If someone asked you, “What do you look for in estimating software?”, what would your answer be? We’ll go ahead and take a guess. The first thing, understandably, is typically the features the software offers. How well does its 2D takeoff run? Do you get unlimited sorting? Is there multi-user access to estimates? Next on the list is likely implementation—what kind of training do you receive, do you have to set up the software on your own, what happens if you hit a bug?
While these are obviously extremely important factors to take into consideration when evaluating software, there’s another critical component that often gets overlooked because it doesn’t seem that necessary at first glance. That component happens to be the alignment of vision between you and the vendor, and whether or not the vendor providing your software is a true partner in collaboration. Sometimes, it’s easy to get caught up in a flashy/cutting-edge software without considering the people behind it, and what their roadmap for the future of the product looks like.
Sundt Construction discovered the benefits of vendor-client alignment when they encountered a unique challenge back in 2006. Based out of Arizona, Sundt was a well-known general contractor looking to shake up the industry and move towards solidifying their reputation as an innovative leader in the construction world. At the time, Sundt had been working with Beck Technology using software called DProfiler. While DProfiler did a good job providing cost data and feedback to owners and architects, it was not a true estimating software and could not handle robust assemblies, line items, comparison reporting, or takeoff. Although Sundt was already using some tools to estimate, one tool – MC Squared—was going out of business, and the other—Excel—couldn’t create the historical database Sundt needed, nor could it integrate with takeoff programs.
Why was this a problem? For starters, juggling multiple tools created a host of issues, ranging from accidental mistakes when transferring from one program to the next, to a major lack of consistency across estimates. Melissa Love, Project Controls Manager at Sundt, put it like this: “We needed a program that created some consistency—we wanted to lock down information.” This also impacted Sundt’s capacity for collaboration across offices; at the time, they had locations in California, Arizona, and Texas. Even where both offices used the same tools, there was still a lot of variation across estimates—a more experienced estimator might’ve learned something one way, while a less experienced estimator learned it differently.
Finally, it ultimately impacted their bottom line. They were growing at an incredibly rapid pace and they needed a tool that would be able to keep up. Most importantly, they wanted potential clients to recognize their work just off of their estimates, and that simply wasn’t going to be possible with the way things currently existed at that point in time.
Around the time that Sundt came to this realization, the market for preconstruction technology was just hitting its stride. Many vendors were either coming out with robust estimating tools or already had offerings on the market that had those features already baked in. But Sundt turned to Beck Technology first because of their preexisting partnership and the work they had already seen from the company. They knew that Beck Technology could help them achieve the vision they had for Sundt as a whole because of their past experience using DProfiler.
As a result, when Sundt approached Beck Technology with their idea, it was truly a joint venture. Beck Technology’s research and development team took the foundation of DProfiler and began creating code for what would become DESTINI Estimator. As the software progressed, they called on Sundt’s estimators to take a deep dive into the beta version with the express purpose of trying to “break” the software in order to find any bugs.
When DESTINI Estimator was finally ready for Sundt to use, it brought the results they were looking for. Melissa Love said, “It was pretty easy to set up our cost database behind it, so at least the coding was the same. If you had to get into someone else’s estimate, it was pretty easy to figure out how they built that estimate and how you could change it from there. Especially for our precon managers, it was much easier to do a review when everyone was working in the same system.”
Without their prior relationship with and trust in Beck Technology’s work, DESTINI Estimator probably wouldn’t be here today, and Sundt might have spent an extra year or two mired in the weeds of Excel and MC Squared. But because Sundt had seen the value in establishing a partnership with not just any vendor, but a like-minded one, they were able to reap benefits that may not have been immediately apparent when they first signed with Beck Technology.
Today, Sundt says that Beck Tech is still as responsive and helpful as ever. “Whenever I hit a bug or issue with the software, their support team answers promptly,” says Melissa. “We also have a running backlog of feature requests we’d like to see in upcoming versions.”
It’s important to remember that when you choose estimating software, you can’t focus only on the present. The company you are today may not be the one you are five years down the road. You need to be able to know that your tools—and the people behind them—can keep up with your team as you continue to adapt and evolve. Excel is great up to a point, but it has no dedicated development behind it, no one to talk to about the challenges you’re facing, no one to collaborate on a solution together. That’s why it’s critical to have your vision in alignment with the vendor you invest in.