Making a case for a purchase to management

An issue I've come across many times now is how to properly present a purchase request to your manager/his boss. There are occasional managers who will just take your word for it, but some (hopefully most) will question the need for it. As a technical person, I find it really easy to get caught up in what something can do rather than why we need it in the first place.

Case in point.

An upgrade was required for some KVM servers - more RAM required - and I put through the request for purchase to my superior. He sent it over to the director, who immediately shot back an email requiring a really nice reason to approve it. After some futzing about via email (I was out of the office that day), it became clear that he was fine approving it, but we needed to make the case as to WHY he should approve it. Frankly we needed to prove it to ourselves first, but he was technically-competent and was not just going to stamp everything 'a-ok'.

There was a clear reason to me and my co-workers why the RAM upgrade was needed - existing VMs were using 10GB, and only the primary KVM host had enough RAM to run them. If it needed to fail over to the secondary KVM host, bad news bears. If we needed to use the backup host, bad news bears. So two servers needed upgrading from 4GB to 16GB.

Wait, you say - 16GB? I thought you said 10GB.

*Blank stares from us.*

A nice stereotype we've set up for ourselves, eh?

What we should have said was:
  1. CentOS requires 1GB overhead.
  2. VM1/2 require 3GB each, thus 6GB.
  3. VM3 requires 1GB.
  4. VM4 requires 2GB.
Total of 10GB just to function at present levels. Now, to be prudent, we should never run at more than 80% capacity - this means we need a minimum of 12GB (note these are all 2GB sticks). Furthermore, to allow for future expansion, we should set ourselves up at 60% capacity, thus 16GB total.

Can you make a case for future expansion?

Yessir, we want to virtualize Physical1 and Physical2 in the near future, each requiring 1GB, bringing the total up to 12GB to function, 14GB as a minimum, and 16GB is a nice medium in-between.

Instead of spending a morning emailing back and forth, one tidily summarized email of the above could have resulted in a single 'approved' email, and less wasted time all around. I will strive to put this method into practice.

As a side note, the more money you want, the more research/proof you need. This was a relatively inexpensive venture, so one proper email would have sufficed. If we're talking a SAN expansion...better make sure you have your ducks in a row and every reason accounted for.

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