Futility of CM: Configuration Items


Because configuration management professionals are not united and are often unable to agree on basic concepts, it's important to work together to find a middle ground—especially when coming up with mutually agreed upon definitions.

There was recently a discussion on LinkedIn about Configuration Items (CI) and what exactly they are. Configuration items are one of the most basic terms, concepts, and principles involved with CM. They are the lowest common denominator of things that we track, version, and report on.

After reading the multitude of remarks—and trust me there are a lot of opinions and spirited involvement from many CM professionals—you'd think that CM folks could agree on what I deem the simplest of terms. However, the discussion stretched on and on, and at times became heated and personal. I think debate is healthy, and I advise folks to engage in healthy debate without its getting personal.

This discussion brings up a point I have made before: As a group, CM folks are divided, disjointed, and often can’t even agree on basic concepts. I have heard it said that you can put five CM folks in a room, ask one question, and get ten different opinions.

So, what does this say about our field? You can easily deduce that something is wrong when a group of professionals can’t agree on even basic terminology and if they do agree somewhat on some specific terminology, they can't agree on what should be included in that definition.

It's my hope that, while we may agree to disagree, we should state where we are coming from—i.e., what standard or framework we adhere to. We should defend from that standpoint rather than muddying the waters. I personally have no preference for IEEEDoDCMMiITIL, etc. I am willing to accept that each of these are "truths" in our field. I have been a proponent of our coming together as CM professionals and defining ourselves instead of letting others do that for us.

In addition, I don't think we can discount the fact that this is one term or concept out of hundreds, if not thousands of terms or concepts. If we were to reach an agreement on the rest of the CM lexicon, it could take months, or years, or even decades to complete.

We are stuck with a multitude of CM standards and frameworks, but I believe we can work together to find common ground, which is sometimes the hardest part. To do so requires compromise and standing down from our beliefs and how we were "raised" in CM.

I, for one, would like to think I will always take the high road and stand above the fray but maybe that approach is the easy way out. Maybe I should get in the trenches and fight it out. But, as I saw with the discussion about CIs, that just might be easier said than done.

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