High Level Activity Spotlight: Project Pursuit
One of the things we are dedicated to accomplishing at Beck Technology is “creating the future and revolutionizing the industry.” What does that look like? A huge part of it isn’t just about designing cutting-edge construction estimating software—it’s also about shaking up outdated preconceptions about what it means to be an estimator.
All too often, many folks think “human calculator” or “chained to the desk” when they think “estimator.” There’s a reason why most people, especially new graduates, immediately want to go into the field! Office work is seen as boring, something that you do when you’re older and your bones ache and you’re ready to settle down. While that might have been true a few decades ago, it’s definitely not the case anymore. Today, thanks to the incredible advancements the preconstruction industry has made, estimators can explore high-level activities like data analysis and visualization to name just a couple.
We’ve talked about these high-level activities before, but we want to take you on a deeper dive into a specific activity: project pursuit. Project pursuit is one of those items that sounds simple at the outset and actually gets quite complex and nuanced at a second glance.
Why Is Project Pursuit a High-Level Activity?
We define high-level activities as those tasks that provide significant quantitative value to a general contractor, which could include results such as increased profit or increased talent retention rates, to name a few. Project pursuit obviously falls under this definition—without it, no company would survive!
That doesn’t mean project pursuit is easy, though. The first obstacle that most general contractors face is having enough time for project pursuit. In an age where project owners want more in less and less time, it can be incredibly difficult to move through projects quickly enough to start chasing after another without sacrificing quality. Change orders, lack of integrated technology, and a heavily manual estimating process that leaves a lot of room for potential errors all pose huge barriers to completing projects fast enough to spend more time focusing on pursuing others.
The second major inhibitor to project pursuit is relying primarily on tasks that are not only less valuable, but also require manual input and aren’t automated at all. Think Excel spreadsheets and moving data through three different programs instead of just one. These tasks don’t just take up a lot of time—they also make project pursuit harder because they hamper collaboration and communication within your team as well as with the project owner. Owners aren’t going to want to work with teams whose estimates end up wildly off the actual cost.
How the Preconstruction Team at Willis A. Smith Solved This Problem
So how do you find more time for project pursuit, short of magically creating a 30-hour workday? We spoke to Robbie Gronbach, LEED AP and Director of Preconstruction at Willis A. Smith Construction, to hear how he and his team have tackled the challenge of finding more time to invest in project pursuit.
Gronbach’s team has two important assets that have helped them jump over this hurdle. First, they operate primarily under a negotiated bid model. Unlike hard bid models, negotiated bids—also referred to as construction management—allow general contractors to work on a less restrictive timeline, with the agreement that they will bring the best possible number to the project owner at the end of the preconstruction process. This eases a lot of the pressure from the contractor and allows them to deliver quality estimates, while also giving them more time back in their day. Construction management delivery methods may not be possible for all firms, especially for those who specialize in sectors such as healthcare where hard bids are more common, but it’s something to consider if you want to invest more time in a high-level activity like project pursuit.
Secondly, Gronbach’s team invested in construction estimating software that automated many tasks that had previously been manual. This investment also enabled their entire team to work on estimates with multiple users at the same time. Gronbach says, “We’ve been able to get work accomplished faster and do more estimates. If we can streamline the workflow for a single project, that means we can add more projects to the roster, and in this time that we’re in right now that has been essential. It’s also about allowing other team members to review the work that we’re all doing, so if somebody has stucco and plaster and they’re doing an estimate in that, we can cross-reference the painting scope to make sure that we have the same square footages, so that allows us to spend less time thinking about walking down the hall and asking, ‘do you have this,’ and we’re just able to focus on the project.”
Automating burdensome tasks, being able to communicate quickly with your team, and creating workflows that can be run at the push of a button are all essential to getting back time that otherwise feels like it’s going to waste. You’re able to move through projects swiftly without sacrificing quality, which is crucial to ensuring that you keep winning projects! And while investing in construction estimating software does require a dedicated amount of time upfront, the payoff is worth the wait.
Want to Hear More?
If you’re interested in hearing even more about project pursuit, listen to the full interview with Robbie Gronbach here: https://youtu.be/eqnd9FlYUfc?t=1