Guide to Software Configuration Management Processes (SCM)

Guide to Software Configuration Management Processes (SCM)
Article by Sumana GangulySumana Ganguly
Last Updated: May 05, 2023

The journey of the software development life cycle is paved with numerous changes.

The number one thing you want to avoid when implementing these changes is deviating from the user's requirements.

Number two is negatively impacting the quality of your software. 

If you want to ensure the consistency of your project and maintain the quality of your code, you need to understand what Software Configuration Management (SCM) is, why it is important and how it works. 

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What Is Software Configuration Management? 

The process of software development is divided into several stages. These stages make up a Software Development Life Cycle. 

Software configuration management work serves as a base for the processes that take place during the software development life lifecycle. 

It is an integrative set of procedures and policies in Software Engineering, with the purpose of tracking, managing, organizing and controlling defects, changes in documents, codes and other software modifications. 

The Importance of Software Configuration Management

It's not uncommon for people involved in software engineering work to perform these activities from different locations. This kind of team organization can, however, lead to certain issues. 

For one, cooperation, communication and the exchange of relevant information among the software engineering team are harder without proper management. 

If two or more people are performing modifications of the same software component at the same time, without proper team organization, they could end up overwriting each other's work. Another consequence is that each of their work could end up in the conflict when merged. 

This is consistent with the survey run by New Bamboo, which states that around 25% of development projects fail, and the top three reasons for that are all a result of poor project management. 

The reasons are: 

  • Too many changes, 
  • Too many stakeholders, 
  • Not enough resources. 

To minimize the risks associated with these kinds of situations and avoid the negative impact they might have on the productivity of participants in this process, the software configuration management process is of uttermost importance. 

The importance of software configuration management lies in creating conditions for the successful tracking of the project. This way, identifying which person made what kind of updates and changes to the software is made easy. 

As a result, the implementation of Software Configuration Management processes will lead to improved efficiency among team members, reduced costs and higher-quality software that meets the user's requirements. 

But that's not all! Think of this process as a precautionary measure used to produce the best possible result straight away, without having to do much troubleshooting later on. 

Well-executed Software Management processes will reduce the number of later instances in which you have to track the origin of those pesky bugs threatening to break your existing code – and who doesn't want that?

How To Implement Configuration Management in Five Steps?

Now that we've established what SCM is and why it's important, let's take a look at how to implement configuration management in five steps:  

1. Planning and Configuration Identification Process 

You've got a new software development project to work on – that's great! Now, the first thing you and your team members need to do is some brainstorming.  

Ask yourself: what is the scope of this project? Which code modules, test cases and other software configuration components participate in this project?  

You'll also need to understand the requirement specifications that need to be met for a task or a certain process to be considered complete. Having SOW software will help you better understand the exact schedule, scope and goals of your project.  

To be able to identify the moment of meeting your objectives, you need to make your goals measurable.  

Another thing you should do is try to anticipate challenges that may arise along the way and learn how to identify them when they do.  

When that time comes, you'll want to know the person responsible for handling these issues and which resources they have at their disposal to resolve them.  

2. Baseline and Version Control Process 

Your next step in this stage of software configuration management processes is to identify a baseline.  

Think of identifying this formally approved version of the software as meeting one of the most important milestones in the software development process.  

Once you do that, you need to have a policy on how to control future modifications to the software set in place.  

By tracking all of your software versions and creating a hierarchy of them, you'll be able to identify whether your baseline is consistent with the requirements of the system.  

3. Change Control Process 

At the beginning of this article, you've seen some ways in which modifications to configurations can lead to errors, inconsistencies and low quality of the final product.  

A change control process exists to reduce the odds of this kind of negative impact.  

In other words, when a client makes a request for editing or adding certain configuration items, this process serves the purpose of reviewing these changes for the impact that they have on the project.  

Depending on whether these changes end up being problematic or having one too many side effects on the final product, decisions regarding accepting or denying them need to be made. Ensuring that everything is working properly has to be a priority.  

4. Configuration Status Accounting Process 

Software Configuration Management processes are made up of several version releases. Each of these releases brings certain adaptions to the software.  

The configuration status accounting process serves the purpose of reporting on the status of changes that have already been made, are waiting to be made or are on the status of baselines.  

