Risk-Based Configuration Control - Balancing Flexibility and Stability

Author: 
Linda Westfall
Date Published: 
12/18/2009

There is a dichotomy in software configuration management.  On one side, individual developers need the flexibility necessary to do creative work, to modify code to try out what-if scenarios, and to make mistakes, learn from them and evolve better software solutions.  On the other side, teams need stability to allow code to be shared with confidence, to create builds and perform testing in a consistent environment, and to ship high-quality products with confidence.  This requires an intricate balance to be maintained.  Too much flexibility can result in problems including, unauthorized and/or unwanted changes, the inability to integrate software components, uncertainty about what needs to be tested and working programs that suddenly stop working.  On the other hand, enforcing too much stability can result in costly bureaucratic overhead, delays in delivery, and may even require developers to ignore the process in order to get their work done.

This paper explores risk-based software configuration control.  It also examines techniques that can be used to help maintain this necessary balance between flexibility and stability, as software moves through the life cycle.  These techniques include:

    Selecting the appropriate type and level of control for each software artifact

    Selecting the right acquisition point for each configuration item

    Utilizing multiple-levels of formal control authority

Date Posted: March 30, 2007

Date Updated: December 18, 2009

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