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Should I Use Excel or Professional Estimating Software?

by Chris Lee | August 24th, 2016

Should I Use Excel or Professional Estimating Software?

When you're working up an estimate for a job, it takes a certain amount of time, the investment of which you'll hopefully get back if you get the job. But many contractors aren't certain whether they should use the tried and true Microsoft Excel spreadsheet program or if it's time to upgrade to a professional estimating software package. How do you decide when the time is right? Here are some of the benefits of each system and why you may want to switch to professional estimating software sooner rather than later.

Benefits of Excel

So what exactly are the benefits of using a quantity take off Excel spreadsheet that are keeping you from making the switch? Here are a few:
  • It's easy, because it's what you've been using for years.
  • Everyone and their brother knows how to use it.
  • You might be able to find some formulas online to help break down job costs.
Unfortunately, it doesn't go much further than that. You still need to develop your own estimate sheets and formulas. You need to change them to adjust to different tax rates. You need to constantly update the prices you have stored on it. You can't expand it. You can't automate it. You don't get support focused on your business. You don't get the most accurate figures. In general, it takes a lot of time and attention that you could better spend on the job site, growing your business.

Benefits of Professional Estimating Software

By comparison, well-designed professional estimating software will virtually always work better for your business.
  • You don't need to design an estimate page, it's already there and ready to go. That means you spend less time learning Excel's version of math and more time getting it done.
  • Material and labor databases are pre-built for ease in developing take-offs. Excel requires regular manual input of pricing every time something changes.
  • It streamlines your office, so you're only entering the information once. Instead of entering your information on a cost sheet and then again on a proposal and then again in your accounting software, it'll automatically transfer to your Quickbooks Online account.
  • It allows you to check your estimate against average industry costs. We've all run cost estimates that we wondered whether the numbers were right or had jobs we lost money on because they weren't correct.
  • You'll enjoy sending out professional proposals instead of fighting with the printer. And the computer. And the printer again. You meant to use a ream of paper on that proposal, right?
  • It uses standardized industry symbols with drag and drop simplicity for the design, layout and build phases.
  • You can easily collaborate with other team members, allowing you to assign tasks to each individual on your team.
  • Instead of entering costs on a spreadsheet, you can use a database that automatically updates material costs.
  • You can expand your business' use of the software without having to compromise your standardized process.
  • You can discover where your best profitability is to pursue more jobs like that using built-in analytics.
  • It's aimed at contractors, so you'll receive the support you need with issues that are relevant to your industry.
As you can see, professional estimating software has a lot more to offer than Excel spreadsheets. You can spent more time working and less time trying to get your system to operate the way you wish it would.

Why You Need Bidding Software to Grow Your Business Now

There are a number of areas where electrical bidding software makes a big difference in growing your business:
  • It's cloud based. The best electrical bidding software isn't stuck on your computer at your office, it's everywhere. You can quickly work up estimates on the job site or tackle change orders without wasting time driving back and forth. From the convenience of your phone or tablet, you can get it done with no further mess or fuss involved.
  • You can look at analytics to see whether your takeoff is reasonable for your crew's work history. We all knew they work better and faster in April and October than outside in December or July, but what about particular combinations? Analytics helps you refine your team for the best possible completion times and profitability.
  • It's expandable. Sure, you could have everyone doing estimating work on an Excel sheet, but what happens when something gets changed on one sheet or the prices don't get updated? Suddenly, you're not working at a profit any longer – you're taking a loss. Bidding software ensures everyone is on the same page.
  • “Your wait time is five days, three hours and seven minutes. There are 38,526 customers in front of you.” Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but if you've ever called a Microsoft help line, you know it can be an obnoxiously long wait. Professional bidding software means you'll get help fast with minimal down time for your system.
  • You don't need to know CAD to be able to lay out a building and estimate your takeoffs. Excel won't help you figure out whether you need an extra couple dozen feet of double-ought cable, it just adds up the figures for you. Construction estimation software should provide you with the ability to quickly lay out and estimate your takeoffs with minimal time at the office.
To get the best outcome for your business, you need construction bidding software that makes the grade and keeps you doing what you do best – working on the job site. If you're not sure whether you're ready to make the switch, we understand. It's a hard decision to make. But why not learn a little more about the benefits professional estimating software like Esticom has to offer your business? It'll just take a few minutes of your precious time, which you'll gain back every time you use it.
Chris Lee
Chris Lee has an extensive background in preconstruction management as a former specialty contractor and business owner. As the Chief Estimator at Esticom, he’s helped thousands of specialty contractors digitize their preconstruction process to increase revenue and profitability while decreasing unnecessary overhead.

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