Raven Configuration Management
The Bridge to "Best CM Practices" - CM books, Training, Consulting Services
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Introduction: Configuration Management (CM) today is a struggle, both for those who are trying to impose some degree of control over the design, production and support phases of programs and for those who are trying to resist CM in a misguided attempt to save time and money.

 Each element of CM, i.e., Identification, Change Control, Status Accounting, and Audits is inexorably linked to and interwoven with Engineering design methodologies plus Quality Assurance inspections and audits plus Manufacturing production activities, no matter how simple or complex the program, and is thus integral to the process.

 Tradeoffs exist every step along the way. These tradeoffs involve cost versus control of the design and visibility into how the hardware and software products relate to the design at any given point in time.

 Manual, labor-intensive CM activities involving baseline capture and control with change approval and incorporation processes employing multiple forms, databases and meetings induce images of wasteful, expensive pillaging of program coffers to Program and Functional Managers.

Thus proposals are often trimmed of CM-related quotes and activities even before the program or project begins. This usually results in additional costs down the line from excessive changes to the design package, non-conforming hardware and/or software, repairs to or reworking of the product hardware and software, and failures experienced in product performance after delivery to the customer.

 Take heart, though. Help is on the way!

 For each specific CM activity, we will first examine the conventional, classical CM as it is practiced today in large businesses and corporations. Next we will implement, in a step-by-step manner, those processes necessary to achieve our ultimate goals. Many companies are in some stage of learning about new, automated CM processes or have begun an earnest foray into the procurement of a Product Data Management (PDM)* system to solve their problems.  We will learn how to get to that state in a safe and sane manner.  Automated CM is the way to go but much must be said before the plunge is taken.

 I believe that by addressing the key CM issues presented in this book and by applying the procedures and guidelines defined herein, your business can reap the rewards of an effective control system and sound risk mitigation techniques. The journey we will take on our road to excellence in CM will follow a route with a few twists and turns in it but the course is set and the direction is true. This easy to follow “how-to” guide is designed in such a way as to enable you to implement, in a cost effective manner, practical Configuration Management solutions for your business for the Twenty First Century.

 I will first provide you with the “best CM practices” for today’s business environment. The initial chapters cover the basics of CM, and describe how CM ought to be practiced in businesses of all sizes. Current CM methodology is discussed and then the evolution to a practical, effective and ISO/CMM-compliant CM methodology is presented as near-term and long-term solutions.

 Next, I will provide you with the complete process for the planning, implementation and integration of a PDM system in your business.  You will also learn how to integrate the “best CM practices” presented herein into your business processes. You will be aided by numerous detailed figures and illustrations. I will then summarize these “best CM practices” and the PDM planning, implementation and integration processes in template format so that you can tailor your new CM system to your specific program requirements and so that you can be assured that you haven’t missed anything along the way.

 While presenting on-site CM seminars to a wide range of businesses and government agencies, I observed many different ways that these businesses and agencies approached the task of trying to improve their CM processes and also procure and implement automated CM tools. During the interactive workshop phase of my seminars I was able to develop a standardized methodology to establish ‘best CM practices’ tailored specifically for each individual business. My seminar attendees and I then utilized these ‘best CM practices’ as the basis for performing a PDM System Requirements Analysis. The data obtained from this activity was used to generate a detailed PDM System Requirements Specification. This document became the framework for the evaluation and selection of the most appropriate PDM system or CM tool to satisfy each individual’s CM-related business’ requirements. This methodology guarantees that businesses would be able to control their own unique CM processes and not become slaves to the wrong CM tool.

 One of my goals, therefore, in writing this book is to present this unique methodology for a successful evolution from a business’ current CM practices to ‘best CM practices’, then on to the implementation of a truly automated CM system in order to reach the ultimate goal of ‘transparent CM’.

Change Philosophy: Heraclitus said: “There is nothing permanent but change”.

Configuration Management (CM) is the process of managing change.

 Everything we do involves change. Product design, development, integration, test, production, deployment, delivery, maintenance, and support are all manifestations of the change process. So, CM - the process of managing change - takes on a new light. It becomes integral to achieving our goals, i.e., a process              

that is not ‘the tail of the dog’ but one that serves an equalpurpose to the traditional disciplines of engineering, manufacturing and management. Of course, the CM process of which I speak is not the classical ‘green eye shades’ occupation where rooms of squinty-eyed old men record data by hand in CM logbooks or enter data into out-of-date databases when they are not carrying around forms to be signed and bothering engineers and other important persons for clarification and approvals. We will start with that conceptualization of CM under which so many of us have labored for too long. After all, ‘you gotta deal with what’s real!’

From this starting point in the bowels of time and industry, we will first get organized and then move on to the interim states through which we must pass in order to get to the ultimate desired state - transparent CM. In this final blissful state one won’t see the old CMers slaving at their menial tasks.

A new CM tool, a Product Data Management* system, will capture baselines and control changes, distribute documentation “in-place” and save gobs of money for businesses and stockholders.  Also, a well-defined, efficient, workflow-driven CM system will replace the old, time worn reactive process of ‘fighting fires’.

This transition won’t be as easy as falling off a log, though. There are many steps to be taken and many ‘hoops’ to be jumped through. There will also be a considerable selling job to be done. This transition is going to be a culture change ‘in spades’ for many.

* The term ‘Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) system has been used by some CM tool vendors in place of  ‘Product Data Management (PDM)’ system. This new terminology is intended to demonstrate the capability of the PDM system to capture and control ‘enterprise’ data such as internal procedures, proposals, financial data, etc., in addition to the capture and control of product design, build, and support data. Wherever the term ‘PDM’ is used throughout this text, it also refers to ‘PLM’ systems, i.e., they can be considered to be identical, since they perform similar (generally identical) functions. Also, the term ‘PDM system’ also refers to most ‘automated CM tools’ because this terminology is frequently used by the software CM community.  Clarifications will be provided as appropriate throughout the text.