Configuration Management vs Change Management

September 9, 2020
Fahad Usmani
configuration management vs change management

Project environments are dynamic and changes are constant in areas like process, planning, or scope. You can group these changes into two categories:

  1. Change Management
  2. Configuration Management

“Change Management” is the first category. Here you manage changes related to project management plans, processes, and baselines.

In the second category, you manage changes related to product scope, which is known as configuration management.

Change requests are required when baselines are established and you have to make changes to them. If the baselines are not set, no formal change request is required. Change requests and configuration requests are part of the integration management system.

Change management is a well-known term in project management but configuration management is not. In the IT field, the term ‘configuration management’ is used frequently, so if you are not in this industry, you may face issues with understanding the concept.

As a non-IT professional, I had this struggle. However, now that I have passed the PMP and PMI-RMP exams I can help you understand the concepts in this blog post.

Please note that change management and configuration management are the most important concepts for the PMP exam, and you are going to see many questions on them.

Change Management System

According to the PMBOK Guide 6th edition, “Change Control is focused on identifying, documenting and controlling changes to the project and the project baselines”.

In the change management system, you manage the changes related to the project scope, planning, and baselines.

For example, you run out of money and you need additional funding to complete the project, therefore, you will raise a change request for additional funds. Or, you may not be able to complete your project within the specified time and require a time extension.

In the change management system, the change request is analyzed for any possible impact on any other project objectives. Afterwards, the request is either approved or rejected.

To minimize disruption, a change management system must ensure that all parameters are identified and analyzed for any possible impact.

If the change request is approved, you will update the concerned baseline, update the project documents, and inform the concerned stakeholders.

Change Management Activities

You do the following during change management:

  1. Identify the changes.
  2. Prepare a proper documentation for the changes.
  3. Review, analyze, and make a decision for the change request.
  4. Make sure that request is implemented, registered and communicated.

Configuration Management System

According to the PMBOK Guide 6th edition, “Configuration Control focuses on the specifications of both the deliverables and the processes.”

In the configuration management system, you manage the changes related to the product specification and the process.

For example, suppose you are developing a product and the client requests the addition of some extra features.

Since this change is related to the configuration of the product, you will deal with this change using the configuration management system.

Configuration management documents how you will monitor and control changes. It is a process of defining configurable items (product, service, result, and component) and controlling changes to such items.

The configuration management plan keeps version control of the product. Here you can keep a log of all the changes made to any version of the product for review.

Configuration Management Activities

You do the following during configuration management:

  1. Identify the configurable items.
  2. Record and prepare a report for all configurable items.
  3. Verify and conduct an audit of all configurations are as per the requirements.

A Real World Example of Change and Configuration Management

Suppose you are working on a project to construct a school building with ten classrooms.

Case: 1

During the middle of the project, your contractor for steel work walks off the job and you have to find a replacement. You find an alternative, but the new contractor will not start working on your project for a week.

This will delay the project. Therefore, you will raise a change request for a one-week extension of the schedule through the change management system.

Once this request is approved, you will update your schedule baseline.

This is an example of the change management system.

Now let us look at an example of the configuration management system.

Case: 2

You are constructing a school building and the client requests that you increase the number of rooms from ten to fifteen.

This is a request to change the product scope as the client has altered the product configuration.

You will handle this change under the configuration management system because here the specifications of your product have changed. Earlier the school building had ten rooms, and now it will have fifteen rooms.

Please note that in the first case, you raised the change request to increase the deadline of the project by one week. There was no change to the product, the change was only needed in the schedule baseline; the school building was the same, but you will hand over this building to the client one week later.

The Difference Between Change Management and Configuration Management Systems

The main difference between the change management and configuration management systems is that change management deals with process, plans, and baselines, while configuration management deals with product specifications.

An example of a change management system can be additional funding requirements or a schedule extension, while an example of configuration management can be an extra feature added to the product.

Conditions for Change Management

The following are a few conditions for change management:

  • Delay in schedule: You will have to develop a new schedule reflecting the current situation.
  • Cost overrun: You will need to re-estimate your cost to complete the project.

Conditions for Configuration Management

The following are a few conditions for configuration management:

  • Market competition forces new features on the product.
  • The project took so long that the product is obsolete, so an update is required.
  • The client requested you add some extra functions.
  • Due to cost overrun, some features are removed from the product.
  • To complete the project early, some features are removed.

