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How To Estimate In The ‘New Normal’

 

Originally aired on 7/23/2020

46 Minutes

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Estimating smarter in this new world environment is key to staying competitive in this fluid environment. 

In this webinar, we discuss  how owners and contractors alike can adjust their estimating strategies to succeed in “the new normal” in which we find ourselves. Don’t forget, construction has been deemed an “essential service,” and now is the time to start implementing some internal housekeeping. 

Transcript

 

John Klobucar:

Hello. I’m John Klobucar with InEight, and I’d like to welcome you to our latest webinar. Today’s webinar is titled “How to Estimate in the New Normal.” Our presenter today is Rick Deans, who is Executive Vice President of Industry Engagement at InEight.

John Klobucar:

In this role, Rick works with InEight’s largest and most strategic customers to ensure they’re continuously getting value from the use of our tools. This includes working with clients during the pre- and post-implementation phase.

John Klobucar:

He also heads up InEight’s industry advisory group, which provides valuable feedback to the company around industry best practices and product roadmap validation. Rick was part of the original Hard Dollar team that’s been working with InEight customers for over 20 years.

John Klobucar:

Now, if you have any questions as you watch this webinar today, please enter them in the box marked “Questions” on your screen, and we’ll answer a few of them toward the end of our program. Also, this presentation is being recorded, and we’ll be sending you a link to the video in about a week’s time. So now let’s get things started, and let me introduce Rick Deans.

Rick Deans:

Well, thanks, John. I’m looking forward to it. We’re going to run through a variety of topics, starting off with: what is business as usual, and what does it mean today versus just six months or a year ago, and what might that look like six months from now or a year from now? We’re going to talk about collaborating with our colleagues, both internally and externally. We’re going to talk about things that have always been germane to professional cost estimators managing changes and risk, managing third party, subcontractor, contractor, vendor relationships, and management of those.

Rick Deans:

We’re going to ask the question: Is this a good time for some internal housekeeping? And if so, are there some things we could be doing along the lines of strengthening our organization by creating templates and assemblies, and looking at benchmarking.

Rick Deans:

Managing for the long-term. What are some of the ways that we can better leverage technology, continue to leverage technology, leverage technology in ways that maybe we haven’t really embraced previously. And then we’ll certainly leave some time at the end for some questions and answers.

Rick Deans:

Well, let’s dig right in. One of the things we’ve found by and large across our customer base is that construction is deemed an essential business by many of the governing bodies that make those decisions. So with that comes some challenges as well as some opportunities. What are some of those challenges?

Rick Deans:

Well, many offices, including our own, are either closed or have restrictions in terms of how many people can collaborate within a certain space at a certain time, maintaining social distancing, mask usage, all that stuff that we hadn’t really given much thought to six or eight months ago.

Rick Deans:

Many of us work, it’s something that we do, it’s a part of our being a human being, but it’s not necessarily 100% of it, nor should it be. So now that many of us are working from home, how do we balance that with other responsibilities and commitments that we might have, either in the community to family, to friends and other professional organizations, et cetera.

Rick Deans:

For those of us with kids, obviously a huge impact there. Schools were shut down. A lot of kids were trying to keep up with online classrooms. We saw the schools, and the teachers, and the children adapting to their new normal, not unlike what we’ve had to do.

Rick Deans:

Many owners want their projects fast-tracked. While this facility is shut down, can we bring additional crews in here to accelerate some of the construction initiatives that we have?

Rick Deans:

So with these challenges come opportunities. It’s not entirely coincidental that our first opportunity aligns with the last challenge. As contractors, maybe a part of what we want to do is offer those services to our customers that are going to put us in a better light with them. And maybe it is a good time for us to invest and to look at growing our company.

Rick Deans:

If we’re owners, maybe this is a great time to look strategically at our portfolio of ongoing projects, and make sure that we’re executing where we should be executing, and that we’re good stewards of the capital that has been provided to us.

Rick Deans:

I know certainly myself, I’m spending less time behind the wheel. I’m not driving into work for 30, 35 minutes every morning and 40, 45 minutes home in the afternoon or the evening. So that’s better than an hour a day I’m getting back, that I can use that time to be more productive. So that’s certainly an opportunity.

