Can a Document Be a Configuration Item (CI)?

By Steve Easterbrook, CMPIC LLC

Everyone uses the term Configuration Item (CI). It shows up in virtually every CM standard, guidance document, and CM book that ever existed.

The term was first coined by the US Department of Defense and was part of DoD CM standards. It is now in commercial standards as well.

But "CI" has various meanings depending on who is defining / interpreting it.

I keep on encountering numerous CM professionals who believe a “document” can be a “CI”. I say a document does not meet the definition of CI and after they are shown the definitions people still argue with me.

So, please read the definitions and tell me your opinion.


“CI - An aggregation of hardware, firmware, software, or any of its discrete portions, which satisfies an end use function and is designated for configuration management. CIs may vary widely in complexity, size and type, from an aircraft, ship or electronic system to a test meter or round of ammunition. During development, and manufacture of the initial (prototype) production configuration, CIs are those items whose performance parameters and physical characteristics must be separately defined (specified) and controlled to provide management insight needed to achieve overall end use function and performance. Any item required for logistic support and is designated for separate procurement is a CI.”

Canceled MIL-STD-973
"A configuration item is an aggregation of hardware or software that satisfies an end use function and is designated by the Government for separate configuration management."

Active MIL-HDBK-61 - “Configuration Item is any hardware, software, or combination of both that satisfies an end use function and is designated for separate configuration management.”

Active ISO 10007
“configuration item - an entity within a configuration that satisfies an end use function… Configuration items should be identified using established selection criteria. Configuration items should be selected whose functional and physical characteristics can be managed separately to achieve the overall end-use performance of the item.”

Active SAE International EIA-649B
"A Configuration Item (CI) is a product, or major component in the product structure of a complex product, that provides functions of importance to the end product. The CI designation is a convenient way to refer to items that have separate requirements specifications, may be separately developed, and are an item to which the effectivity of changes to its components is addressed. Configuration items receive special CM attention: they are usually serialized and are often the subject of design reviews and configuration audits."

The Bottom Line:

“CI” is a DoD generated term that was intended for DoD/Contractor programs.

“CIs” were selected prior to development for project/program management purposes. A CI would have its own baselines, its own FCA/PCA, its own change boards, its own status accounting reports, its own structure, its own program reviews, etc. A CI was also any item required for logistic support and is designated for separate procurement.

For those who think a released document is a “CI”, per the above definitions, documents cannot be CIs and were never intended to be.

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