From our recent focus group research, the top 5 challenges for estimators have been identified as follows:

  • Inadequate timescales
  • Risks in the estimate
  • Collaboration problems
  • Electronic Bill of Quantity files
  • The need for a standardised approach

In considering these challenges we can see how an estimating system can help to meet them.

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 estimates 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 (BoQ) 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.

Summary

Winning more profitable work requires effective bid management and the increasing use of integrated tendering operations. With the need to meet quality and compliance standards demanding greater bid competence, a structured approach is essential as is a willingness to review processes beyond the individual tasks.

The good news is that Causeway Estimating is designed to improve bid management, reduce the cost of bid production, minimise risk, support supply chain collaboration and streamline core processes.

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