Configuration Management

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Title: Configuration Management

Phase(s): Construction  

Category: Scope

Date: February 28, 1997

1. Background

A $170 million dollar Fiber Optics Project was undertaken by MTA, New York City Transit to provide a modern communications and data network.

Once completed, the MTA, New York City Transit found that establishing a benchmark (as-built) configuration of the newly installed system was difficult. Cataloging as-built drawings and accepting them from the contractor was a slow and laborious process. Some of the required documents were missing altogether.

Due to these problems, the MTA, New York City Transit commissioned a Fiber Optic System Document Task Force to develop a system for controlling changes generated by new applications requested by various departments and routine maintenance.

This Task Force was charged with recommending a Configuration Management process that would: record the entire original "as installed" fiber-optic network for future engineering needs; accommodate design modifications for new applications; audit itself in terms of implementation; maintains procedural guidelines and audit checks; chart the organizational interfaces and responsibilities associated with the Configuration Management process.

Configuration Management is the process of managing physical configurations and their supporting processes through documents, records and data. Formal processes requiring Configuration Management are frequently seen in "high tech" industries such as aero-space, and nuclear energy. As higher technology begins to play a major role in the transportation industry the need for Configuration Management processes becomes greater. Configuration Management is a process which is one that accommodates changes and perpetually documents how a physical system is configured. It also ensures that documents, records, and data remain concise and valid.

A standard Configuration Management template developed by the Institute of Configuration Management (ICM) in Scottsdale, Arizona was suggested. This Configuration Management template is recognized by Arizona State University College of Engineering and University of Tennessee, Management Development Center College of Business Administration, among others.

Recognizing the need to standardize work upon the fiber optic network, transit personnel adjusted existing "work order" forms to add various departmental signature authorization. Maintenance was bogged down with inter-departmental confusion and a "closed-loop" process was needed to ensure that records would be kept current and responsibility was assigned for maintaining the configuration of the fiber optic network. This was accomplished by designing a "work order" that required the responsible engineering group to sign-off as records were updated.

Finally, it was determined that it was important to regularly monitor the field application and implementation of the Configuration Management process. Audits of the Configuration Management process needed to be performed as appropriate to ensure ongoing compliance.

2. The Lesson

It became rapidly apparent to the MTA, New York City Transit that the need for a written system to manage the configuration of a state-of-the-art data and voice transmission network should have been planned from the early stages of design.

The major lesson is to make the determination as early in the planning stage as possible. Additionally, developing a Configuration Management system after a physical plant has been delivered is not cost effective and can cause an organization to place an indefinite "hold" on system changes or acceptance until system status is identified. The system or network can deteriorate into a constant state of "catching-up".

A Configuration Management system requires basic elements to be effective. They are:

  • The documentation and operational aspects required for a Configuration Management System should be incorporated in final design.
  • Changes to design during construction and beyond need to be documented and validated by the same or equivalent level of management or engineering that created and validated the original design requirements.
  • Design changes must be validated against higher tier documents such as code requirements or standard designs.
  • Work on the system needs to be performed under a work authorization system which identifies the documents and revision level of the documents to which work is to be performed.
  • The configuration of an entire system requires managerial discipline to coordinate all involved departments throughout the entire life-cycle of the product.

3. Applicability

A Configuration Management System should be applied to both high and low technology projects and maintenance activities throughout the transit industry. It is a proven method for maintaining the actual up to date configuration of any system for future design, modification, or maintenance activities.

4. References

N/A

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