Rick Deans:

One of the things that we see, too, especially those of us who work with overseas colleagues, and partners, and teammates, it’s not uncommon to see emails trickle in after hours. And now that we’re not going to movie theaters, or restaurants, or gyms, or really doing a lot of that kind of stuff, it’s not a Herculean effort to respond to a couple emails outside of normal business hours. So that’s certainly an opportunity as well. We have more available time throughout the 24-hour day cycle.

Rick Deans:

And then certainly, opportunities of more time with family members, and maybe even playing the role or helping to play the role of teacher with the youngsters in our lives, and just anecdotally in talking with a lot of our customers and colleagues. It seems like people have been taking advantage of getting that lingering project around the house knocked out. I certainly know I have.

Rick Deans:

So with all of this, again, there are challenges, there are opportunities. And looking forward, frankly, it’s hard to tell. I certainly don’t have a crystal ball on my desk. I can’t tell when, if ever, we’ll return to a pre-2020 business model. It seems as if the experts in these fields, their opinions vary. So my motto is: I’m going to hope for the best, but I’m also going to plan for a less-than-ideal scenario so that I’m not caught unaware if things change one way or another.

Rick Deans:

So let’s get into sort of the nuts and bolts of some of this. Collaborating with colleagues. I think one of the things that we certainly see, especially with folks that are used to estimating in teams, where maybe they’re discipline estimators, and if I’m the structural steel guy, maybe I can go talk to my colleague who’s responsible for concrete or electrical and instrumentation. I can’t walk down the office to the estimating coordinator’s office and have a casual conversation kind of propped up in the door of his or her office.

Rick Deans:

So the team members are no longer co-located. It’s difficult to get to job sites that maybe we would have not thought twice about hopping on a plane and going to visit if they were out of our state or out of our region. And in-person collaboration opportunities are surely limited these days. We’re finding that to be the case.

Rick Deans:

So what are some of the opportunities we’re seeing? Well, I’m certainly seeing when I attend a call with a customer or I’m participating in an internal review that they might be having, the meetings do seem to be much more focused. They’re starting on time. There seems like much more appreciation for other folks’ time. Less time traveling that we just lose by sitting in airports and waiting for flights, and go into a rental car facility and then driving for an hour-and-a-half to get to a hotel, just to wake up the next morning and go to a meeting and run a race back to the airport. So that’s certainly an opportunity.

Rick Deans:

And one thing we’ve noticed, too, on a relatively small scale, leveraging different types of technology. We’re certainly using our webcams more in our interactions with our customers, and I’m seeing a lot of our customers use their webcams more than say they did a year ago.

Rick Deans:

And just a personal note on this, I know just from experience, a modest investment in some ancillary hardware, a webcam, a microphone, can go a long way toward really being able to solidly communicate with our teams. So as professionals, it’s important that we’re doing that kind of stuff. So maybe if the webcam or the microphone that came with your company-issued PC isn’t the greatest and you don’t feel that it presents you as well as you should be presented, maybe a modest investment in a web camera or microphone would be a good idea.

Rick Deans:

And then looking forward, I certainly think that communication skills are going to remain crucial. They always have been, but especially now we can’t get in the same room with somebody, walk over to the white board, use body language, interpret their body language, we’re really going to have to focus on communications. And we’re certainly going to see technology play a larger role in business functions where maybe it wasn’t fully leveraged before. But certainly, the automation of mundane tasks and details, and being able to create repositories of information that can be leveraged later, that’s going to become huge in this new normal.

Rick Deans:

So let’s talk about some nuts and bolts of estimating. Ever since I got into this world over 20 years ago, estimators have always been concerned about managing through changes and managing risk. What are some of the things that we can do to leverage technology to help us out here?

Rick Deans:

If we’re all sitting in the boardroom together and we’ve got our laptops out and someone’s presenting on the big screen, we’re making changes to this cost estimate, we’re all in stride, we’re all in lockstep as we’re making these changes, there’s a flow to it and an energy to it.

