How we improved our productivity 500% for $800

I convinced a client to upgrade the computers we were using for software development. Maybe this article will help you convince your manager to do the same!

Cecil Williams
Cecil Williams

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Old Computers

When I started at the client, we were using standard issued corporate Dell laptops. Specifically, we had Dell Latitude E6520 laptops. According to a review on NotebookCheck.net (2011), these laptops were sold for around $1,700. The specs were as follows:

Operating System Windows 7 Enterprise 64-bit
CPU Intel i5 2.5 GHz
RAM 8 GB
HDD Encrypted 5400 rpm
Video Intel HD 3000 integrated

 Old Performance

The project we were working on was a large java web application consisting of 18 applications that were made up of 53 modules which had over 2,700 classes. This includes both production and test classes. With these laptops we observed fairly poor performance while doing typical software developer tasks:

Task

Duration (seconds)

Start Intellij IDEA

213

Start Eclipse

750

vagrant services up (ubuntu server precise 64)

114

vagrant services provision

952

build local database

216

maven clean install

1450

start Tomcat server in eclipse

680

Clean tomcat work directory in eclipse

780

Open iReport Professional

159

 New Computers

I convinced the management to purchase new computers for a few of us to see what the performance improvement would be. We went with Dell Precision T3600 workstations. According to the Dell website, these workstations cost about $2,500 as configured below.

Operating System Windows 7 Enterprise 64-bit
CPU Intel Xenon E5 3.6 GHz
RAM 32 GB
HDD 512 GB SSD
Video AMD FirePro 2270

New Performance

Using these new workstations we observed a significant performance improvement. The duration of the tasks we do frequently improved on average by over 500%:

Task

Duration (seconds)

% Improvement

Start Intellij IDEA

29

634%

Start Eclipse

49

1431%

vagrant services up (ubuntu server precise 64)

45

153%

vagrant services provision

375

154%

build local database

171

26%

maven clean install

887

63%

start Tomcat server in eclipse

112

507%

Clean tomcat work directory in eclipse

54

1344%

Open iReport Professional

42

279%

Cost-Benefit

The tasks we do now take about 3 minutes on average. If this average duration was 200% slower, it would be about 9 minutes on average. That equates to a time savings of about 6 minutes every time we do one of these tasks.

The cost for this improvement was $2,500 – $1,700 = $800. If you assume a developer has a $75,000 salary, it would take just over 21 hours of time saved to earn back the $800 you invested in the new equipment. Since we have determined we save on average about 6 minutes each time we perform a task, we will save the 21 hours if we do a task 210 times. If we assume we do a task at least 5 times per day then we will save the 21 hours in 42 working days, or just over 8 weeks. So in just over two months you can recover your investment.

This calculation assumes that the existing equipment can be used and therefore the original expense is not a loss. It also assumes that the first $1,700 of the workstation is not considered an expense because you had already spent that amount for equipment before. This calculation shows what the return on investment is for upgrading the equipment beyond the default corporate configuration.

The above calculation does not account for ongoing maintenance costs, but I think it is reasonable to assume that those costs will be offset by the ongoing time savings.

I think most managers would approve an $800 expense knowing that it would provide a 500% improvement that would be payed back in just over 2 months.

References

http://www.notebookcheck.net/Review-Dell-Latitude-E6520-i5-HD-Notebook.52954.0.html

http://configure.us.dell.com/dellstore/config.aspx?oc=cupt3610w7p&model_id=precision-t3610-workstation&c=us&l=en&s=bsd&cs=04