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How do I request new equipment for the office?

My boss strongly feels that if we keep the machines clean which to him means: not installing any unnecessary programs and formatting the computer routinely, there is no need to purchase a new machine at least until it has been used for ten years.

I tried to tell him that slow machines really hinder productivity and software gets heavier over time, but he would reiterate his argument.

What is a good way to convince my boss to buy us a new machine?

  • 12
    Instead of shopping for new machines, I think you need to shop for a new boss. This guy is cutting corners everywhere.
    – DA.
    Commented Feb 5, 2013 at 8:04
  • 5
    @pap: make the point that a new high-end developer workstation might be a considerable investment, but a new developer will be a really considerable investment. Commented Feb 5, 2013 at 10:06
  • 1
    @pap any person starting a software business and not taking into account basic supplies such as hardware isn't someone I'd want running a business.
    – DA.
    Commented Feb 5, 2013 at 16:34
  • 2
    Voting to re-open. How to justify investments in tools differs between small/start-up companies and large ones are different cases and I think the "small business" aspect makes this a valid question.
    – pap
    Commented Feb 6, 2013 at 7:47
  • 1
    I am also voting to reopen this one as I feel the question and answers on the linked question focus primarily on office furniture, while this one specifically focuses on computers. Also, I like the accepted answer to this one :)
    – Rachel
    Commented Feb 27, 2014 at 17:59

4 Answers 4


Everything is about Money. So you need to show that the machines will pay for themselves better then what you currently have.

One way to do this is to determine the average spent per employee on their machine compiling code, AND other functions which take time.

Do it for a week or two (or a month), get a report from each engineer of the amount of time involved. Then work that amount of time out for the year and equate it to lost productivity.

Example: Let's say each engineer compiles their code 10 times a day. So you have lost 20-30 minutes per engineer a day. Let's pick the average and say 25 minutes per engineer.

That works out to 4.5 days a year per engineer is lost productivity. For 6 engineers that is 27 days of productivity lost.

  • 5
    +1, good answer. Like any investment, you need to present a real ROI estimation. What does it cost you to use (and maintain!) these old machines versus how much would it cost to buy new ones. And don't forget to include all costs associated. If you need to, for instance, reformat, reinstall and set up the dev environment on your machines every month, then you need to include the time spent on that.
    – pap
    Commented Feb 5, 2013 at 9:00
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    It's not that simple. There are generally different budgets for capital expenditure and operating expenditure and it's often easier to lose money in the latter than the former.
    – pdr
    Commented Feb 5, 2013 at 11:47
  • @pdr excellent point. Commented Feb 5, 2013 at 12:19
  • @pdr It's a 6-person company. While amortized vs direct costs will have some impact on tax-liability, I doubt their budgeting and bookkeeping is complex enough that you can "lose" stuff in one or the other. Plus, at that size cash-flow tend to be more important than quarterly EBIT. You're thinking "large company" style.
    – pap
    Commented Feb 5, 2013 at 12:26
  • It is not always that easy, your boss can retort that you can do something while compiling like answering to mail, reviewing some documentation, etc. Although it is extremely inefficient every 10 minutes, it is doable.
    – Xavier T.
    Commented Feb 5, 2013 at 12:27

Wow, I thought I was crazy sticking with a 2005 PC..

In addition to the fine answer by Simon, I would like to add my own points.

With such an old machine, Repair costs are likely to be much higher, especially compared to repair under warranty. You have not given any specifics, but if you have situations or data regarding this, you can use that to further your case.

Newer Machines and LCD monitors might consume lower power, low enough to be significant over 3-5 years.

Additionally, when presenting your case, take a mid-range machine as the ideal case, a high-end one might be going into diminishing returns area for a small company.

  • 3
    Good points. I'd also add that if you are showing a mid-range machine, to show a top end machine (which he won't buy) so as to make the mid-range look more economical. I got that trick from Dan Ariely. danariely.com Commented Feb 5, 2013 at 11:05

Be careful how you try to present any ROI argument. There are a lot of purchases that could be made to help the bottom line over time, but are no good right now if your company doesn't have the cash or if venture capital is restricted. You may be able to prevent wasting a certain amount of time per day/per programmer, but there are other factors:

  1. Does your boss expect you to just work longer hours without extra pay because you're on salary?
  2. You boss thinks each programmer already has several minutes of unproductive time, so you might as well be compiling at the same time.
  3. Your company can't find any more billable hours or additional work to justify the time savings. More productive hours may not directly create revenue.
  4. Projects are not behind, so why bother saving the extra time? (Would be hard to believe.).

Part of me thinks you're arguing with an idiot or someone who has been beaten up too often and has developed penny wise and pound foolish thinking. I don't agree with the arguments I presented nor do I know if your boss thinks this way.

The slow computers are probably another symptom about the problems with working for this company. Your boss is giving the impression he just doesn't care to try and make employees happy. It's not all about money. There are other 'perks' he could offer that don't require as much company cash (e.g. flex-time, telecommute, free muffins on Tuesday, allow you to try and find other solutions/buy just one machine for compiling.).


In all likelihood, you can't. Sorry, there it is.

The problem is departmentalization: beancounter 1 is responsible for office arrangement, beancounter 2 for machines, beancounter 3 for programmer's productivity and project.

BC 1 and 2 do not care the least bit about BC 3's interests.

Read good discussion how noise and open space ruin team productivity in Peopleware (deMarco) IIRC and McConnell's books. Both are top of the line experts on sw development processes, not to mention other people like Paul Graham, all oppose noisy environments like open space and then... nothing happens. It all stays the same. The problem is that assessing programmer productivity is loaded with lots of difficulties or risks, while beancounting on $100 on hard drive or office arrangement is easy, so beancounters go with the latter option. Remember: people do not go for profitable options, but for EASY ones!

I'm typing this on laptop with mechanical drive even though this kills productivity given our sw dev environment. Trying to phrase this in economics of entire company falls on deaf ears.


OK scratch the 3 beancounters, roll them all into 1, namely the boss in question. That still does not change the basic problem I described: assessing impact of old machines on programmer productivity is hard, bc assessing productivity of programmers as such is hard. The losses in employee time given the old machines in all likelihood are much bigger than the cost of the new equipment. But evaluating the cost of the former is easy vs evaluating the latter is hard, so your boss does the former.

All you could do I think is simple calculation like:

compilation done n times on average each day * number of employees doing compilation * employee wage per compilation instance time = $X.

If you tried to put this in numerical terms, maybe it will work - but even then I think it won't, as such people typically have vain hope that it will work well enough as it is and that those other losses are not real since evaluating those losses is debatable and hard.

That's your best chance although I'm afraid the boss response will be "don't make programming errors and reduce the number of compilations!".

  • 2
    Question says "(6 employees)" and you think there are three beancounters?
    – AakashM
    Commented Feb 5, 2013 at 13:04
  • 1
    @AakashM: indeed. The issue here is surely not departmentalization of bean counters, but the fact that the guy counting the beans sees them as his beans. Small company, I'm assuming the boss is the owner, any new computer purchase is going to feel like him buying a new computer for you. Not like the company making a necessary business purchase to improve productivity. Commented Feb 5, 2013 at 21:57

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