Rick Deans:

I mentioned earlier that some of us are taking advantage of not going out to eat or going out to movies. And maybe at the end of my working day at five o’clock I unplug for a bit, and the next morning I come back at 6:30 or 7:00, and this cost estimate that was at $30 million when I unplugged last night is now sitting at $45 million. Well, what happened? Sometimes it’s hard to tell what happened if we’re not all sitting in the same office. So we’re going to take a look at some of the capabilities within InEight Estimate specifically, to help us answer some of those questions.

Rick Deans:

We see this a lot as a capital project, for instance, is going through its stage-gates or its funding approval processes. Can we easily explain to our higher-ups why a project budget has morphed? Are we able to pinpoint where those changes are, and when those changes occurred, and what was driving those changes? So again, we’ll show you some ways of staying on top of that within our estimating platform.

Rick Deans:

Risk and contingency. This is something that we’ve seen since the pyramids were built and the Hoover Dam was built. Known unknowns. We know we’re going to run into something. We don’t know exactly what it is, or when it’s going to happen or where it’s going to affect us on the project, but you better be certain something’s going to happen.

Rick Deans:

So lots of different ways of accounting for contingency. But now in today’s world, we might want to look at some additional things. For instance, many of our customers are telling us that they’re spending more time on safety protocols and disinfecting tools and equipment throughout the day, and really enforcing social distancing, which might slow down productivity in the field. So we’re going to take a look at some things in our tools that can really help this.

Rick Deans:

And then finally, another point on this is in the paradigm where I can walk down the office corridor and I can get an approval, or I can get something reviewed, or I can get something looked at by my colleagues. Again, that’s a little bit more difficult in today’s day and age. So I’m going to show a couple of things in the software that might help us do this.

Rick Deans:

So we’re going to talk about changes, we’re going to talk about scope definition, risk and contingency, and we’re going to talk about checklists. So I’m going to flip over to the actual software application, InEight Estimate, and I’ve got a project here that we can take a look at that’s going to help us with some of this stuff.

Rick Deans:

So in terms of what changed, those of you who are familiar with our software application, you know that we’ve got this changes register. It’s really an audit log that runs automatically in the background once you turn it on. And what it does is it captures any change that affected the ultimate value of the estimate, whether it’s a price or an internal cost. And it collects that information. It shows me which user made the change, when the change was made, what the change affected, and it gives me some before and after values.

Rick Deans:

And if I were to look at the details of any of these changes specifically, I can really dial down and see what it did to the net value of the project, what it did to my cost breakdown structure by category, the impact on a specific item of work, and even down to what did it do to our hours that we had in the estimate? So lots of different ways I can assign other attributes to this, including putting notes in. That’s one thing you’re going to hear me say a lot during this presentation is these data fields exist for a reason.

Rick Deans:

It’s super important, especially when we can’t sit in the same room as our colleagues to provide justification or rationale behind these changes, and we do that through listing our assumptions in these notes fields, as well as other data fields that might be helpful to us as well.

Rick Deans:

Scope definition. Let’s take a look at that one. So again, I’m going to leverage a data field here. In the tool, I’ve renamed one of our tag fields to help me understand when this scope was introduced to this estimate. And you can see on the dropdown list for this data field, I can say that this was either part of the initial business plan. This was something that was already considered as we were putting this together.

Rick Deans:

Maybe it was a change that we introduced after the budget had been approved. Maybe it’s important for me to be able to differentiate between the stuff [that] was part of the original, a set of assumptions, and the stuff that was subsequently added. And then maybe there’s even a status value for those things that were added after we begun getting this project off the ground in the field.

Rick Deans:

So again, in my example, I’ve got three different ways I can label these things. And what I can do then is I can maybe group the estimate, or filter, or sort the estimate by those status values. So really quickly, I can see how much of the estimate was included in the original business plan, how much was added after we got the budget approved and how much was added in execution.

Rick Deans:

So again, a really great set of tools to help me answer the question when I’m asked, “Hey, we all agreed this was going to be a $50 million project. Why are we now looking at $70 million for this?” Very easy to pinpoint those inclusions and refer back to those notes fields and say, “Well, here is the reason why we added this,” and having some link off to some documentation that further supports that. That can be a real time saver during those sorts of discussions.

