How to Build a Configuration Management Plan

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In his CM: the Next Generation series, Joe Farah gives us a glimpse into the trends that CM experts will need to tackle and master based upon industry trends and future technology challenges.

Sanity testing:  When multiple changes are being integrated by multiple developers, ensuring that the resulting product has sanity is essential.  One change can break the build.  Frequent sanity testing makes it easier to find out what change broke the build.  Some applications can avail themselves to continuous integration and sanity testing.  Others require regular builds and sanity testing.  The goal here is to ensure that the development test bed remains sane and that the product quality is not heavily impacted by the recent set of changes.

Integration testing:  When the changes come together, the functionality that was provided by each of the changes needs to be tested out in the context of all of the other changes.  This integration testing will typically address problems that have been fixed and features that have been added or changed.  It may also focus on a quick and basic assessment of the overall product quality.

Regression testing:  More often than not, a new set of changes is going to break some existing functionality.  Software is notorious for this behavior.  Running a full set of regression tests is expensive at times, so it is important to identify the frequency and approach.  Perhaps 80% of the tests can be automated and run relatively quickly, thus allowing a partial regression test with every build.  Your plan must pay close attention here.  You must ensure that you record test results against the build and that you can easily trace through these results and align them with the requirements to give you a clear requirements traceability matrix for both coverage and success/failure.

Your CM Plan must address how test cases are to be categorized, managed, and accessed.  Change control may be much different than for source code as test cases typically are more snippet based and hence individual cases change less frequently.  Instead, they are typically supplemented with new test cases to address new functionality or non-conformance issues.

Just the Start
There are a lot of areas I've not addressed.  There are many things I said that others might be willing to contest.  We’re putting a plan together to do the best we can across the application lifecycle management process.  Anyone with experience can add valuable input.

So this is a start.  Your CM Plan is not going to name tools and processes as requirements.  It may use some examples, but technology is constantly changing.  Your goals are what is important here.  Aim high.  If you're aiming lower because technology has to catch up, you've both missed the point of the Plan and have underestimated the available technology and people.

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 farah@neuma.com

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