Visual Configuration Management

Written By:
Content Copyright © 2009 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.
Also posted on: The Norfolk Punt

I have to admit that I think that configuration management is a universal “good thing”—unless you know what you have, where it is running, how it is configured and who is allowed to use it, you can hardly be said to be in control of anything. But, that’s a lot more than simple software configuration management (SCM), so I always like to see software configuration management tools extending their scope.

Perforce is often good as an example for this, as it is used to manage visual assets in computer gaming as well as code. Now release 2009.1 of Perforce’s SCM tool lets web developers and artists preview visual changes to web, video, and audio content using Perforce’s Visual Client. I like this—what do you think of this screenshot:

Screenshot of Perforce

And this isn’t just a short-term marketing featurette, designed to look good in a press release, as Dave Robertson, VP, International at Perforce Software, sees it as another step in the journey towards “bringing the full power of configuration management to everyone”. I wonder if it’s a feature in any other SCM tool? I’m a little surprised, I suppose, that it wasn’t always available, although it would be rather pointless in a hardcore coding context, I admit (and I’m sure Perforce still has customers who regard the Visual Client as a bit cissy).

One more step on this journey to ubiquitous CM is the rich menu customisation available to Perforce administrators with this release. I can believe that “everyone” could find Perforce useful, but I very much doubt whether “everyone” would like—or use—the same UI. Now they don’t have to—Perforce talks about catering for the needs of artists, developers, testers and administrators and offering “the appropriate level of features and functions to each discipline or department throughout the enterprise”.

I wonder if that applies to the CEO’s secretary? When s/he uses configuration management to keep track of the contents of the CEO’s overnight case, configuration management will have really arrived…

Don’t hold your breath! I don’t believe that configuration management gets very much attention at all in the world surrounding the CEO. Which isn’t a good thing for IT governance generally, as this depends, in part, on good configuration management. It is also slightly odd, as failures in configuration management can easily result in the sort of incidents that even the CEO will notice…

Finally, remember that this post isn’t really about Perforce specifically, although it’s an SCM tool I know a bit about and like. It’s really about almost anything that’s important being under configuration management—which means that appropriate visualisation of the asset being managed is important, together with the availabilty of a customised UI for each different kind of stakeholder/user. Configuration management is too important to be left to programmers alone.