Rick Deans:

Risk and contingency. Many of you will know that within InEight Estimate, we can create what we call dependent cost items. These are cost items where we would typically set up some sort of percentage, that as the estimate is changing and as those labor and equipment and materials dollars within the estimator are going up and down, we can assign some percentage of those to help us offset unknown costs, maybe by doing some contingency.

Rick Deans:

If for instance I feel that I’m going to experience maybe some escalation on my materials prices or I want to at least have some coverage for that, in this case I’ve got $15,000 of equipment costs, I’ve said I want that to attract 30% of a contingency, and now I’ve added $4,500 to the estimate to account for that. And you can escalate cost categories. Even the individual components of the cost categories, you can escalate those individually as well.

Rick Deans:

So a really powerful tool. And again, most of our customers have been doing this, but why wouldn’t we do this for commodity prices of things that, yesterday, were relatively available and relatively inexpensive that might not be the case tomorrow as we’ve all seen with various types of household products here in the last six months.

Rick Deans:

A review step. Does it make sense for us to label whether or not a particular activity or a set of activities has been reviewed? So again, I’ve just used another data field for this. So many of these have been reviewed. Some of them have not been reviewed. Some of them are in the process of being reviewed. So very easy for me to filter my estimate down.

Rick Deans:

And again, on the theme of concise, focused meetings, I know I’m going to be going in and talking to a colleague about the review process on this estimate. Does it make sense to list those things out and just filter on the ones that are maybe in-process, and see if we’ve reached conclusions on those?

Rick Deans:

Many of you know that within InEight Estimate, you can attach an embedded Microsoft Excel workbook. I’ve seen many customers create almost like a preflight checklist of things that the estimator should be thinking about as they’re putting this estimate together. In addition to labeling each line item within the estimate, if I really wanted to take that a step further, I could use that embedded Excel workbook to create a more elaborate checklist and really keep track of the progress of this estimate, what’s next ball-in-the-court responsibilities, et cetera.

Rick Deans:

And that can be really helpful because that’s right here inside of the estimate file. It’s not a separate spreadsheet that I’m maintaining on my hard drive or that I’ve put away in some really clever location on a SharePoint folder where no one else can find it. It’s right here within the estimate. So anyone with access to the estimate can then open up that workbook and look at that checklist worksheet within that workbook and pick up where someone has left off.

Rick Deans:

Third party. Managing contractors, subcontractors, material vendors. As we talked about earlier, the relative availability and cost of something yesterday, six months ago, is not necessarily guaranteed tomorrow or six months from now.

Rick Deans:

So the recommendation here is, just maintain close contact with those parties that are going to come in and provide goods or services. Will delivery of long lead items or commodities even be effected? Those who are using our schedule integration know that you can call out long lead items, specifically, and look for those key dates on which they’re going to be needed on site and just make sure that the quote packages are aligned to ensure that we can use plug days for subcontracted activities.

Rick Deans:

That means even though we don’t have our own resources in there and we’re not putting in durations for the tasks ourselves, we’ve offloaded that to a third party. We can still show that on the schedule. So any sort of predecessors or successor activities can take those durations into consideration as that logic is being applied.

Rick Deans:

So really important that we’re maintaining our communications with those service providers, just to make sure there aren’t any surprises. We certainly don’t want to have crews waiting for materials to arrive so they can install them and those materials are nowhere in sight in the supply chain. So again, we want to flush that stuff out as early as possible, use those data fields within the quote management tool, within the quote records, to really denote those conditions. And again, document, document, document. Put notes in there and specifying durations, lead times, et cetera.

Rick Deans:

Site walkthroughs may be difficult to perform because, again, we’re not traveling, we’re not getting on planes. Six months ago, it might have made perfect sense to hop on a flight to the next state over to walk through a job site.

Rick Deans:

So are we leveraging resources such as electronic models? One of the exciting things we’re doing here at InEight is we’re tying the quantities and other attributes associated with model elements. We’re tying those to actual cost items within the estimate. So as I’m reviewing visually some components within a model, I can see what those attributes are, and then I can tie those back to specific line items within my estimate. