If you are a homeowner, you have probably hired a contractor to handle a renovation project or repair something broken in your home. Whether you are a property owner or a contractor, a clear and accurate estimate of how much the project will cost and how long it will take is the primary prerequisite before you begin.
What is Estimation?
Estimation is the process of pre-determining the expenses associated with a construction project. This step is one of the most important and essential steps for construction companies since the decision regarding whether to move forward with the project often relies heavily on a comparison of the budget against the quoted estimate. Estimators should be as accurate as possible, because changes in the project cost – even a small number – may affect the profit margins. Every successful project begins with a precise and accurate cost estimate.
The Importance of the Accuracy of Estimates
Accurate estimations increase customer satisfaction and confidence in the company, expanding the possibility of gaining additional future projects and recommendations. During the estimation stage of the proposal, construction documents and other direct costs are used by the estimator to determine the preferred approach for handling the cost of work.
Naturally, both the customers and constructors are concerned about the cost of a project due to the financial impact of overspending, which could result in the complete inability to finalize the project. For this reason, the time spent on an accurate estimate is in the best interests of both parties. In short, a good cost estimate prevents companies from losing money and the customer from overpaying.
What Information is Used to Create an Estimate?
There are many factors while preparing a construction estimate. Some of these include labor hours, material prices, equipment costs, escalation, contingencies, and indirect costs. Each of these factors may have a significant impact on the estimation process.
While preparing a cost estimate, contractors should also search and rely on historical data. Using comparable cost and estimate data from existing projects can be an excellent way to create estimates. Historical data may come from a variety of different sources, such as catalogs of vendor data, databases, periodicals, commercial references, and digests of actual project costs. This means that using this data can not only provide a contractor and their clients with a relative point of comparison for their own project, but it can also show trends in the cost of materials and help with determining optimal timeframes for the project.
How to Create an Effective Estimate
So how do companies retain all this information for long durations and utilize it when necessary?
A very common approach is to use spreadsheets, which are widely used across practically every industry. They are great options for storing data, performing calculations, and retaining in-house information. They are easy to use and understand, highly flexible, and can be made easily accessible.
However, in some cases, it may be difficult to prepare, use, and effectively provide spreadsheets to a customer regarding their project. In these cases, companies will often go in search of an estimation software. To save time and money, contractors, builders, and construction companies who frequently make estimates for projects can use these technologies to manage their entire estimation process.
There are many different options on the market, such as spreadsheet templates, offline calculators, or even robust estimation software. Companies that want to move their estimation stage to a web platform will often prefer a platform that can integrate easily into their other processes, such as quote generation, email templating, and mobile-friendly data entry for remote access.
There are a variety of commercial project estimation software platforms available across the market. Most of these products are designed for general usage and often struggle to offer construction companies unique and industry-tailored features, customization, and flexibility. Each construction company has its own standards, services rendered, and different requirements that may be offered to the client, so most commercial estimating software are not ideal solutions for companies that are dealing with complex and specialized projects, aiming for absolute success, accuracy, and specificity.
Using Estimation Software
There are some important questions that construction companies should ask themselves when selecting which estimation software to use.
- Will it be easy, fast, and cost-effective to use this software?
- Is the important data of the company and customers completely safe with this software?
- What advantages can this software provide to our employees?
- With how swiftly changes occur in the construction industry, can this software produce comparable modifications quickly, seamlessly and without incurring data loss?
- With this software, what features can we offer our clients that we cannot provide with the method that we are currently using?
Of course, there may be additional questions to ask, depending on the specific nature of your company, but these questions may provide a solid baseline for choosing the correct software platform once the research has been conducted.
Have Influence on Your Clients' Experience
It is important to utilize any features that will increase overall client satisfaction by taking their experience one step further. Feedback from customers can identify holes in the current process and point out strengths and weaknesses of the company overall. The choice of compatible software should complement these strengths and aim to bridge the gap on any problem areas.
