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What is Configuration Management?

When preparing a proposal involves creating a lot of files and there are more than a few contributors, you need a set of procedures to keep them from getting mixed up, messed up, deleted, replaced, or otherwise scrambled. The closer you get to the deadline, the worse the problem becomes. So what do you do about it?

I think a lot depends on how tightly you want to control the source files and what you want to impose on the contributors. You can emulate a software source code controls systems (you can even use the same software) and achieve extremely tight control. But I don't know anyone who actually does this, and most users would rebel. Most folks are happy if they can maintain a file naming convention and keep track of the most recent version. Using proposal software makes both of these easier.

You need to figure out what your needs are before you can decide what procedures to implement. A good place to start is to list the problems you are trying to solve, preferably in priority order. This may include things like:

  • Make sure everyone knows which file(s) are the current version
  • Either prevent it (preferably) or be able to fix it when someone changes to the wrong version of a file.
  • Prevent unauthorized access
  • Prevent someone from making a “bad” change
  • Be able to roll back changes
  • Recover from a file corruption or hardware problem
Once you do that it will be easier to work your way through the choices you have to make. Some of the choices you face when deciding what to include in your proposal configuration management system include:
  • Manual, automated, or semi-automated?
  • Force compliance or trust your contributors?
  • Assign a gatekeeper to the files and have all submissions go through them to ensure that naming conventions and version control is maintained?
  • Keep a change log (one for files and a separate one for graphics)?
  • Start configuration management at the beginning, first draft, or final production?
  • Use software/network access control to lock authors out of making changes at certain key points?
  • Create separate folders for major milestones?
  • Focus on version control or change control?
  • Add approval layers for changes?
  • Allow email file attachments?
  • What level of security is sufficient?
  • What level of backup and speed of restoration is sufficient?
This is a bit like a wish list where you know that you are not going to get everything you want. On some proposals, some of these problems aren't worth solving. And some "features" aren't worth the cost.

It usually comes down to freedom/productivity/resources vs. security/stability/risk mitigation. When you gain something on one side of the equation you lose something on the other. Just as in Homeland Security, there is no such thing as totally safe, and if there was you wouldn't like it. So where do you want to tolerate some risk?


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After you've read the article, let's discuss it!
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By Carl Dickson, Founder of

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