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7 Features You Should Be Looking for In an Estimating Software

Construction estimating software

Change is hard. It’s especially hard when you’re an estimator, and you have bids piling up and deadlines looming. The thought of making a major change like switching to an estimating software package is enough to keep you up at night.

But there’s no denying that using outdated, fragmented estimating systems that require a lot of hands-on work and a fair amount of massaging isn’t ideal.

You know that the right construction estimating software would make things quicker, easier, and more accurate. But it’s a catch 22 trying to find the time to find the right one among all the wrong ones. We sure couldn’t. Which was why we made one.

Here is a list of seven must-haves that we think to make the switch to a civil estimating package worth the time and effort.

1. Accuracy

Accuracy is always right at the top of the list, isn’t it? As it should be!

accurate estimating in construction

Many people and companies use custom spreadsheets to build their estimates, and often, they work great. But then, the person who created them leaves the company, and there are critical formulas that need to be updated in Visual Basic. Except it’s been password-protected, and no one knows the password.

So, you’re forced to make manual changes every time you complete an estimate. Which is not ideal for accuracy when the bids are piling up and you’re desperate to just stay on top of it all. We tend to get so used to our spreadsheets working that we get lulled into a false sense of security too. This means accidental edits or deleted dependent cells can go unnoticed for quite some time.

You need to know that the estimating package you choose allows you to model your costs exactly how you would build on site. But you also need to be sure that you can easily make the changes you want, and only the ones you want.

When you’re not dealing with a delicate spreadsheet that all depends on a few critical cells and the skill of the creator, it’s a lot easier to trust that the results are consistently correct.

2. Cloud-Based Estimating 

Remember the bad old days when you had to run things on a WAMP server, or create a VPN so that everyone could access your software or spreadsheets? Or when you had to try to keep track of every different version that was sent by email? 

Maybe you’ve experienced the frustration of working on shared sheets, only to find that you were making changes at the same time as someone else, and things got snarled up.

Modern teams aren’t all in one place. We’re not even in the same time zones some of the time. A cloud-based solution is not a luxury. It’s a necessity.

3. Multi-user Enabled

The cloud is great, and it can make it easy for scattered teams to work together to get bids and quotes out on time, as accurately as possible. But just being able to access the same file doesn’t make a great cloud solution.

When you’re choosing an estimating software solution, look for a platform that is multi-user enabled, and that has granular permissions. That way, you can control who can view, edit, and delete, so you never have to worry about losing critical data along the way.

4. Easy to Update

Have you ever noticed that major changes and addendums to bid documents always come right after you thought you were finished and ready to submit a price? Or your client decides they’d like an alternative, just for comparison purposes.

The best estimating software solutions allow you to have multiple versions of your estimates, make changes, track their impact, and offer alternatives, extras, and savings, without having to reinvent the wheel.

5. Always Learning

After you’ve been in the estimating business for a while, you’ve probably got a library of rates and prices. They’ve been tweaked, adjusted, and revised based on the difference between your assumptions and actual production. They’re as close to perfect as you can get in a business like construction, and you know you can just make a few changes to get your rates right.

Great construction estimating software solutions allow you to keep this workflow, they allow you to model your cost libraries exactly how you need them to be. They allow you to keep learning and to always have the ability to add another assembly or task, so you can access historical data you can trust when you need it.

6. Easy to Implement

Let’s be honest. The biggest reason you haven’t switched to a proper estimating software system yet is that you can’t spare weeks or months to get it all set up. There are rates to set, prices to import, staff to train, and tricks to learn.

This is why, when you do take the plunge, you need to find an estimating system that comes with setup support and training, customization when you need it, and the option to import your existing data. There will always be a little bit of learning to be done, but if you can hit the ground running with an intuitive package, it won’t derail bidding season.

7. Integrations and Life Cycle Management

If estimating were an island, we’d all be less stressed. But even though it’s a specialized part of the process, it’s still just a cog in a much larger wheel.

One of the biggest challenges for most estimators is transferring data accurately to the field, to project managers, to operations, and to accounting and management. Great estimating software platforms allow you to export, share and integrate data. They have manual export options, integration with industry-leading applications, and API access to build custom relationships. So you can give everyone access to exactly what they need, exactly how they need it.

Trimble Quest is all these things, and more. It’s an estimating package that was designed, engineered, and developed by estimators, for estimators. We’ve all been right where you are, stuck between a bid deadline and the need to modernize your processes, and this is the software we built to do it.

So, if you’re ready to retire the spreadsheets and see what real estimating technology can do, contact our team for a product demo, a free trial or just to ask questions. We’re always happy to help.