Prepared estimates can contain many unique features, pricing, and variables. Projecting them correctly to the client is crucial point in determining their expectations and – in turn – increasing their satisfaction. Providing clients with objective documents can be an extremely useful feature in this regard. The ability to generate dynamic proposal documents and enabling digital signatures make construction companies stand out. For a client, knowing that all of the details of the service can received transparently and in a professional manner can prove to be an important criterion during the selection stage.
Producing dynamic documents is just a single example of such outstanding services, but it is an effective detail that can make a difference in terms of construction companies' customer relations. That is why it is crucial to pay attention to the existing document generation features provided by an estimation software when deciding whether to invest in it.
Why so Many Companies use Spreadsheets for Estimation
The reasons that contribute to the widespread usage of spreadsheets for estimation purposes cannot be ignored. Spreadsheets can be customized according to very specific needs. Since spreadsheets may be utilized for practically any calculation or data-oriented purpose, companies can easily manage and enable individual product features, modifications to service pricing, and accommodate specific estimation rules and calculations. In addition, companies can also create printable quote documents to be shared with their clients via these spreadsheets.
Below is a short video of how a spreadsheet can be used to create estimations for a sample construction company. The estimation data and calculations are stored in the spreadsheet. An estimator can simply select items for a project from the list. Most companies deal with many items. In this spreadsheet, items are categorized into groups. Selecting a category will update the list in the Items column to those under that category. Adding the count for selected items will trigger formulas to calculate total costs for that line item. After adding all items for the project, the total will be calculated by incorporating any other adjustments, such as discounts and taxes.
Besides all these advantages, there are also some disadvantages of using spreadsheets. Spreadsheets are not centralized like cloud-based estimation software. As companies grow and the number of their employees increases, it becomes difficult to make sure that each salesperson is using the latest version of the Excel model. Using different versions can lead to significant losses for companies. Although quote documents can be easily created via spreadsheets, a different Excel file needs to be created for each quote. Storing them securely and finding the desired file can be a challenge for companies.
Turning Excel-based Estimators into Web Applications Bring the Best of Two Worlds
With SpreadsheetWeb’s No Code approach, companies can gain significant benefits by converting spreadsheets into web applications. All specific estimation rules, complex calculations, and information contained in spreadsheets are transferred to the web platform seamlessly, and data security is never compromised in the process.
One of the primary benefits of this approach is that it may provide web-based access to all estimation calculators. Companies can limit access to the estimators for only their employees and authorized users, which minimizes the likelihood of the inner calculations falling into the wrong hands. Estimators can easily create printable PDF documents for quoting purposes and share them with their customers. Each saved quote is stored and maintained in the database and can be easily accessed by authorized persons as necessary.
SpreadsheetWeb also provides the ability to build workflows that can automate the entire process between estimators, customers, and contractors on the field. The underlying data and calculations logic can be adjusted at any time using their existing familiarity with the spreadsheet platform user interface. Finally, when changes are needed, they can be easily adopted into the web application, and all estimators can simultaneously receive the latest version of the applications within mere minutes, eliminating the possibility of salespersons using various versions of the quoting software.
Below is a short video of how a web application can be created from the spreadsheet file in the previous section. Instead of using Excel, estimators may access the app from a browser. Upon adding all of the items and calculating prices, the user can simply click the Save button to store the estimate in the database. All saved estimates can be subsequently retrieved, reviewed, and updated by any user who has the proper access privileges.
Project estimation is vital in construction projects. For companies, it is important to invest in resources and technology to enable this role. Since the estimation process can be make-it-or-break-it for a construction project, these companies should be careful when choosing their optimal technologies. The accuracy and efficiency of the estimation process may provide significant positive effects for employees of the company, as well as for the overall client experience.
Companies that create and use custom data forms, calculations, and business logic through spreadsheets can convert these spreadsheets into web-based estimation applications using SpeadsheetWeb. These estimation applications can be an effective alternative to commercial estimation software since they can be customized completely according to the construction company’s specific needs.
To learn more about creating quoting and estimation applications for your construction company, visit https://www.spreadsheetweb.com.