Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Chicken (CM) or the Egg (Agile)…

What came first, Configuration Management (CM) or Agile? On the one hand, I've seen articles over the few couple of years that seem to indicate that trend toward Agile creates a new type of CM (e.g., Agile CM) although they seem to be subsiding. On the other hand, I’ve seen CM professionals (CM’ers) adapt their CM practices for an Agile methodology like Scrum.

I think CM'ers have been establishing CM systems that can handle any type of methodology (e.g., waterfall, hyrid waterfall, incremental, or iterative) needed for ages way before Agile became popular. Do you want builds to occur every day, every hour, continuously? It’s a simple cron job edit and now there are specific build tools to help. Do you want to have yearly, quarterly, monthly, or weekly releases? CM can handle that.

Agile certainly can provide a focus on the iterative and incremental nature of a development process by bringing something more tangible to look at sooner than later. This is very valuable. It gets you closer to what you want. Let’s hear from some other CM experts have said on this in the past:

Mark Bools said, “Configuration Management, when implemented correctly, defines interfaces that can be "plugged" into any development process.”

Brad Appleton said, “I agree that CM has always been able to deal with iterative development and frequent (e.g., daily) integration. And I think that when there is misalignment between the two, and development is "Agile", and CM is not on board with the corresponding value-system, then the CM implementation needs to be adjusted (but development needs to "give" some too - it can't be all one way). So, where shops were previously used to non-agile development and non-agile values, when they go to "Agile", the CM implementation will most likely need a big adjustment. it does create a new mind-set for implementing CM in such an enviornment (even if the tools & techniques already existed).”

Bob Aiello said, “CM has been around a long time. Process needs to be as thick (or as my Agile friends say - have enough ceremony) as necessary to get the job done and avoid mistakes. Your process needs to help us get the job done right each and every time without wasting our time on silly practices that happen to work well at the last show that we were in.”

Note: For more on Agile and CM, consider reading the book “Adapting Configuration Management for Agile Teams” found on both Amazon.com and Wiley.com.