The first software the vast majority of people use when it came to numbers is Excel. It is simple and the formulas are customizable. Plus, charts and graphs are a simple button click away. However, when getting into complex construction projects the use of Excel is less than ideal because one wrong written formula, misplaced decimal point, lack of statistical functions, missing data, hidden values, etc. can cause construction companies to lose a project. Or, maybe worse, win a project then bust the budget and have difficult conversations with company leadership and/or project owners.
Some construction companies realized these problems and switched to a construction estimating system that removes some of the Excel pitfalls. Then the estimating software they were using limited their ability to easily manipulate their data so they created a Frankenstein’s monster by exporting their data into Excel, manipulating the information, and then import it back into their estimating system. This “workaround” still causes problems. Perhaps the biggest ones are the time suck and lack of data connectivity throughout the preconstruction process. If you’ve spent more than 5 minutes trying to search for a broken formula or a specific line item then you know this “workaround” isn’t actually working.
In Beck Technology’s research of US construction companies, at least 30% of preconstruction teams use only Excel as their estimating technology tool. An additional 17% use an estimating software like WinEst or Sage Estimating/Timberline in combination with Excel to get the estimate out the door. The remaining companies (53%) use one or several estimating tools but did not explicitly state that they use Excel in their processes. Yet the more companies we talk to the more those estimating professionals admit that they need to export data into Excel to present the data in a way that the project owner wants to see.
When Excel is removed from the estimating equation there are a lot of other things removed, too. They include:
- Losing data in the import/export process.
- Time spent on manipulating data in either the estimating software and/or in Excel.
- Lack of data connection.
- Lack of historical changes made in the estimate.
- Uncertainty of using the most current estimate.
- Delay in updating data during time-sensitive situations.
The logical step to take is to use a construction estimating software that creates estimates without thinking about using Excel. When the entire preconstruction process can be completed in one platform the frustrations of data manipulation go away and the preconstruction professional’s efforts are enhanced. Spending less time on “workarounds” means more time on high-value activities like data analysis and more opportunity to pursue additional projects.