by Kim H Pries
Our experience shows us that configuration management lies at the very heart of professional engineering and product growth. Just to be able to run an ERP or MRP system requires a standard for nomenclature and identification of parts (including software). We mark changes to parts and software with changes to part numbers. This allows us to track the effects of the engineering change–sometimes they go awry and it helps both the customer and supplier if they can identify, control, and account for the parts that are already out in the field in addition to those that are stacked up in the plant.
With software, we generally use a software configuration management tool that allows us to check-in and check-out software from the system. These systems allow for version control, branching (multiple versions), and the application of customer version numbers. Typical examples over the last twenty-five years include: revision control system (RCS), concurrent version system (CVS), source code control system (SCCS), subversion, PTC Integrity, Microsoft Visual Sourcesafe, and many others. All of these have their quirks and advantages–we would not develop software without one of these systems! Any system is better than no system at all.
As a thought experiment, our readers might visualize their organizations without configuration management (perhaps this is does not require much imagination). What would happen? We suggest that configuration management would spontaneously arise in islands of developers (teams, individuals) and all of these would ultimately merge as the perspicacious individuals explain the benefits to their brothers and sisters in the business. Value Transformation LLC is an adamant advocate for configuration management at all levels of the enterprise!