SCM Best Practices book

Earlier this month I finished Bob Aiello’s Configuration Management Best Practices: Practical Methods that Work in the Real World. It is a sharing of process wisdom by someone who is obviously a seasoned practitioner. Aiello says he has spent some time in the trenches of the Unix and Java platforms and I suspect has learned best practices the hard way. Since I mentioned it, do note that the book is indeed heavily oriented toward Java … .NET-related comments are an obvious after-thought. This shouldn’t be an issue since the book is not a technical deep dive, but the reader should just beware.

The author presents software configuration management in four parts.

  • In the first part, “The Core CM Best Practices Framework”, the author subdivides into six functional areas which he describes in a similar manner. This section is certainly worthwhile and captures the activities, but I was confused by the excessive normalization. Trying to distinguish between build v release v deployment seems to add at least one section too many, regardless of what the official terminology is. (From my experience, I think the entire content of the book is better classified as release management.)
  • The second part on “Architecture and Hardware Configuration Management” was only few short pages and provided little value for me.
  • Part 3 on “The People Side of CM” brought up some interesting ideas on psychology, but the subject just doesn’t work in this book’s theme.
  • In Part 4, the author hit his full stride. It’s an excellent survey on frameworks and compliance in the context of SCM.

I feel like the author has some good experience and a lot of good stuff to say, but he needs a better editor.

  • The abstractions resulted in confusion and repetition, especially in Part 1.
  • While the book was not riddled with typos and grammar mistakes, there were a noticeable few.
  • I am a big fan of legal outline numbering – it works well in SOWs and white papers. Here in this book it only added confusion… at one point, the paragraph numbering was five levels deep!
  • The use of anecdotes produced mixed results. I liked the anecdotes about release mistakes causing chaos in the world economy and with critical life support systems, but they were too short and sketchy to fully illustrate their point. Elsewhere, such as in “Overcoming Resistance to Change”, there seemed to be too many anecdotes with questionable relevancy.
  • In several areas, the author brought up some good ideas but accompanied by only a teaser level of detail, thus leaving them undeveloped.

I recommend “Configuration Management Best Practices”, but with only three “Amazon stars”. I learned from it, but it could have been better.

There is a companion website at Unfortunately, it’s kind of sparse. Frustrating! If you are going to advertise it in your book, put some content in there.