Change Management Vs Configuration Management

Change management and configuration management do not compete for the same space. They are used for different purposes.

According to the PMBOK Guide 6th edition, “Configuration control is focused on the specification of both the deliverables and the processes, while change control is focused on identifying, documenting, and approving or rejecting changes to the project documents, deliverables, or baselines”.

Any change in product configuration will also affect the project scope, and you will update your project plans, cost, and schedule baselines.

Configuration management has a larger scope than change management.

Who Can Raise a Change and Configuration Request and Who Can Authorize It?

Anyone can raise a change request but it must be approved by the project manager or a higher authority, as mentioned in the configuration or change management plan. If the client is not involved in the process, their consent is required to implement the change request.

A higher authority can be a Change Control Board (CCB), Project Management Office (PMO), or any other stakeholder as mentioned in the project management plan.

Regarding a configuration request, usually it comes from the client as it involves a change in the product. 

This request is reviewed by the project manager and then forwarded to the concerned higher authority for their review and approval. An agreement from the client may be required because they have to pay for any additional features.

Summary

Change management and configuration management are part of integration management and both deal with all the changes that can happen within the project or the product. Change management relates to changes related to the plan, process, and baselines, while configuration management deals with changes related to the product scope. The job of the project manager is to raise these requests and ensure that they are properly reviewed. Once the decision is made, it should be implemented immediately.

Now I hope you will not have any problem solving questions on the PMP exam regarding change management and configuration management systems.

How do you manage changes in your project? Please share your experiences through the comments section.

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Speak Your Mind

  • Hello Fahad,
    Thank you for your well thought out article.

    I like your definitions, and seems correct; and certainly one way to interpret the PMBOK. But, part of the problem (and why you have written this article and folks like me and rest of your readers look for clarification), is that the PMBOK very much makes it all a fuzzy deal. Your definition is good and makes perfect sense—it’s what I’d also espoused to: Configuration has to do with Product; Change has to do with Project docs, baselines, processes, etc. But there are contradictions.
    And, as I’ve tried to make sense of it in my own head in studying PMBOK (as you know PMI has “THEIR definition” of things, not always the same as “Organization/Company lambda’s”), there are some contradictions in PMBOK, and thus in your own definitions above—which are indeed direct out of PMBOK. You say that “Change Control” is about “Project stuff” — Project Documents, Baselines and Processes ; and “Configuration Control” as Product/Scope related (“Product Stuff”). Yet, you then correctly quote PMBOK that ““Configuration Control focuses on the specifications of both the deliverables and the processes” (i.e., note PROCESSES).
    Further on, you point again to the contradiction when you quote PMBOK: “Configuration control is focused on the specification of both the deliverables and the processes (i.e., note PROCESS!), while change control is focused on identifying, documenting, and approving or rejecting changes to the project documents, deliverables, or baselines” (note DELIVERABLES!). Thus not in line with your stated interpretation / defintition.

    Another interpretation (that I’ve enountered) is that Change Control is the process of changing Project “Artifacts” (Project document, plans, process, deliverables, baselines – in short, everything that is under control): the written change requests, the Change Control Board, voting, approval / rejections, etc. And that Configuration control is the versioning, identification of “current version”, archiving of old versions, etc. of all “Project Artifacts” (Artifacts covering both “Project Stuff” like docs & processes and “Product Stuff”, like deliverables). This is the one espoused by Rita Mulcahey (her PM book). This interpretation also has problems and contradictions with some of the same definitions (and others) of Change Control (and Change Mgmt) and Configuration Control (and Config Mgmt) that is found in PMBOK.
    All this to say: PMBOK was written by a lot of folks and then “Controlled” over its various authors and chapters to ensure overall integrity. But there remain unclarities and contradictions – and I believe this is one. They seem to clear these up with new versions of PMBOK, but others appear. All this said, your definition is a good one – and one that I have always thought was true. Now I am beginning to wonder. Having read around and now studying for PMBOK — and thus trying to understand “How does PMBOK define this” – because as stated earlier PMBOK definition is not always same one’s “real world” definition. That’s okay, it’s just not okay with they are not clear and there are contradictions in their method. Thanks. Great article. If you can or in position to dialogue with them– tell PMI to clarify their defintiions! Look forward to your feedback.

