What Is Configuration Management? (Benefits and How to Use It)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 9, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

During product development, professionals employ a wide range of systems to manage information and refine processes. Configuration management is an important system engineering process that facilitates product development and helps IT professionals achieve this. Understanding configuration management can help you complete tasks effectively and aid your career as an IT professional. In this article, we answer "What is configuration management?", highlight its benefits, and outline how to use it.

What is configuration management?

To answer the question, "What is configuration management?", it's a process that ensures a digital product or system functions according to a set of rules. Its purpose is to ensure consistent performance across different versions, users, and environments. While any industry can use configuration management principles, it's a technology industry term. It's an essential process for properly functioning networks, software, servers, and databases.

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Benefits of configuration management

Here are some of the benefits an organization can derive from configuration management:

Easier to install updates

Configuration management is a form of quality control, ensuring that systems function according to predetermined rules. As a result, it allows organizations to install new updates in an orderly manner that doesn't disrupt operations. Configuration management also helps to ensure that any new update works well with other parts of the system. If it doesn't, the configuration management tool can restore backup versions, limiting its effects on the organization's activities.

Facilitates system recovery

Effective configuration management tools automate the process of identifying and resolving errors. The configuration management tool can quickly detect errors and begin implementing measures before a system crash by monitoring the product. In such cases, it automatically protects all relevant system functions and retrieves system information. An effective configuration management tool can also automate backing up previous versions of your system. This ensures you have something to rely on if a new version of the system isn't functional.

Improves productivity

Configuration management automates many processes and reduces the incidence of system crashes or failure. This gives developers and other IT professionals more time and resources to dedicate to other tasks. End-users of the product also benefit as it's less prone to crashing. This allows them to accomplish more with the system when compared to those that frequently experience system errors.

Continuous product delivery

An efficient configuration management system keeps detailed records of all product versions. This makes it easier for developers to create functional updates. As a result, they can afford to release product updates faster and more consistently. This can improve customer satisfaction, patronage and sales.

Promotes better documentation

Documentation is a major part of the configuration management process. It involves keeping records of system components and how they interact. Similarly, it involves keeping records of previous system versions. A major advantage of configuration management tools is automating the documentation process. This makes it easier for other IT professionals to understand the system and install updates in the future.

Eliminates duplicity

Configuration management helps project teams streamline their processes to make them more efficient. This reduces the incidence of redundant or repetitive actions or processors. Effective configuration management tools can track all aspects of the project. This ensures that all team members know of all aspects of the project, preventing miscommunications.

Aids adjustment

Configuration management makes it easier to adjust systems to cater to new environments, users, and purposes. These tools store and track different product versions, allowing developers to make alterations without sacrificing valuable data. Many configuration management tools also allow users to obtain information from different devices without compromising the product's interface.

Saves money

An efficient configuration management system significantly reduces the chances of a system error or crash. It also automates many processes, allowing the system to function with minimal human intervention. As a result, organizations can spend less on maintaining systems by investing in good configuration management. This is because they require fewer IT professionals to resolve system issues.

How to use configuration management

Here's an overview of the steps you can follow to complete this process:

1. Audit the system

The first step in configuration management is assessing the current system. To manage a system effectively, it's crucial that you understand how it works. This process involves assessing the interactions between hardware and software resources. To complete an audit, create a detailed report on different aspects of the product. Relevant aspects include troubleshooting procedures, compliance protocols, setup instructions, and system documentation. In your report, it's important you identify how the various systems interact and their purposes. You can use visualization tools like flow charts to make the report easier to understand.

2. Perform planning and identification

The next step is to plan for the configuration management process. In this stage, you identify what parts of the system are part of the process and how you want to execute it. Planning and identification require the input of all team members and relevant stakeholders like clients. You can have meetings to brainstorm and establish the project plan and objectives. Similarly, it's essential that you develop criteria that determine when the product is market-ready. This makes it easier for the team to measure progress.

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3. Identify areas for automation

You can start the configuration management process by identifying which parts of the system require automation. Automation is an effective way to reduce errors and increase productivity in the system. It also reduces the need for manual efforts, which can save costs for business in the long term. Before automating a system component, ensure you determine the issues that typically occur after updates. Then, develop improvements to avoid those issues and measures to handle them if they occur. This process makes it easier for you to select the appropriate tools for the project.

4. Select the right tools

After assessing the system, you can select your project tools. The appropriate tools depend on several factors, including the project goals, team capacity, system features, and client budget. After assessing these factors, you can search for affordable tools that address your needs. While some configuration management tools can be expensive, it's important the organization compares that to the cost of not implementing successful configuration management. There are configuration management tools for different budget sizes.

5. Establish a baseline for version control

The configuration management process may involve making significant changes to a system. As a result, it's important the team has a baseline to return to if a newly developed version isn't functional. A baseline guarantees project integrity because it records the last acceptable version of the product. The team can decide on a baseline during the configuration management process. The team can only set a new baseline through a formal procedure involving relevant stakeholders. Still, it's important the team sets new baselines as the project progresses and the team develops newer versions that are functional.

6. Conduct change control

Change control is a project management technique ensuring that any changes to one aspect of the project align with other aspects. It's an essential process as it helps the team ensure it develops a quality product. Additionally, change control is an essential part of selecting new baselines, as it helps assess product functionality. Under this process, the client or a team member suggests a change to the configuration manager. Then, the manager assesses the potential impact of the change on the system and either accepts or denies the request.

7. Run regular tests

To assess the functionality of new product versions, it's vital the project team conducts regular testing. The team can test the product in controlled environments and real-life situations. An effective approach is for the team to have a schedule for regular testing. To save time and resources, the team can run automated tests most of the time and do some manual testing to ensure quality. Ensure you record the result of each test and make improvements where necessary. Refer to the exit criteria you developed earlier in the project to evaluate test results.

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8. Integrate new features

After successfully developing new system components, you can integrate them into the system. First, ensure it works well with all current components and versions of the system. Various configuration management tools install updates automatically to a system. These tools also back up previous versions of the system if the new update causes any issues. It's also important that you keep detailed records of all changes you make to the system.

9. Document manual changes

In most cases, the configuration management tool automatically installs any changes to the system and keeps records of all changes. Still, some cases may require a manual change. In such cases, it's important that you remember to record any manual changes you make in the configuration management tool. This ensures that you don't tamper with the automated processes and cause future project issues.

10. Audit and review

The last and final stage of the configuration management process is a complete audit and review of all process stages. This involves assessing all processes, requests, baselines, and resources the team used. This helps assess the process' efficiency and is also crucial for preparing relevant documents like installment guides, user manuals, and release notes. The audit ensures the project satisfies its goals and the product attained the exit criteria. It also helps confirm that all aspects of the product are complete and functional, matching relevant project reports.

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