The journey of software development 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 SCM (Software Configuration Management) is, why it is important and how it works.
To make this task easier for you, we've compiled all the information that you need to know about SCM in one place. Let's get right to it!
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What Is Software Configuration Management?
The process of custom software development is divided into several stages. These stages make up a Software Development Life Cycle.
SCM serves as a base for the processes that take place during this 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-building 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 stakeholders 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 conflict when merged.
This is consistent with the survey run by the 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, SCM 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?
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How Does Software Configuration Management Work?
Now that we've established what SCM is and why it's important, let's take a look at which SCM processes make up one Software Development Life Cycle:
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.
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.
Change Control Process
At the beginning of this article, you've seen some ways how modifications to configurations can lead to errors, inconsistencies and low quality of the final product.
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.
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 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.
Configuration Audits and Review Process
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 audits and review process ends with the creation of various documents such as:
- Release notes
- User manuals
- Installation guides
- Configuration guides and others
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:
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.
Software developers are the ones creating the initial code and adapting that code to the approved changes. Lead developers are responsible for conflict resolutions and ensuring the consistency of the workflow with Software Configuration Management objectives.
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.
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.
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.
Software Configuration Management Tools
There is one way to make the Software Configuration Management processes easier and that is to use SCM tools.
Here are just some of the tasks configuration management tools could help you with:
- Development of real-time applications (such as chats, web push notifications, news feeds and similar) that require a constant browser-to-server connection. For this purpose, software developers commonly use Node.js developer tools.
- Allowing collaboration among team members and organizing their work. Statistics show that almost 50% of software development teams use JIRA for project management.
- Managing concurrency issues that arise when more people are modifying the same file at the same time.
- Tracking, comparing and auditing changes to data
- Being notified about any unwanted deviations from the standard baseline
- Faster identification and resolution of issues
- Controlling several versions of software at a time and returning to an older one in case of an error
- Testing of applications and their components, from backend to frontend. One of the most popular tools used for this purpose is Selenium, with 38.5% of software testers picking it as their first choice.
There are, however, some downsides to using these tools.
For one, they do require quite a few resources throughout this entire process. One of those resources is the extensive knowledge of how these software configuration management tools work.
Second, if you want your SCM processes to run smoothly, you'll need to have hardware and operating systems that are fast and highly customizable.
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