Configuration Management Planning: What To Do Before you Start


The point is that some analysis, and a resolve to do things right, resulted in a highly successful solution.

Another goal we set for ourselves was to automate. This started at Nortel in the late '70s, where our nightly build process would automatically test compile and notify developers of problems before they left for the day, and automatically produce the builds required each day at the various promotion levels. In the '80s at Mitel, we took this one step further so that we could even download (over an RS232 link) the executables onto the test targets and run predefined test suites against them at virtually a single push of a button.

In both cases we would automatically compute what needed to be compiled based on change status and include/uses dependencies so that we would not have to compile the world every night. A 1 MIP computer was a powerful mainframe back then [VAX 780], and still could support dozens of users, but could not take a load of having to perform several thousand compiles in just a few hours.  So we focused on automating and then optimizing the automation to use as few resources as possible.

The focus on automation was highly successful.

In developing CM+ at Neuma, a couple of focus points were "near-zero administration" and "easy customization", to be able to support virtually any process. Because these were objectives in place from the start, they were easy to meet. We simply looked at the effect of every feature and of the architecture on administration and customization.
Where we might have otherwise cut corners, we simply refused to, and often noticed that the net effort was the same apart for some extra deep, gut-wrenching thought processes that there was a tendency to resist. The result was a near-zero administration, easily customized tool.

The lesson is: If you want to achieve ideal results, you have to have ideal objectives from the outset, and then work to them. And it doesn't seem to cost any extra effort. In fact, the simplicity and the "this is the way it should be" results give you plenty of payback down the road. So if you want to do real CM planning, set high goals up front and work to them.

About the author

Joe Farah's picture Joe Farah

Joe Farah is the President and CEO of Neuma Technology and is a regular contributor to the CM Journal. Prior to co-founding Neuma in 1990 and directing the development of CM+, Joe was Director of Software Architecture and Technology at Mitel, and in the 1970s a Development Manager at Nortel (Bell-Northern Research) where he developed the Program Library System (PLS) still heavily in use by Nortel's largest projects. A software developer since the late 1960s, Joe holds a B.A.Sc. degree in Engineering Science from the University of Toronto. You can contact Joe at

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