Pitfall: adanger or difficulty that is hidden or is not easilyrecognized
As preconstruction professionals, we all know there are consistent problems throughout the lifecycle of the estimating process. Teams get frustrated when trying to find correct information and estimators spend too many long nights piecing together estimates from information widespread throughout multiple tools and departments.
Not only is precious time wasted, but information and data are incomplete and inaccurate. Collecting from our own experience, as well as prominent precon estimators in the industry, we’ve nailed down the five major pitfalls of preconstruction, as well as solutions on how to better streamline your business, provide accurate estimates, and satisfy project owners.
Are you suffering from these five pitfalls of preconstruction?
Silos of information
Outdated methods and tools
Pitfall:Silos of Information
To be focused and efficient, the construction industry is like any other—teams are separated into different departments to best utilize the expertise of each role to maintain and grow the business. Each team, dependent on their responsibilities, must develop work and project management processes that make the most sense for them. However, without a company-wide shared platform to disseminate data and information, the flow of accurate information can bottleneck and even stop. This serious problem is called information silos or data silos. For estimators, this can lead to critical mistakes when creating an estimate.
What is an Information or Data Silo?
A silo occurs when data or information isn’t available to everyone in the organization. Silos are bad for business. They make things harder, take up people’s time gathering or chasing down the correct data, and can lead to poor business decisions. When data and information aren’t shared between departments, estimators don’t get an accurate, complete picture. This can result in giving owners the wrong information.
Solution: Implement Standards of Communication and Establish One Single Database
To solve this potentially fatal problem, you should implement standards of communication and ensure there is a database that every department can access.
To begin, conduct an audit of how each department collects and stores data. You will probably find that not everyone uses the same methods for building an estimate. For each system that holds information critical to the company’s overall success, integrate it into one centralized storage space. This will make it much easier to share information and data between offices and departments.
When there is a central source of truth that everyone in the project team can access, estimates are more consistent, accurate, and less time is wasted tracking down correct data. This helps build trust with project owners and saves time for the estimators.
One of the greatest challenges as an estimator is to effectively share and receive data across all stages of design. Projects often involve a ton of cooks in the kitchen—general contractors, architects, project owners, and subcontractors all play significant roles throughout the life of a project, all with their own way of frying up the bacon.
Like silos of information, having inconsistencies in the company’s standards, like one office uses one tool and the other office uses another tool, makes it that much harder to build a centralized database, look at data from past projects to make more informed decisions, and communicate new ideas across offices. Because there is no standard WBS property, report, or dashboard to show the project owner, estimates can look so incohesive that it can appear like the estimate was piecemealed from different companies.
Solution: Set Company-Wide Standards and Establish Team Collaboration
In the world of preconstruction, it’s especially hard to remember the necessity of collaboration. Let’s face it, estimating is frequently a lonely task but collaboration between departments and offices is critical to transforming and innovating not only your business but also the construction industry as a whole.
What is Standardization?
Estimators are beginning to see the advantage of standardization, making the process of preconstruction more streamlined and efficient.
Standardization is the process of ensuring a company’s preconstruction department has the same criteria across the board allowing project estimates to be consistent and recognizable. Standardization makes it easier for teams from different offices to collaborate and share resources. Once you create standards for your teams, it is much easier to come up with creative solutions to difficult problems and ensures less opportunity for error.
Reaching out to the other offices in your company to initiate standardization means everyone’s overall workload is lightened, your process becomes more streamlined, and you will find ways to maximize your resources while minimizing the amount of time spent running after accurate information.
Standardization ensures your team’s bid looks cohesive and professionally put together.
Another term for a conceptual estimate is “guestimate”. Preconstruction professionals are given slivers of project data and asked to spin off a number in their construction estimating software that gets within the ballpark of the actual construction costs. Conceptual estimating can be a slippery slope for any company. There are too many unknowns at this stage of a project, but this is the reality of preconstruction.
This work is usually left to the most senior preconstruction professional because they have lived through the “unknowns” on numerous projects and know how much of a cushion to add to that guestimate before it is uttered in a project meeting.
Construction estimating software with a strong cost history database, estimate templates, and transparent data sourcing can alleviate the sucker punch of conceptual estimating. Plus, it shares the conceptual estimating load with the rest of the preconstruction team as well as creates those conceptual estimates faster with more realistic numbers than a gut feeling.
A program with built-in takeoff capabilities reduces the simplest of errors from copy and paste or manual data entry. You will know where quantities come from and can pinpoint them in the sheet or model, making it easier to give project owners accurate and updated information.
Change orders, design iterations, crew rates, fee adjustments … there is a litany of variables that get altered as a project moves through the preconstruction and construction processes. Being able to analyze every imaginable variable means the preconstruction professional will be better equipped to make decisions on today’s projects as well as on future projects. We all want to make better and more informed decisions. The way we get better and become more informed is by analyzing what we have done to date. Too many construction estimating software are only pushing out estimates instead of helping construction companies become better and more informed.
Pitfall: Owner Expectations
Speaking of project owners, we know that they can often create some pitfalls of their own. The greatest struggle here is a lack of alignment. Owners frequently want more work accomplished in less time. What they often don’t understand is the amount of effort it takes to build an estimate. They also may have misunderstandings about the role of preconstruction and why it’s so critical; many have a perception of precon as simply “number-crunching,” one gigantic human calculator.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. But it’s up to preconstruction teams to help change this perception and show owners why it goes so much deeper than just churning out data. When you’re bogged down in outdated tools and practices, it can be way more difficult than it should be to show people why preconstruction is truly an investment.
Solution: Schedule Regular Meetings with the Project Owner
One of the best ways to help project owners understand the value that preconstruction brings is to ensure that you’re having regular meetings with the owner to update them on the progress of the estimate and to show them how your estimators are arriving at certain conclusions.
Additionally, it’s important to have an estimating software that isn’t attached to a desktop; in other words, a software that can move to meetings with you and still provide live updates. This way project owners see what’s happening at a deeper level. It also makes it way less complicated for estimators to apply owner-requested changes.
Pitfall: Outdated Methods and Tools
Maybe the biggest potential pitfall is the tendency to stick with what we’re used to even if it’s not truly serving our needs anymore. The construction industry is notorious for hanging on to outdated practices simply because “that’s how we’ve always done it.”
So, unsurprisingly, it’s all too common for preconstruction teams to continue using inefficient methods or tools that aren’t even being updated anymore. But when you’re trying to disrupt the industry, the “way we’ve always done it” just isn’t enough. More importantly, continuing to use antiquated methods/tools can lead to a whole host of other problems, like falling behind the competition or not attracting enough new talent.
Solution: Beck Technology DESTINI Estimator
Like the very first pitfall, the primary solution here is to move toward a centralized estimating software backed by a vendor that has a 5- and 10-year roadmap for their product, so that you know it’s going to be able to adapt and grow with your team as you continue evolving. The second solution is to make sure your team has a place they can go to provide feedback, and to ensure that the people receiving that feedback are people who will act when necessary.
To truly remain cutting-edge, you must cultivate that innovative mindset within your own team. While a tool can solve a lot of problems, it can’t magically impart that kind of attitude. So, it’s key to remember to choose vendors that align with your vision and will help you achieve the goal of learning from the past while continuing to look to the future.
Many preconstruction teams have found that moving towards a single source of truth has been a huge help in eliminating communication gaps. Tools like DESTINI Estimator make it possible for teams to develop a historical database that they can use to keep track of projects both past and present.
To see how you can overcome these pitfalls, reach out to us for a free demo of DESTINI Estimator.