What to Do When Your Cost Estimators Don’t Like Change

November 13, 2019 Steve Watt

If your estimating team is like many, some of your estimators have been doing their jobs for a long time. Your most seasoned estimators could have 20, 30, or even more years of experience under their belts. 

And just like anyone who’s spent their career in a particular line of work, your estimators have gained invaluable experience that informs how they approach their work, and they understandably take pride in what they’ve accomplished and learned. It’s possible some of your estimators may even share stories of “the old days” when they used to produce estimates using little more than a mechanical pencil, an adding machine, and some grid paper. (While it’s hard for the younger generations to fathom, some of us remember the days before we had computers and still managed to do our work!)

Then spreadsheet technology entered the market in the mid-1980s. In the four decades since, it’s likely that all of your estimators eventually made the switch to spreadsheets, even if they used them for only certain parts of their job. And for some—probably most—the change didn’t come easily. They were understandably reluctant to give up their tried and true processes and maybe even resentful of having to learn a new way to do their jobs.

 

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But make the change they did. And spreadsheets turned into more than just an estimating tool. They became the proven and preferred method of working, even the bedrock of your entire cost estimating process. 

Fast forward to today, and these same estimators have now spent years using spreadsheets. They’ve invested an equal amount of time in customizing and perfecting their spreadsheets to reflect their accumulated experience and preferred ways of working—just like they did with their old paper processes. And if you suggest a new way of doing things, you can expect them to hang on to their spreadsheets in the same way they hung on to their adding machines. 

Employee hesitance keeps
one-third of construction companies
from adopting new technology.

JB Knowledge 2018 ConTech Report

Your estimators may have honed their spreadsheets to the point that they feel like they’re the best and only way to produce construction estimates. Yet no matter how much your estimators have customized them, their spreadsheets will always pose the risk of errors. And their spreadsheets can’t hold a candle to the speed and accuracy you can achieve with database-driven estimating software

While you may not relish the task, you can convince your estimators that there’s a better way. Just as they eventually saw the advantages of using spreadsheets, they’ll also come around to construction estimating software—once they see what’s in it for them. Here are some of the ways you can position it as a win-win for everyone.

 

Gain Greater Confidence & Efficiency

While your estimators may be proud of their highly customized and individual estimating spreadsheets, your entire team will benefit from a shared estimating process. Database-driven estimating software allows you to truly standardize the estimating process, making it consistent and repeatable. When everyone is working in the same way, the whole process is more efficient and precise. You can all access the same database of company cost information to produce your estimates with the most current and accurate data. And because your estimators don’t need to waste time calculating or second-guessing the numbers, they have more opportunity to value engineer and explore alternatives.  

Standardization helps your estimators:

  • Gain greater confidence in the accuracy of their estimates
  • Free up time to value engineer estimates and really demonstrate their expertise
  • Relieve the pressure of a never-ending workload by increasing efficiency

 

Share the Workload & Catch Potential Errors

When they use construction estimating software, your estimating team is able to work together more effectively. They can work simultaneously in a single version of the estimate—and avoid the hassles and dangers of merging multiple spreadsheets later on. Supported by an audit trail, they can also easily identify and review changes, as well as catch errors and omissions before estimates are sent to owners.

When they’re able to collaborate on estimates, your estimators can: 

  • Leverage a team approach to tackle large or pressing projects
  • Produce bids more accurately and quickly
  • Reduce the headaches and risks of merging separate and individual spreadsheets

 

Need an estimating solution that benefits your whole team?
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Capture Best Practices & Increase Job Satisfaction

Dedicated construction estimating software allows you to combine your proprietary cost knowledge with the best practices of your senior estimators. You’re finally able to capture your company’s “tribal knowledge” and make it accessible to each member of your team. Less experienced estimators can get up to speed and gain competence more quickly, reducing their frustration and protecting you against staff turnover. At the same time, your most experienced estimators are able to contribute their hard-earned experience and influence the way your entire team operates.

When they can rely on a database-driven estimating solution, your estimators:

  • Contribute their expertise and influence processes across the board
  • Make informed decisions based on data, not guesswork
  • Get up to speed quickly, which in turn increases confidence and job satisfaction

 

Work the Way You Want—Just Better

The need to adapt and change is a key reason why many resist trying new things—including new software tools. But some construction estimating software is flexible enough to accommodate your estimators’ preferred way of working and even looks and functions much like the spreadsheets they’re accustomed to. That same flexibility also makes it easier to customize estimates and reports to meet internal requirements and client demands, allowing them to produce what-if scenarios and explore alternatives more easily than ever. 

When your estimators are working with a flexible and customizable platform, they can:

  • Maintain their preferred work style and methods
  • Easily respond to customization requests and requirements
  • Present what-if scenarios and alternative approaches, allowing for more creative problem-solving

 

Making a Change to Construction Estimating Software is Easier than You May Realize

Resistance to change is natural. But it can be overcome. And it shouldn’t hold you back from making the changes needed to modernize your estimating tools and maintain a competitive edge.  

As your company leaders look for ways to protect profit margins and continue to grow, they need your estimating team to be as effective as possible. Construction estimating software is a win-win for everyone. Your estimators can continue to work in a familiar-feeling tool, while benefiting from more powerful features, increased speed, and greater accuracy. And you can do more with the team you already have and gain greater confidence in your estimates, empowering your company to pursue more and bigger projects.

 

Ready to take a closer look at construction estimating software? Get your copy of the estimating software buyer’s guide to clarify your next steps.

 

About the Author

Steve Watt

Steve Watt is market segment manager of the General Contractor/Construction Manager Division of Trimble Buildings, which is focused on technology solutions that improve collaboration, efficiency and accuracy across the Design-Build-Operate (DBO) lifecycle of buildings. Trimble applies solutions such as positioning technologies, asset management and task- or user-specific software applications to help businesses become more productive.

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