Estimating Software Implementation – What's the "Best" Way?

September 6, 2017 John Duggan

Throughout my years working with estimating software clients, I have been exposed to numerous approaches and mindsets when it comes to estimating projects. Some clients are very exacting and detail oriented – some might say obsessively so. Others are much more fluid and loose – some might argue to the point of recklessness. Most clients fit somewhere in between these two extremes.

Despite the differences in approach, the majority of clients are successful. They are making money and growing their business. Through these observations, I have come to appreciate that there is no single approach to estimating. As outside observers we might believe that a more productive approach is possible, however, it is difficult to argue with success.

Over the past several months, I have had the opportunity to work with a number of clients who are in the process of implementing the Trimble Accubid Enterprise platform within their companies. Through these implementations, it has become clear that, as with the art of estimating itself, there is no single approach, no single “best” way to implement a new estimating platform. However, we have been able to identify some basic principles that contribute to a successful implementation.

6 Principles for Successful Estimating Software Implementation

1. Management Buy-in

A key factor in a successful implementation is the support of top-level management. Management needs to see real value in the system and fully support the implementation process. Implementing a new software platform requires a monetary and time commitment; take the time to educate management on progress and the value that a proper implementation can provide.

2. Proper Planning and Preparation 

In any software implementation, there will be effort required preparing your system for day-to-day use; and no matter what software you select, there will be a learning curve. Plan the implementation like you would a construction bid and contract. You need to assign the right personnel to enable success and to ensure the process has the proper guidance.

3. Have an “Application Guru” 

This person will be the driver who manages many of the tasks associated with the implementation. Most contractors, no matter which estimating software they are using, typically have one of these individuals. This is the person that everyone seems to go to when they want to know, “how do I get the system to do this or that?” 

The application guru can be a single individual or may be a team of two or three people working in tandem, but one of them will need to be the point person who understands the nuts and bolts of both the software itself and the planned implementation process. He or she should have a thorough understanding of how your company approaches the estimating process, and what items and assemblies are needed to ensure maximum productivity.

For example, within the Trimble Accubid Enterprise system the out-of-the-box assemblies, specifications, takeoff pads, and other elements of the system have been structured to produce results very much like the Trimble Accubid Classic application did out-of-the box. If you are a Trimble Accubid Classic user and have made significant modifications to your database, your guru needs to be able to assess the best approach to massage the system to be effective within your company and your style of estimating. Some of it is straightforward but other aspects become a series of experiments – looking for the balance between flexibility, speed, ease of use, and the level of detail that fit your needs.

3. Know Your Needs 

The size of your company will also play a key factor in dictating your implementation requirements. If your company has one or two estimators the implementation process has the opportunity to move more freely. An estimator may be able to go through training, return to the office, complete some test estimates, analyze the results against the original estimates, and then jump right in. They will have the flexibility of tweaking and adjusting what they need on the fly.

For larger organizations with a number of estimators and project managers, the guru needs to properly prepare the system to suit your needs and must be given the time and resources for a successful implementation. A crucial part of the guru’s work is to minimize the stumbling blocks that the day-to-day users may encounter. Standards may need to be developed to ensure that all users are using the system as designed.

6. Get Trained at the Right Time 

The single, biggest misstep we see is that the day-to-day users are trained before the system is ready to go. Once trained, the users are eager to take their new knowledge back to the office and begin using the system. However, if the system is not fully implemented, this can lead to a situation where items you use daily may be missing, assemblies might not work as expected, cost codes may not be entered, or pricing is not up to date. This can lead users to become frustrated and slow the adoption of the software. This can lead to a group of users that aren’t productive and lack confidence in the system. Additionally, if they weren’t keen on the software change in the first place, they can use these irritants as an excuse. It always seems to be easier to find reasons for not wanting to change.


The Goal of Estimation Software Implementation

The goal is to successfully implement the software so that it works effectively for your needs and contributes to your success. View the implementation process as an opportunity to improve your ability to bid and manage projects – that is the “best” way.


About the Author

John Duggan is an estimation software guru and electrical estimating specialist.

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