Selecting a Software Configuration Management Tool
Deciding on a vendor for your CM tool can be fun or gut wrenching. The decision you make will affect how you control files, interact with other tools, and will touch every aspect of you daily work. Before selecting a tool, you should ask your vendor, the groups using the tools, and yourself the following six questions.
What are we trying to accomplish?
This should be obvious, but different groups within your organization, group, or team may have entirely different ideas as to what is needed. You can also use the five-step vendor selection process found on about.com, which recommends assembling an evaluation team; defining the product, the requirements (internal), and vendor requirements; and publishing the requirements for approval.
Do we go with a COTS tool or freeware?
This depends on the needs of the groups involved. To further complicate matters, you also have the choice of in-house or SaaS offerings.
Is there a document somewhere that can help me in this process?
Actually there is a document that I found on the web that will do exactly this. SCMI takes a deep dive into the CM tool-selection process and guides you through the process in this document.
Should we mix and match vendor tools?
Vendors often say their tools integrate seamlessly with other tools, but be careful with what vendors mean by “integrate.” Integration should mean you can operate and perform actions in one tool and never have to open the other, at minimum. Joe Farah has an excellent article on neuma.com in which he looks at tool integration and toolkits, and delves into the history and recent advances of tool integration.
Can we trust our salesperson?
I would like to think everyone can be trusted—no matter what. However, remember one thing when dealing with salespeople: Their job is to sell you a product.
Do we need a proof of concept?
Absolutely! Do not buy a tool unless you have the vendor prove that their tool will work in your environment. If they are not willing to install on your site or cannot otherwise prove it works with your hardware, end all talks and discussions. On evancarmichael.com there is an excellent article on proofs of concepts from a vendor perspective; you can simply use this as a guide from a reverse perspective.
This list of questions is not exhaustive by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a start to a process that can seem overwhelming at times and even downright painful.
The question you will ultimately have to answer is this: Did you make the right decision?