configuration management process can collapse.

Only when the author of a new or revised product or document is satisfied that it is complete or ready for review should it be re-submitted to the configuration administrator. The submission procedure should not be used to introduce new configuration items.

In relation to quality reviews, the administrator should be responsible for issuing a copy to each reviewer, in line with the issue procedures, and filing the original in the relevant development folder. The configuration administrator should never issue the master copies of base-lined configuration items. It is important that current official copies are readily identifiable, to avoid any obsolete documentation being used as the basis of future work.

The administrator should maintain an issue log for each configuration item, which records: the identity and version of documents issued, the name of the recipient, the authority for and purpose of the issue and the date of issue.

When a document is the subject of an approved change request, the administrator should issue a copy to the appropriate person to carry out the work and notify all other copy holders of the impending change. On completion it should be passed back to the administrator, who should only then make it available for further changes. Ideally when a new version of a configuration item is issued, earlier and now obsolete, copies should be recalled and destroyed.

Configuration audits consists of cross checking the configuration item description records with the current version of the configuration item as held in its development folder. These audits are normally carried out ahead of each project review, although they can be requested at any time by the project manager or the project owner. They establish that: the current physical representation of each configuration item matches its current specification, that there is consistency in design between each configuration item and its parent, if there is a parent. Finally it also establishes that the documentation is up to date and all relevant standards are being adhered to.

The configuration administrator should be responsible for producing all scheduled and ad hoc reports on the status of the configuration items at any given point in time. Typical reports that may be required include numbers of change requests and project exception reports opened during a specific period, closed during a specific period, those currently open and unresolved document update requests.

All of the products and documents that need administrative control are termed configuration items. The configuration item description record should contain the information needed to identify and track each configuration item through its development life cycle.

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