Commercial Estimating Programs vs. Spreadsheets

construction estimatingDecreasing margins and more aggressive scheduling are becoming the “new normal” in construction. The ability to create accurate estimates that will help you win projects and turn a profit is a necessity in this environment. While many construction companies still use spreadsheets to prepare their cost estimates, more and more construction company owners are turning to specialized software created specifically for estimating.

Estimating with Spreadsheets

Many construction companies still use spreadsheet programs (i.e. Microsoft Excel) to organize and assemble estimates for construction projects. Spreadsheets are relatively easy to use, which is one of the reason they are popular.

For some companies, using spreadsheets is similar to preparing estimates manually – the spreadsheet does little more than replace the calculator.

As estimators become more sophisticated, they may create templates and lookups that allow them to save time when creating estimates and cost models. Spreadsheets can also save you time completing mundane calculations, however, you must take extra care to reduce data entry, formula, and other types of errors (sometimes more difficult to spot than arithmetic errors) that can lead to calculation errors.

Commercial Estimating Software

While electronic spreadsheets are generic, all purpose types of programs that can be used for building estimates, commercial estimating packages are specialty software programs designed specifically for that job.

Commercial estimating packages usually include one or more reference databases that allow you to store your standard materials, costs, labor rates, etc. Once you create (or update) you database, the information is available to use with all of your estimates.

Another big difference between spreadsheets and commercial estimating software is in the reporting. Estimating packages typically have a robust set of standard reports as well as the ability for you to customize those reports (the amount of customization varies among products). When using spreadsheets, you must create your own reports.

You may also be able to find commercial estimating software that is built to match the particular needs of your specialty. Having software that include libraries, reports, and other features designed specifically for your specialty generally means you will have to spend less time building these things yourself. You are also likely to find that the software will fit the way you do business, rather than having to adapt the way you do business to fit your software.

If you are shopping for commercial estimating software, you will want to check to see if it integrates with your accounting and/or project management software. Being able to seamlessly share your estimating data with these other systems will not only save you time, but will also cut down on data entry and other problems that can result in lost billings and time spent reconciling reports from different systems.

Want to see a demo?

If you are thinking about moving up to a commercial estimating solution, check out the videos on our demo page, or contact us for a personalized demo.