Mastering the Art of Estimating: Overcoming Your 3 Biggest Challenges
By Rick Deans
October 20, 2020
As an experienced estimator, you know that estimating is both an art and a science. The science consists of the repetitive calculations and number crunching you need to perform on each bid to make it as competitive as possible. The art, of course, lies in those subjective judgement calls and bits of analysis that will set you apart from – and hopefully above – your competitors in the eyes of the project owner.
This is where the real value is added. But more often than not, when faced with tight deadlines and scant resources, this crucial component gets sacrificed. In this article, we’ll review three common challenges estimators face every day and how they can be overcome, so you can spend less time on the “busy work” and more time on the subjective analysis that will help you win the bid.
Challenge #1: The Time Crunch
Although most seasoned estimators have amassed an array of tried and true formulas and best practices over the years, the unfortunate reality is that for the majority of projects we undertake, we have very little runway. Tight deadlines are the norm, so there isn’t always the luxury of time to do everything by the book. Instead, we end up sifting through past project information and crunching crucial numbers at the eleventh hour, scrambling to meet the bid deadline.
What gets neglected in the process are all of those gray areas that could truly add value. For instance, perhaps you have some geographical advantages or local knowledge that could bring unique benefits and help boost your margins. These won’t necessarily be reflected in the hard numbers; they require your subjective analysis and expertise, and that can take some time to execute. If you’re performing your analysis and updating multiple versions of spreadsheets, chances are you won’t get an opportunity to apply your wisdom before the timer runs out and your bid is due.
Here’s where today’s technology can offer some big wins. Through the ability to automate all of those repetitive manual tasks you need to perform on each bid, a good estimating tool can do the more routine work for you and free you up to do the important work of applying your expertise to value-add components. You can then apply your expert analysis and make adjustments as needed for maximum benefit. As an extra bonus, your inputs will be added to a central database of historical project data for use as benchmarks on future bids.
Challenge #2: Moving Goalposts
Just when you think you’ve got everything nailed down and all the boxes ticked, unexpected last-minute changes can throw a wrench in the works. Maybe some new engineering specs emerge that will impact your original estimate? That project you thought would require ABC? Turns out it will now entail XYZ instead. Are you ready for the last-minute change of plans and do you have time to reassess all of the different variables?
Here again, technology can be a big assist, allowing you to experiment with alternative scenarios and see the impact of those in real time. With the simple shift of a screen toggle, you can decide how to proceed from there – a time investment of seconds or minutes rather than hours or days.
Challenge #3: Tardy Third Parties
You know the old adage about having the grace to accept what you cannot change? As organized and efficient as we may be, there are invariably going to be circumstances outside of our control, and very often, these stem from the individuals we’re forced to rely on – subs, vendors and other third parties.
Although they may owe us their quotes 30 days in advance, the reality is, they usually arrive at the eleventh hour, forcing us to insert a placeholder figure and scramble to factor in the real numbers just before deadline. These situations may be largely unavoidable, but the negative consequences are not.
Next-generation project cost management solutions such as InEight Estimate offer an automated workflow to help you manage your received vendor quotes efficiently. On one screen, you can review all of your comparable quote values, in addition to exclusions and last-minute adjustments, and easily update your estimate in seconds. From there, you can award them and update your cost breakdown structure in a fluid process without needing to re-enter data in multiple locations.
Applying the above tips and leveraging today’s technology may not make you an estimating magician, but they can help you spend less time shuffling papers and more time working on the things that really matter.
To learn more about how InEight’s estimating software can help you achieve project certainty, request your free demo here.