Configuration management or a versioned file system

Configuration management systems, like all computer applications nowadays, are become more sophisticated and more extensive in functionality. In the “old days” organizations had to consider carefully about processes and customizations of CM tools because it took them large investments in effort and time to tailor to organization specific needs. A positive effect was that organizations did actually think before they implemented a solution, and we eager to stick to it because of the difficulties to tailor the processes and tools differently.

Nowadays, CM systems are so easily customizable and tailerable to changing needs that many organizations have stopped thinking carefully about their way of working and are completely focussed on tool performance and using the features of the CM tools anyway they like. Tool vendors wisely anticipate on this trend by making it more and more easy to adapt the tool and adopt whatever process model the customer wants.

Unfortunately, CM is become more and more tool oriented rather than having focus on the underlying concepts of CM. CM systems have become versioned file systems that only perform storage and retrieval of data, support random changes by random people, copying and merging all over the place and losing track of any quality or content attributes. It is become increasingly difficult to convince engineers and managers to apply solid configuration management principles as a means to manage risks. Tool performance, database availability and uptime, reliable backup, restore and data transfers are become increasingly more important than data integrity (which is not the same as database integrity), control of configurations, correctness of status (quality, state in the workflow, responsibility, availability, etc.) or traceability of changes.

“Who care how we got here? As long as we can make money out of it, we’re OK!”
“Why bother about [your] configuration control processes? We are responsible for the results, not the configuration manager!”

With pain in my heart I have to admit that the professionalism with respect to configuration management is decreasing, as a result of CM tools making it (too) easy to do everything.

On a crossing with 8 directions you have 2 times more chance of taking the wrong direction with the same amount of consideration as on a crossing with 4 directions. If you than think less because it is very easy to go any direction and return to the crossing, it is even more likely to take the wrong one. If you then have to explain to the people coming next which direction to take, you are likely to tell them a confusion story about which is the “best” direction. Finally, every generation will degradate to a level of trail & error, instead of rational thinking.

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About Frank Schophuizen (fschop)

Hi, my name is Frank Schophuizen and I am working as a consultant in CM, Agile and ALM for TOPIC Embedded Systems. I have over 30 years experience in software development in the technology industry, with the last 15 years mainly in process improvement, deployment and integration of methods and tools in the area of CM, Agile development and ALM. I am strongly interested in the complexities of collaboration and integrations in multi-project and multi-site organizations. I have worked with various technology companies such as Philips, ASML, NXP and Vanderlande, and with various tool vendors such as IBM Rational (e.g. ClearCase, Synergy, Jazz products) as well as open source tools (e.g. SVN, Git, Jenkins, Trac, Eclipse). I am living in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, with my wife. We have 3 adult children. My main hobbies are classical music and photography.
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