Who is responsible for configuration management?

Is there a particular team member responsible for configuration management?
Who should be responsible for Configuration Management? It depends on the size of the project, and the breadth of activity required to produce the deliverables.

Small projects that produce only a handful of deliverables will need a correspondingly small change control and configuration management effort. Things get more complicated with larger efforts that may require multiple organizations with unique capabilities in developing, validating, manufacturing, and delivering the end product.

If the end product is a written report, the project manager might be able to maintain the report configuration control and change history. But if hundreds of drawings and related documents are involved (specifications, test plans, schematics, etc.), you may need to set up an independent organization or department to manage the configuration. Most established product development organizations have some level of configuration management function or process to support their document management needs. Imagine tracking the 6 million parts in the Boeing 747 through development and validation testing!

Configuration management isn't only about the documents that define the product. It's essential at all times to know the configuration of what you're testing. It might sound obvious, but it's dangerous—and all too easy—to assume the test results were generated from a full set of well-defined product elements.

During one development project, the team produced performance demos for potential customers to drive early demand. The team was very surprised to realize that the configuration they were using included a key component from a prior generation. Even worse, they realized they were creating a false sense of capability, and an unwarranted customer demand for a different product configuration than operations was preparing for. After that, the team took time to fill out a simple checklist of the part numbers of key configuration items before each test. The list made it easy to correlate test results and configurations, and avoid similar embarrassments.

It's generally best to match the size of your change control and configuration management efforts to the number of people involved. You won't always need a big organization, but it's crucial to make everyone on the project team aware of the value of configuration management. Start small, and grow as the scale of your efforts expands.

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