  • Change Management” is the first category. Here you manage changes related to project management plans, {processes}, and baselines.

    According to the PMBOK Guide 6th edition, “Configuration Control focuses on the specifications of both the deliverables and the {processes}.”

    I don’t understand how the 2 terms dealing with{ process }
    kindly clarify it.

  • Hi Mr. Fahad,
    Now, if the client request change in my scope,
    I need to go with Change management and configuration management in parallel

    • Hello Anas,

      I believe he is asking for change in product scope. In this case, you will go for configuration management.

      • Hi Fahad,

        Changing the product scope, won’t it be required then to change the schedule and cost baseline? As product scope increases, cost and time increases right. Then, we have to work on both Configuration management followed by Change Management, isn’t?

  • Does the Configuration Management, lead to raise a Change request in Project Management ?

    Below are same 2 examples used in here, to help you understand, what I am trying to convey.

    Example 1
    During the middle of the project, my contractor for steel work walks off the job and I have to find a replacement. I found an alternative, but the new contractor will not start working on the project for a week.

    This will delay the project. Therefore, I will raise a change request for a one-week extension of the schedule through the change management system.

    Example 2
    Now, I am constructing a school building and the client requests that I have to increase the number of rooms from ten to fifteen.

    This is a request to change the product scope as the client has altered the product configuration.

    I will handle this change under the configuration management system because here the specifications of the product have changed. Earlier the school building had ten rooms, and now it will have fifteen rooms.

    However, building additional 5 rooms will take more time than building 10 rooms, planned earlier. Hence, my schedule will also change as a result effecting my baseline, and so I have to raise a change request.

    Please let me know if my understanding is correct !

  • This article is very good. It helps me to get clear about Configuration management and Change Request.

    So, I would like to confirm about our project.

    My project is to build the Window with blue color. But in executing, The window was painted with blue color. After that the stakeholder changed the color to yellow.

    So, this should be managed by Change management or Configuration Management.
    Because it impacts to schedule, cost and product specification.

    Please explain.

    Thank You so much.

  • Hello Fahad,

    Please Read this sections from the PMBOK® Guide Sixth Edition, and then correct your answer and please also try to understand it well. What you are saying about configuration management and change management isn’t True at all.

    “Configuration management plan:
    Describes how the information about the items of the project (and which items) will be recorded and updated so that the product, service, or result of the project remains consistent and/or operative.

    “Change control should be applied once the first version of a deliverable has been completed. The control of the multiple versions or editions of a deliverable (e.g., documents, software, and building blocks) is supported by configuration management tools and procedures.”

    “Before the baselines are established, changes are not required to be formally controlled by the Perform Integrated Change Control process. Once the project is baselined, change requests go through this process. As a general rule, each project’s configuration management plan should define which project artifacts need to be placed under configuration control. Any change in a configuration element should be formally controlled and will require a change request.”

    “Configuration management activities such as: how changes will be initiated; how impacts will be analyzed; how they will be traced, tracked, and reported; as well as the authorization levels required to approve these changes;”

    Thank you.

  • Hi Fahad, i also have same question above that why change management is a subset of configuration management instead another way around. Is there any reasoning behind?
    Also have another question which made me confuse,
    Ques: project manager doing quality check for steel bolts of 20 cm. The acceptable control limits are 19.955 cm and 20.045 cm. The measurements made at the end of the process yielded the following results : 20.033 cm, 19.982 cm, 19,995 cm, 20.006 cm, 19.970 cm, 19.968 cm, 19.963 cm, 19.958 cm, 19.962 cm, 19.979 cm and 19.959 cm. What should be done?

    I always think if control limits are good why we need to frther investigate the process? Is it not control limits are typically similar like tolerances (except prior is defined by PM and later by customer.)

    Thanks
    Sumit

    • Configuration management has larger scope as compared to change management.

      Control limits are set by project manager to control the process and if anything goes outside of it, he will check if everything is right though the project is within acceptable range.

      • In my view , change in the configuration may also impact cost,schedule baseline & or may invoke some risks . In such situation change management needs to be initiated based on the impacts. Hence, change management can be a subset of configuration.

