Project Management

Configuration Management Primer for Project Managers

David Nessl

Ask most project mangers whether they use configuration management, or even what it is, and you’ll most likely get a blank stare in return. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide)—Third Edition describes configuration management (CM) as (a) a tool or technique within a project management information system and (b) as an element of integrated change control (Project Management Institute [PMI], 2004). But how does CM actually contribute to change control? What value does CM add that would make a project manager want to use it? Should CM be used for all sizes and types of projects?

To answer these questions, we need to look at how CM evolved.

A Short History of Configuration Management

Configuration management grew out of several industries,  principally aerospace. They dealt with huge bill-of-materials hierarchies, including drawings of each part and assembly. That led to problems of how a revision to one part might necessitate a corresponding revision to another interlocking part in order to be able to still fully assembly the final product. The goal was change management—that is, how to manage change so that a revision to one piece wouldn’t break the ability to assemble a product.

As engineering shifted from paper drawings to computers, we were able to take advantage of a tool borrowed …

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