Features to Look For in Estimating Software

ConstructionIf you are shopping for estimating software for you construction business, you may feel overwhelmed by the number of choices and options available to you. Like any other software purchase, we recommend that you spend time determining your company specific needs before you begin looking for solutions. Once you have determined your business needs, you can begin exploring specific features and solutions that will meet those needs. To help you get started, here are some of the typical feature sets that you will find in commercial estimating software solutions.

Core Functionality

Estimating software designed for construction companies will typically have these three sets of core functionality:

  • Takeoff software or systems- help measure plans and blueprints to estimate the amount of materials and labor needed to complete a project by helping you “take off” the quantities of items needed. These systems may work with paper and/or electronic plans.
  • Cost databases - Stores materials and labor costs to reference when creating an estimate. This reference cost data may be your own or may come from a commercial source.
  • Estimating worksheets - these are the “spreadsheets” where the calculations that make up your estimates take place

In addition to the three core elements mentioned above, you will also want to look for other features that will help streamline your process for creating and managing bids. Here are some other features you can expect to find in a commercial estimating software solution:

  • Item List or Activity List - A main project view that outlines the various items and/or activities required to complete your project. This view provides a convenient way to navigate the items in your project. Some solutions will allow you to organize your activities by tasks and  sub-tasks. , or sub-levels.
  • Item Detail or Activity Detail – The supporting list of  of  resources needed (along with their costs) to complete each activity.
  • Resource Costs: Views and reports of costs related to labor (wages, benefits, burden, and workers compensation, etc.), equipment, materials, subcontractors, and any other cost detail items.
  • Markups – In addition to storing standard costs, most programs will allow you to store cost mark-ups. Typically you can store flat, overall mark-ups that can be applied to a variety of costs, as well as resource-specific mark-ups.
  • Overhead – Most construction companies will also want features related to the storing and applying of indirect costs including fees, permits, etc.
  • Reporting – is an important area that is often overlooked. Make sure you will be able to get the information you need to manage your estimates and projects out of your system. Estimating software typically include standard reports such as proposals, activity reports, and cost breakdowns. Some include “ad-hoc” report writers that allow you to design and run custom reports.
  • Integration or Exporting: For a complete solution, you will want to look for estimating software that integrates with your accounting and project management software. Integration is preferred, but a second, less desirable option, is to select a solution that allows you to export the data for use in other applications, such as spreadsheets.
  • Job History – Typically a standard feature, this allows you to store the information from past projects for review and use in estimating similar projects in the future.

Depending on the nature of your business, you may also want to look for estimating software that has been created specifically for your vertical..