        Please share your thoughts about my views .

  • Can you explain why the change management system is a subset of the configuration management system?
    While opposite can be true but how change management system falls under configuration management system.

  • Thanks Fahad for your explanation,but one question, according to your explanation, configuration is mainly for product and change is mainly focus on baseline and project plans, so i see that at many points they will be meet together, like for scenario 2 when u need to change the number of classrooms from 10 to 20 now yes that change in the product, but to meet that product you will need to change the plans as well, so in that scenario we will pass by both configuration and change, correct me if im wrong

    Thanks again

  • Any changes in the project management plans and all its subsidiary plans and baselines requires to be updated through change control process and have it approved. Then do all project documents would need to go through the change control process before updates can be made? e.g. stake holder register or risk register or requirement documents. Can these by updated without going through a formal change control process and approval? Can the PM make the changes without some else’s approval?

    • These are the project document and supposed to be updated all the time throughout the project lifecycle. They do not require to go through this process.

      • Then are all project documents treated the same way? There is a list of documents in the PMBOK guide page 78. Besides the obvious ones like performance data and issues/change log/forecast etc, all others can be updated without a formal change control approval?

  • Thanks so much Fahad for this piece, it brings simplicity and gives clarity to differentiate between Configuration and Change Management System.

  • Dear
    Thank you very murch for the nice explanition.
    Really I like it specially that I am starting the course of PMP preparation for the PMP exam.
    Thanks and regalrds.
    Abdulmohsen

  • I don’t agree this clarification, PMBOK does not very clearly distinct the two, my impression is that configuration management is super set of change manamement, plus some document record repository functions.

  • can we say that change in spécifications (configurations) can be similar to change to product quality attributes? what is the difference between both of them? please i need clarification
    thanks in advance !

  • I think Configuration Management is basically how will you manage the ‘integrity’ of your products/artifacts, how will all the stakeholders know what’s the latest blueprint to reference, what’s the latest architecture diagram, what’s the latest design document, what’s the latest source code to act one, etc.
    The Change Management is just any changes, even the ones which doesn’t result in any change to Scope, Cost, Schedule.

    • The guy has copied my content and posted there. I have filed a copyright infringement notice with LinkedIn.

      Thanks Amit for letting me know.

  • Dear Fahad, Thanks for your great explanation, But I’m still little confused about the configuration management system.
    Let’s take your instance ( Increasing the number of classrooms from 10 to 15), That’s great.
    You said that any chang to the project processes or baseline is considered as a change management system, So in the previous instance ,when we decide to increase from 10 to 15 , I think this change affects directly the scope of the project, which is in turn one of the project baseline.
    So, in my opinion, this will be under the change management system.
    Waiting for more information,and thanks in advance.

  • The change management plant defines the process for managing changes on the project.

    The PMBOK Guide fifth edition, page: 138

  • This post is so useful. So Change Management Plan is a subset of Configuration Management Plan right. However if a question is asked – Change Management Plan contains what? The right answer would be Project Management Plan or Configuration Management Plan. And why?

    Thank you in advance

    • BRAZIL,

      CHANGE CONTROLS GO TO CCB CHANGE CONTROL BOARD TO APPROVE OR REJECT THE REQUESTS. IN SOME PROJECTS, THE SPONSOR GIVES SOME AUTHORITY TO THE PROJECT MANAGER TO APPROVE SOME CHANGE REQUESTS AND IT DEPENDS ON THE CONTRACT AND ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES.

  • Nice post Fahad!

    In your one of the example in the blog. When client requested to increase the room numbers from 10 to 15. The Configuration Change is evident…Agreed!. But doesn’t a Change Request comes into picture, since adding more rooms would cause change in Project baseline i.e. Cost,schedule. E.g, work packages produced by taking 10 rooms into account… Kind of confused here. Please advise.

  • Hi Fahad,

    That’s an excellent explanation of Change Vs Configuration Management. Thanks for such wonderful comparison & vivid clarification.

    To Summarize from the above,

    1. Change Management is the Subset of Configuration Management
    2. Change Management is applicable for Process/Baseline changes.
    3. Configuration Management is applicable for Product changes & updated document repository.
    4. Both undergoes integrated change control process.

