I am looking at configuration management and the idea of form, fit and function change can determine whether a change is minor or major. I wondered how this definition could be applied when doing software development.

Is there a good guideline on whether a change to software is classed as a major or a minor change?

  • 1
    The definition of "major" and "minor" is subject to opinion and is likely to vary widely between organizations. My own guideline would be based on impact to the organization. A one line GUI change might really freak out the data entry people, but a 3 month optimization effort might pass under the radar. Commented Jul 22, 2013 at 11:47

2 Answers 2


It depends on the type of software.

For something like a library, a major change is one that does not guarantee backwards compatibility with previous major versions of the library.

For something like desktop software, a major change may simply coincide with a purchasable and/or yearly upgrade.

For something like embedded software, a major change might coincide with a form, fit, or function change to the system or product.

  • I think what I am learning is that the definition of a major/minor change in software might be a bit hard to pin down from this definition. I like the library example.
    – Firedragon
    Commented Jul 23, 2013 at 5:58

It depends on the organization, but often the best way to classify a change is from the user's perspective. Does it appear to be a major or minor change, from their perspective?

  • Sometimes a major change is very minor from the user's point of view, but is major in terms of how the system is put together behind the scenes or how it achieves the functionality. For instance, changing to use dependency injection from a big ball of mud, or changing a search from linear to binary or normalising the database tables. (Btw, I not the one who downvoted you) Commented Jul 22, 2013 at 23:47
  • @DominicMcDonnell I agree the chage you mention is major but then for the system if it acts the same then as a system the change could be seen as minor. But perhaps I am just looking at fit, form and function definitions too much from an external viewpoint rather than the internal workings
    – Firedragon
    Commented Jul 23, 2013 at 6:07

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