Configuration is defined as “functional and physical characteristics of existing or planned hardware, firmware, software or a combination thereof as set forth in technical documentation and ultimately achieved in a product” by International Aerospace Quality Group.
As defined by NASA, “Configuration management (CM) is the discipline of identifying and formalizing the functional and physical characteristics of a configuration item at discrete points in the product evolution for the purpose of maintaining the integrity of the product system and controlling changes to the baseline.”
Simply stated, configuration management is the method of controlling changes to the system hardware, software, firmware, processes, instructions and documentation.
Configuration control should not be implemented in a system until some baseline (technical and business) has been derived and reached. The baseline is the technical requirements that are related to cost and schedule and are mature enough to be placed under configuration control.
The reason for this is that changes under CM control drive negative variance in costs and schedules, and during early life cycle stages of a system, provides little to no benefit to the system. The other baselines could be related to documents, drawings, software, and hardware.
Before CM can be established, a firm understanding and agreement must be reached between the buyer and seller. The CM process must be documented starting in the Statement of Work (SOW), proceeding to Part I of the System Engineering Management Plan (SEMP), and ultimately fully documented in its own Configuration Management Plan (CMP). A sample CMP is in the index of this presentation.
This agreement dictates the rigor the seller will go through to make a change (i.e. Change Control Boards (CCBs)).
Configuration Management Program
The CM program should be planned in advance and properly implemented. The above statement is non-trivial. Execution of a program can be one of the biggest unaddressed/under-addressed issues that can cause major problems as described in “Execution” by L. Bossidy (Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done, 2002, Crown Business).