Sorry if I'm asking in the wrong community.

In our company we have a "tradition" to not to pay for licenses for development integrated development environments (IDEs). The business team's arguments are:

  1. We don't want to pay extra money.
  2. There are free IDEs - use them.

The issue is that some of developers are using JetBrains IDEs like PHPStorm and Idea and don't wish to migrate to other tools. Intuitively we understand why those IDEs are better and why using them we will improve our productivity. But business team doesn't want to hear about that as it is in abstract terms for them.

What arguments, links and examples we can use to convince them that buying IDEs is not a money waste procedure?

PS: It is a Japanese company with some Japanese management specifics.

  • 1
    Is the business team using a paid-for office suite (like MS Office), or do they use a free office suite as well? If they are willing to pay money for their office suite because the alternatives are not deemed good enough by them, then they should give the same courtesy to the dev team. Jan 9, 2019 at 12:44
  • 1
    I guess your company also has a "tradition" of either failing to keep or not being able to hire good developers?
    – nvoigt
    Jan 14, 2019 at 6:31

3 Answers 3



Regardless of your role, this is a project management site. I will therefore answer from the project management viewpoint, rather than the (perhaps expected) engineering perspective.

Your role as a project manager isn't to justify anything. Your obligation is to raise issues that impact scope, budget, time, or quality in a way that senior management can leverage to make data-driven business decisions.

Use real data relevant to your project to make a business case. Then senior management must live with the results of their business decisions, whether positive or negative.

Establishing a Business Case

The issue is that some of developers are using JetBrains IDEs like PHPStorm and Idea and don't wish to migrate to other tools. Intuitively we understand why those IDEs are better and why using them we will improve our productivity. [emphasis added]

"I don't feel like it" is not a valid business reason for anything. In order to make the case for a budget expenditure, you need to define the need (and the value proposition) in business terms. If you can't do that, then you don't actually need whatever it is.

Whether or not IDEs improve productivity is arguable. As a highly technical executive, I might decide that I'd rather spend my limited project budget on people rather than licenses. I might choose to hire programmers who are comfortable developing on the command line rather than ones who need an IDE to be productive. On the other hand, if I already have a team of developers who are reliant on an IDE to be productive, I might view licensing costs as justified to meet my timelines or quality objectives given the labor force I already have.

In any case, the project team first needs to determine if what they have is a need or a want. Once that's done, any request for a budget appropriation needs to be cast into business terms such as cost/benefit, return on investment (ROI), licensing vs. labor costs, or budget vs. schedule. Metrics and justifications that apply to your project team, rather than to other random people on other projects, will also help.

Establish a Baseline

Since a project must either adjust scope, budget, or schedule, work with the team's current level of productivity (whether you have IDEs or not) to baseline your project. You can't base a project's schedule on people or tools you don't have; you must base it on what resources you can actually apply to the project.

If the team's velocity is insufficient to meet management targets, then you can't simply "beat the staff until morale improves." Management must either hire different people who can work within whatever limitations they set, remove the impediments (e.g. by changing the process, schedule, or toolchain), or accept any demonstrable drag on productivity.

By baselining in this way, you are also providing a starting point to validate (or disprove) any ROI metrics post-facto. Without a measurement of your current levels of productivity, it will be very hard to demonstrate any deltas from a change in process or tooling. It will even be difficult to establish a use case, since without a baseline you can't actually quantify any potential benefit to a project control or resource.

In short, measure what you've got. Then use that to build a quantifiable business case or adjust your project schedule.


I think that there are many reasons why you should buy the license such as an increase in productivity, it makes your job more enjoyable, it is just the right thing to do!

However, most "business people" are interested in money, so, I can suggest you to try to "speak their language". Perhaps you can put together a case of how much time you are saving and make an estimation of how much that is in $$ vs the license fee. Not to mention that this seems like a "basic" requirement for employees to do their job efficiently and not doing so, might make them want to search for other job options, which in turn will make you search for other employees.


First, there is no management theory, Japanese or otherwise, that suggests that you should not give people the tools they need to do their job. And this leads to the real problem with your situation.

Yes, you can make a financial argument for the use of IDE's. For the whole JetBrains pack, it would have to save you around 15 - 20 hours per year depending on what your salary is for it to pay for itself, which any developer can tell you a good IDE absolutely will.

However, this assumes that they are making their decisions based on a strict ROI scale, which I would not assume given the situation you present because if it were the case, it seems like this question would have been resolved long ago. You could inquire as to how these decisions are made to see if there is some other criteria to work within, but I suspect they are simply operating out of a perspective of loss-aversion, which leaves you stuck.

There are a lot of possible reasons for this. It may be pervasive through the whole company or it may simply be that they don't see value in software development and so they look at it as a cost center to be minimized, not a value center to be capitalized on. Either way, you are fixing a broad company dysfunction, not simply getting an IDE.

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