Specifically, reasons for making changes are evaluated and any changes made to the product are documented.  

Once these tests on both the old and the new software versions are concluded, you'll be able to tell whether the functional requirements are being met.  

5. Configuration Audits and Review Processes 

Once you've completed all of the prior processes, you're left with the task of verifying that your project is indeed complete.  

That means that you need to establish that all of the changes made during the Software Development Life Cycle were compliant with control standards and configuration status reports. If you've followed the defined processes, you've likely met your Software Configuration Management goals.  

The Configuration auditing process ends with the creation of various documents such as:  

  • Memos,  
  • Release notes,  
  • FAQs,  
  • User manuals,  
  • Installation guides,  
  • Configuration guides and others.

Alternatively, you can reach out to one of the software development companies to do this for you.

Get connected with the right software development agency for your project.

Who Are the Participants in Software Configuration Management Processes? 

SCM processes have several key participants. These are the people who make up the software development team: 

  1. Configuration Manager
  2. Software Developer
  3. Project Manager
  4. Auditor
  5. User

1. Configuration Manager 

The configuration manager is in control of assigning responsibilities to team members during the software development process. This person tracks what every team member is doing and makes final decisions about their change requests. 

2. Software Developer 

Software developers are the ones creating the initial code and adapting that code to the approved changes.

Lead developers are responsible for conflict resolution and ensuring the consistency of the workflow with Software Configuration Management objectives. 

3. Project Manager 

Project managers are responsible for setting a schedule and a timeframe within which the product needs to be developed.

This includes setting deadlines for certain tasks to be completed and ensuring that they're met while following certain policies and guidelines. 

Essentially, their role is to monitor and report the progress of the project. 

4. Auditor 

The auditor is the person in charge of the configuration audits and review process. Their job is to ensure software consistency throughout versions and the release of a complete software product. 

5. User 

While users aren't necessarily participants in the SCM processes, they do have to possess basic knowledge or understanding of the software configuration management systems. 

This way, users will be able to identify whether they're using the right, latest version of the software. 

Top Five Software Configuration Management Tools  

Software configuration management tools facilitate software development teams to manage source code changes, versions and configurations.

If something goes wrong, the tools provide insight into the change that caused the failure and who made it. 

All changes are stored in a centralized repository, allowing access to all team members to the latest version of the software.  

Today’s market offers a large number of software configuration management tools. Here is the list of our favorites:  

1. Auvik

Auvik is a cloud-based network management and monitoring software configuration management tool that offers software developers an efficient way to manage distributed networks and devices.   

It allows routine task automation and proactive resolution of critical technology issues. It also provides backup and disaster recovery support by maintaining up-to-date device configuration backups and allowing instant restoration of any configuration from the version history.   

With Auvik, users can experience proper network visibility and control, real-time network mapping and inventory, deep insights into network traffic and automated network monitoring, which they can access from anywhere.  

Key features:   

  • Automate network visibility & IT asset management,  
  • Network performance monitoring & troubleshooting,  
  • Automated configuration backup & recovery,  
  • Intelligent network traffic analysis,   
  • Easy network access and navigation,  
  • Efficiently manage distributed sites,  
  • Enhanced privacy and security,  
  • Workflow automation with Auvik APIs.  

Pricing: Free 14 days trial is available. Get a custom quote for Essentials and Performance plans.  

2. CFEngine Software Configuration Management Tool 

CFEngine allows you to securely manage critical configuration tasks, ensuring that your systems are always up-to-date and configured according to your business policies. Whether you choose the open-source or commercial version, CFEngine provides a flexible, scalable and reliable solution for configuration management.  

Key features:   

  • Real-time compliance levels,  
  • Performance monitoring,  
  • Custom alerts and actions,  
  • Customizable and shareable dashboards.  

Pricing: Both open-source (Community edition) and commercial (Enterprise edition) are available. Enterprise edition allows a free trial of 25 hosts, after which the price isn't specified.  

3. Ansible Configuration Tool 

Red Hat’s Ansible software configuration management tool is an open-source and simple IT automation solution for configuration management, deployment and orchestration.

