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Friday, December 11, 2009

TRAC: C1.8: Change management

C1.8 Repository has a documented change management process that identifies changes to critical processes that potentially affect the repository’s ability to comply with its mandatory responsibilities.

Examples of this would include changes in processes in data management, access, archival storage, ingest, and security. The really important thing is to be able to know what changes were made and when they were made. Traceability makes it possible to understand what was affected by particular changes to the systems.

Evidence: Documentation of change management process; comparison of logs of actual system changes to processes versus associated analyses of their impact and criticality.

Establishing and following a change management process is a lot like stretching before working out. We know we should do it, we feel better when we do, but, wow, is it ever hard to make a point to do it.

I've used a change management process in the past. At ANS Communications we would only make major configuration changes to the network on certain days and at certain times, and we would drive the changes from a central database. This was particularly important when we made a long and very painful transition away from the NSFnet-era equipment that had formed our backbone network to new equipment from a company known as Bay Networks.

At ICPSR I think we could use something fairly straight-forward. There are only a handful of critical software systems, and they don't change that often. We already track software-level changes in CVS, and we already announce feature-level changes to the designated community (e.g., ICPSR staff for internal systems), and so we might pull it all together by linking the announcements with the code changes in JIRA. I could also imagine a thread on our Intranet (which is Drupal-based) which could form a central summary of changes: what, when, how, and links to more details.

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