Flying, Eyeing, and Buying
A fundamental of configuration management is a baseline, a
description of a large group of items. Baselines can be powerful tools
to help manage an endeavor.
A few years ago I worked in an
aerospace organization. They had a phrase to describe what they were
doing: Fly'n, Eye'n, Buy'n. Any person, any activity, and any thing in
the organization would fit in one of those three bins. This system of
categorizing seemed silly at first given that this organization
comprised tens of thousands of people across the U.S. and around the
world and spent several billion dollars a year building and maintaining
everything that it did. The little system of apostrophe n's, however,
Whether people knew it or not, and I believe
that the number of people who knew it was minuscule, we were using
baselines to organize the enterprise. (I once wrote a book that
discussed the topic of baselines at length - see [Phillips], a great
Christmas gift ;-) "Eye'n" was the design baseline, the concepts that
we wanted to implement in the future - probably ten years from now.
"Buy'n" was the development baseline, the things that we were building
and buying at the time - building these things took about five years.
"Fly'n" was the operational baseline, the things that we were operating
or flying right now. We would build our future concepts (transition
from design to development) and eventually fly them (transition from
development to operational).
These three baselines - design,
development, and operational - provided a framework into which every
person, every activity, and every physical thing could fit. I worked in
enterprise systems engineering. My activities looked out into the
future, hence the design baseline. The building housing my office was
used everyday, hence the operational baseline. Many of my colleagues
oversaw companies that were building our next vehicles, hence the
development baseline. People could understand these three apostrophe
n's. What is more important, they could place just about anything into
one of the three correctly. The simple concepts enabled the managing of
the enterprise. It actually worked, and that is not bad for a
The concept of baselines that describe
what an organization is doing isn't new. It is a tenet of configuration
management as documented by the IEEE and many other groups (see
[IEEE]). I hope the terms "configuration management" and "IEEE
Standard" don't scare you away. Please keep reading as I think there
are some benefits that these concepts can bring. There are four basic
activities from configuration management that can enable managing
endeavors ranging from 2 to 22,000 people. These are:
Identification - Identify things, put a name on them, and put them in a
place on paper. The system we used - fly'n, eye'n, buy'n - works for
most people. What are your ideas for the future? What are you buying
and building now to be used soon? What are you using now?
Control - Manage the things you have identified. If you have decided
that an idea you have discussed won't work, erase it from your "eye'n"
baseline and record the date, reason, and other information about your
decision. If something you bought has been put into service, move it
from the "buy'n" baseline to the "fly'n" baseline. Change your
documentation to reflect what you have done. The paperwork need not be
(3) Status - Check on things. You ordered something six months ago and it should be in use by now. Is it?
(4) Audit - Compare reality and documentation. Do the two agree? If not, why not? Fix things.
and configuration management don't hurt that much. They can actually
help. All the standards and bureaucratic bingo can be reduced to
something as simple and practical as fly'n, eye'n, and buy'n.
IEEE 828-2005, "Standard for Software Configuration Management Plans,"
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, 12-Aug-2005.
"The Software Project Manager's Handbook, second edition," Dwayne
Phillips, July 2004, Wiley-IEEE Computer Society Press, ISBN:
Dwayne's home page.