Ansible helps automate the entire IT infrastructure, improving productivity and freeing up developer teams for more strategic work by eliminating the need to perform repetitive tasks manually.  

Key features:   

  • Application deployment,  
  • Orchestration,  
  • Cloud provisioning,  
  • Security and Compliance.  

Pricing: Ansible is available in Standard and Premium editions that differentiate by support and features. Pricing is based on the number of nodes and is available at request.  

4. Puppet Configuration Tool 

Puppet is an open-source software configuration management tool. It employs a master-slave architecture, where nodes pull configurations from the main, enabling efficient management and deployment of servers.

Its flexibility and automation capabilities make it a popular choice for large-scale systems and organizations.  

Key features:   

  • Automated IT structure provisioning,  
  • Complete control and visibility over the software delivery process,  
  • Event inspection,  
  • Orchestration.  

Pricing: Open-source version is entirely free. The Enterprise version price depends on the size of the enterprise, but it is free for up to 10 nods.  

5. Progress CHEF Configuration Tool 

In essence, the CHEF is a platform for automation that offers an infrastructure configuration and management interface. Executing via code rather than manually means that infrastructure is being coded.

For writing the configurations, the CHEF software configuration management tool uses DSL and Ruby.  

Key features:   

  • Multiple platform support,  
  • Risk management control,  
  • Scalability,  
  • Real-time data insights.  

Pricing: Open-source is free, while hosted packages' prices vary between $120 and $700 per month, depending on the number of users and nods.  

Benefits of Using Software Configuration Management Tools  

Software configuration management tools provide many advantages to software developing teams, including the following:  

Improved Team Members Collaboration  

Software configuration management tools provide many features useful for collaboration.

One is version control, which enables developers to manage different versions of the same code, monitor changes and go back to previous versions when necessary.

These feature facilitates managing complex software projects and ensures that all code versions are always backed up. All team members are on the same page and working efficiently and effectively towards a common goal.  

Better Productivity  

Software configuration management tools automate routine tasks, freeing developers' time to focus on more complex work, leading to more efficient development cycles and better productivity.

Developers work together on a centralized platform that SCM tools provide, which improves communication and collaboration between team members.

Version control feature facilitates managing complex software projects and ensures that code is always up to date, improving error detection and reducing the risk of lost work and minimizing downtime.  

Improved Quality of Software Solutions  

Software configuration management tools track all changes made to code, providing a detailed audit trail that developers can use to identify issues, track progress and demonstrate compliance with industry standards or regulations.

Developers receive notifications about any unwanted deviations from the standard baseline. They detect problems as soon as they appear and timely remove them, resulting in high-quality code without bugs.  

Cost Reduction  

SCM tools enable the timely detection of code errors and irregularities, which gives developers a chance to react immediately.

In this way, stagnation is prevented, which results in effective control of software development costs. 

Software Configuration Management FAQ  

What Is Meant by Software Configuration Management?

Software configuration management (SCM) refers to a set of tools and rules that manage and control changes in software during its development life cycle.  

SCM monitors all the elements that make software (software configuration items or SCI), such as source code, documentation, test studies and executable files.  

By controlling these elements, SCM prevents errors and ensures the final product is high-quality and delivered within the budget and given time frame. 

What Are the Four Main Functions of Software Configuration Management?

The four primary functions of software configuration management are: 

  1. Configuration identification is a process of identifying all software components and ensuring they can quickly be found at any stage of the software life cycle. 
  2. Configuration change control monitors changes in software components, comparing current and previous versions, ensuring they are implemented correctly and consistently. 
  3. Configuration auditing is a process that checks and confirms the proper implementation of software changes following requirements and standards. 
  4. Configuration status accounting is an automated history of all changes in software source code. To ensure efficient software configuration, SCM records when, why and what kind of change is made in software code and who made it. 

What Is the Need for Software Configuration Management?

Manually managing the software configuration is impossible, as they include too many components that are difficult to keep track of.  

SCM documents the development of all software components' versions, recording all their changes.

Besides version control and change management, SCM facilitates collaboration between development team members and ensures quality standards are met in all software configuration stages.

In this way, SCM prevents irregularities in the software's operation, which can lead to significant time delays, financial losses and penalties. 

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