Why You Need to Stop Using Excel For Construction Estimating

When it comes to numbers and spreadsheets software, most people immediately think of Excel. It is simple, the formulas are customizable, and charts and graphs are a simple click away. However, when getting into complex construction projects, the use of Excel is less than ideal.

Five reasons why you need to stop using Excel for construction estimating:

  1. One wrong written formula
  2. A misplaced decimal point
  3. The lack of statistical functions
  4. Missing data
  5. Hidden values…

Can cause construction companies and general contractors to lose a project. Or maybe even worse, win a project and then bust the budget and be forced to have an extremely difficult conversation with company leadership and project owners—your reputation possibly damaged.

In our research of construction companies in the United States, we found that at least 30 percent of preconstruction teams use only Excel for creating estimates. An additional 17 percent use an estimating software like WinEst or Sage Timberline in combination with Excel. The remaining 53 percent of general contractors use several estimating tools to get the job done without explicitly saying which software they use.

One preconstruction executive from The Beck Group told us he had previously used MC2, where he and his team still had to create estimates long-hand and compare them with the estimates they were creating in MC2—totally negating the entire purpose of investing in construction estimating software! They called it “duplicating estimates.” We call it “duplicating work.” Can you imagine the amount of time this took?

The more companies we talk to, the more we hear that preconstruction estimators spend time exporting data into Excel to present the data in a way that project owners want to see. Which isn’t easy. Neither is using Excel for data analysis.

gif of FrankensteinUsing Excel for construction estimating limits estimators’ abilities to easily manipulate their data, so they create a Frankenstein’s monster by exporting their data into Excel, manipulating the information, and then importing it back into their estimating system. This “workaround” causes problems. The biggest ones being the amount of time it takes and the lack of data consistency throughout the preconstruction process.

If you’ve spent more than five minutes trying to search for a broken formula or a specific line item, then you know this “workaround” isn’t actually working.

When Beck Technology introduced the fully integrated DESTINI Estimator construction estimating software, some forward-thinking companies jumped on board to remove many of Excel’s pitfalls. Being able to house cost history in one centralized database, perform takeoff, and utilize unlimited sorting and create comparison reports all in one platform makes estimating easier, more efficient, and more accurate.

When you stop using Excel for construction estimating, there are a lot of other things you can stop, too:

  • Losing data in the import/export process
  • Wasting time spend on manipulating data
  • Lack of data connection
  • Losing historical changes made in estimates
  • Uncertainty of using the most current estimate
  • Delaying the process when updating data during time-sensitive situations

The next step is to switch from Excel to software developed by those in the construction industry specifically for preconstruction estimating.  When the entire preconstruction process can be completed in one platform, you eliminate the frustrations of data manipulation and you’ll be able to make much better project decisions. Spending less time on “workarounds” means you get to spend more time on high-value activities like data analysis and have more opportunities to pursue additional projects.

It’s a win-win for you and your company.

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