A Christmas (Configuration) Carol (Abridged)

We have endeavored in this ghostly little tale, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put our readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with us. May it haunt their houses pleasingly, and provide inspiration this season!

Once upon a time -- of all the good days in the year, on Christmas Eve, Sally took her melancholy dinner in her usual melancholy tavern; and having read all the newspapers, and beguiled the rest of the evening with her release notes, went home to bed. 

Sally was feeling ground down by all the hard work she had been up to, and the pressures to release more and more frequently. Indeed she had just been pressed to put out a release that very day, and as usual had had to visit each of the developers and try and work out what they had been doing since last time, cross reference that with the changes that had been checked into the repository  and guess at the meaning of some unexplained extra changes. All that together with writing something suitable for the clients that wouldn’t make the VP of marketing come down on her like a ton of bricks for giving the wrong impression about their product.

She was feeling so weary of the same old problems coming up again and again, and of not having the time and resources to do anything about it.

The previous release, the system had mysteriously stopped working just before the release went out the door and it had taken an all-nighter to fix things. Then there was a panic because a bug that had been fixed in a previous release and suddenly been found to be present in that release - which had caused a lot of embarrassment with one of their biggest customers.

She could see all the development staff suffering somewhat similarly.

She had had various conversations with the VP of development, old ‘Benezer Scrooge, but oh was he a tight-fisted hand at the grind-stone - a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner!  He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dogdays; and didn't thaw it one degree at Christmas. Buy new tools for the whole team? Change their processes to improve things? "Bah! Humbug!" had been the end of the last conversation she had had with him.

So it was at a very low ebb that Sally returned to her room and started brewing some cocoa. She was very surprised when she turned around to see a ghostly figure - and even more so when she recognized it as Charlie - the Configuration Manager she had taken over from. Charlie had left to go on to a different company and she had envied him all the success she had heard about on the grapevine. She had been saddened by the news of his untimely death in an accident a short while before.

On seeing this ghostly figure she lacked the energy to be frightened, and just asked him what he was doing.

Charlie reassured her that he was there to help and asked her to explain what was causing her to look so depressed. Sally poured her heart out to him and described all the problems and issues that she and the whole team had been facing, and how lacking in resources they were. She also explained the issues she had getting any investment from ‘Benezer Scrooge.

Charlie explained that she needed to communicated with ‘Benezer in a language that he would understand: pounds, shillings and pennies (although dollars were also acceptable).

It was at this point that Charlie asked her to bring out a pen and paper, and at his direction she drew the following table.

Management, he explained, is all about problem solving, decision making and planning, and the

About the author

Robert Cowham's picture Robert Cowham

Robert Cowham has long been interested in software configuration management while retaining the attitude of a generalist with experience and skills in many aspects of software development. A regular presenter at conferences, he authored the Agile SCM column within the CM Journal together with Brad Appleton and Steve Berczuk. His day job is as Services Director for Square Mile Systems whose main focus is on skills and techniques for infrastructure configuration management and DCIM (Data Center Infrastructure Management) - applying configuration management principles to hardware documentation and implementation as well as mapping ITIL services to the underlying layers.

About the author

Brad Appleton's picture Brad Appleton

Brad Appleton is a software CM/ALM solution architect and lean/agile development champion at a large telecommunications company. Currently he helps projects and teams adopt and apply lean/agile development and CM/ALM practices and tools. He is coauthor of the book Software Configuration Management Patterns, a columnist for the CMCrossroads and AgileConnection communities at Techwell.com,  and a former section editor for The C++ Report. You can read Brad's blog at blog.bradapp.net.

About the author

Steve Berczuk's picture Steve Berczuk

Steve Berczuk is a Principal Engineer and Scrum Master at Fitbit. The author of Software Configuration Management Patterns: Effective Teamwork, Practical Integration, he is a recognized expert in software configuration management and agile software development. Steve is passionate about helping teams work effectively to produce quality software. He has an M.S. in operations research from Stanford University and an S.B. in Electrical Engineering from MIT, and is a certified, practicing ScrumMaster. Contact Steve at steve@berczuk.com or visit berczuk.com and follow his blog at blog.berczuk.com.

AgileConnection is one of the growing communities of the TechWell network.

Featuring fresh, insightful stories, TechWell.com is the place to go for what is happening in software development and delivery.  Join the conversation now!