Challenges for estimators are nothing new, but it’s interesting to look at the main challenges facing today’s estimators and the ways in which software can help to address them. Technology can be a great enabler when it addresses the practical issues its users face in the real world.

1. Inadequate timescales

The fast pace of modern construction projects means that time is at a premium and there is ever more pressure on estimators to produce estimates faster, thereby increasing the risk of expensive inaccuracies. Consequently, time-saving features in an estimating system are incredibly useful.

For instance, a lot of time can be saved if an estimator is able to go quickly to a previous estimate to find similar items to those that are currently being pricing. Advanced search features make the whole process much quicker, giving the user the ability to find not just priced items but also resources that have been used previously. With the added ability to be able to set the search criteria, the user then has then got the pricing trends at their fingertips, making estimating more accurate and reducing risk.

2. Risks in the estimate

Sub-contractor prices are used for large parts of most estimates and these prices usually come with some form of caveat or qualification from the sub-contractors. Being able to enter these as separate line items enables comparisons to be carried out not just on the priced items but also on these additional items. It also gives much more informative data to the user, enabling risks to be quantified and reduced.

Obviously such facilities present a challenge for reporting, so a useful feature to look out for in estimating software is a direct-to-Excel report that expands to suit the data entered.

3. Collaboration problems

Lack of time is usually cited by most estimators as their biggest concern when producing estimators as this can lead to rushing the completion of tenders, thereby increasing the risk of mistakes being made. The ability to be able to have more than one estimator working on an estimate, at the same time and without having to physically split the estimate, is therefore extremely important.

4. Electronic Bill of Quantity files

Of course, it’s also important to be able to share information easily with those outside the estimating team. A common example is the need to import an Excel-based BoQ directly into the estimating software without the need to convert it to another format first. It’s even more useful if you can use text formatting in the Excel file to automatically assign item types to the data, as this all saves time.

5. Standardised approach

A recent survey of construction estimating software by ERP analyst Derek Singleton revealed that standardisation is a significant problem facing estimators today. So it is vital that your estimating software supports a standardised approach that incorporates built-in safety features for missed or unpriced items. Standardisation underpins the consistency and accuracy of estimates, regardless of project size, thereby mitigating exposure to risk while minimising requirements for re-engineering. A true multi–user system simplifies and streamlines the standardisation of estimating data, presenting a corporate approach to the estimating process.

In order to be a fully functional estimator’s tool, estimating software needs to incorporate the features and functionality to address all of the challenges described above, as well as the many other challenges estimators face on a day-to-day basis. This was the underlying philosophy that has resulted in the latest generation of Causeway Estimating software – Causeway Estimating 2014.

If you would like to respond to the views expressed here, you can post your comments below.

Ron Gray - Causeway Solutions Manager

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View our Causeway Estimating 2014 videos.

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