Defining Agile SCM: Past, Present & Future (2008)


In addition to holding common "Agile" values and principles, much of the theory and application behind Agile methods has its roots in the principles and techniques of Lean Production and the Theory of Constraints or TOC (including Critical Chain). These days, Six Sigma has fashioned a "merger" with Lean called (surprise) "Lean Six Sigma" (or just "Lean Sigma") that has paved the way for certain aspects of Six Sigma to "leak into" what it means for "CM" to be Agile.

Agile SCM is not CM-Lite!
The basic CM principles are the same. Some new principles/tenets are added to create new requirements, and a resulting new style to go with it in order to match projects having those additional requirements. There can even be a (more or less) common core set of practices, but the way they are instantiated and the additional practices and techniques and mind-set still create a different result. One size does not fit all kinds of projects. Just because a core set of principles may be the same doesn't mean everything else about it is.

To reiterate: Agile SCM takes nothing away from traditional SCM but seeks to achieve the same results in perhaps a slightly different manner while remaining true to the basic principles of SCM. So it builds upon traditional SCM and still contains the traditional SCM non-development activities of configuration planning, identification, control, status-accounting, audit & review, build & release management, and the corresponding process for managing those activities.

Agile SCM does however inject the agile mind-set (and some would say paradigm-shift) into the discipline of CM. With that, comes an emphasis on flow and throughput of the project value-stream, and operating in service to that and to those who create value. Sometimes this has led to the slogan,  Add nothing but value, remove nothing but waste!" when it comes to any form of process change or improvement in a Lean/Agile environment.

One way in which the mindset can manifest itself in SCM is in emphasizing flow more than discrete events (e.g., rigid baselines, and authorization/access controls), and treating the integrated "whole" as greater than the sum of its separately assembled parts. This can be difficult for many to adopt, particularly when it comes to practices like continuous integration and test-driven development using fine-grained tasks and many commits and integrations during the lifetime of the complete implementation of a requested feature, fix or enhancement.

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,  and a former section editor for The C++ Report. You can read Brad's blog at

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 or visit and follow his blog at

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.

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