    Regards,
    Ram Narayan

  • Thanks Fahad, I have passes PMP Exam last week with 4P & 1MP, in first attempt.

    Thanks for all the support your blog have provided to me & all PMP aspirants.

  • Dear Fahad:

    Your explanations are awesome for PMP aspirants, reference to this discussion, can you clarify in which PMI process Change management Plan &/if , Configuration Management Plan is developed , According to PMBOK -5????

    Thanks & best wishes…

  • Are Configuration Management and Change Management differing from Configuration control and change control?

    In the PMBOX Guide fifth ed. Says: Configuration control is focused on the specification of both the deliverables and the process while you mentioned In the Configuration Management System, changes related to product specification are managed.

    Thank you.

      • Dear Fahad,

        Your work is impressive. But could you clarify Saad’s doubt? I share it too.

        Documenting changes in scope/configuration of the product (deliverable) is configuration management

        Documenting change in processes/cost baseline/schedule baseline is change management.

        Is this understanding correct? If yes, pg. 96 of PMBOK 5th ed. says “Configuration control is focused on the specification of both the deliverables and the process “. How come configuration control is focused on specification of the process? This is description of change control right?

        • I feel there is some discrepancy between the definition of configuration management mentioned in these two places.

          Anyway, I’m going to write a mail to PMI, let’s us see their reply.

        • To my understanding, the configuration management affects both, the product and process where as change management only affects the process.

          When a change to a product specification is managed (configuration), it “may” incorporate change to schedule and/ or cost as well. Both have to go through same Integrated Change Control, affecting either only to the product specification OR project process OR both. Though not particularly mentioned in PMBOK, I assume, while change management may act alone, the configuration management has to take change management along, may be as a subset or as an accompanying document.

          Please correct me, if I am missing/ deviating.

          • Tauseef, I agree with your assessment: “Change management may act alone, [but] the configuration management has to take change management along”.

            Also based on how PMBOK 5.6.1.1 – Control Scope describes Configuration Management Plan, it seems the plan itself defines what specifically *is* configurable (and therefore, in which cases the configuration control is applicable).

            I only happened across this blog because one of my PMP Certification Exam Prep study questions asserted that Configuration Management “does NOT take the place of a Change Management System, but rather works with it”.

  • Hi,
    Please can you tell me what is different between :
    Change management plan & change management system
    Also configuration management plan & configuration management system
    Thank you very much
    Imad

    • Basically you are asking the difference between plan and system.

      Plan is something documented which guides you in your act. System is something that helps you implementing your plan.

      Hope it helps.

  • Can we say: configuration management will include change management but the change management will not include configuration management.

    In other words: If we back to the building school example:
    1- When client change form 10 to 15 classes: We should do configuration management and change management.
    2- When project schedule will delay one week: We should change management.

  • Hi Fahad,

    Does both configuration & change management have to be done through the integrated change control process and also will this directly affect the project management plan ?

  • Hi Fahad
    I read your post about change management and configuration management . I still have some concerned about all this term.
    Configuration management and change management system
    Change management plan and change control system

    Can someone gives me more explanation and difference between these four terms with example it would be nice
    Thanks in advance for you contribution to my understanding

    best regard

  • Hi Shariff,

    Excellent explanation with good example. Thanks. Can you also explain different between change management system and configuration management system.

    • Hi Thathish,

      To my understanding, both configuration and change management systems are component of the organisation project management information system. However, the configuration management system consists of documented procedures employ in identifying, documenting and controlling changes to functional and physical characteristics of a product, service and results, including tracking system and approval level. On the other hand, a change management system defines how project deliverables and documentation is controlled, changed and approved. The latter is usually a subset of the former. See PMBOK Guide page 428-429.

      I hope this clarification helps.

      • hi shariff,
        configuration management system is from pmis but i think and i could be wrong change control is from opa. another question is change management the same as change control. thanks.

  • Fahad,

    Your explanation about the difference between change and configuration management is valid. I would like to add that Configuration Management also includes managing changes to the documentations ( to enable the project team know which version is current) and the organisation tool employed in this effort.

    Regards,

    Shariff

  • But in some questions asked where would you go to find a document, the answer is config management. seems its considered as a document management repository tool also, right ?

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