Configuration management is part of a systems engineering process where the engineer makes a product perform consistently throughout its life cycle. Configuration management ensures that systems perform as intended. Military and civil engineers use configuration management to manage complex systems, such as those for weapons, roads, bridges and vehicles. Complex machines, such as airplanes and boats, depend on configuration management to ensure that all of their systems work together.
The United States Department of Defense created configuration management in the 1950s, and the Department of Defense made configuration management its own technical discipline in the 1960s with the release of the 480 Series of military standards. Configuration management concepts in the 480 Series included systems engineering, product life cycle management and application life cycle management, among others.
Configuration management for both hardware and software includes five distinct disciplines. Planning and Management is a formal document used to guide the development process that may discuss personnel, training requirements, audits and reviews, among other topics. Identification is the process of setting baselines, and Control is the evaluation of any proposed changes, along with the approval or disapproval of those changes. Status Accounting is recording any departures from established baselines. The final phase is Verification and Audit, where an outside person evaluates the hardware's or software's compliance with performance requirements.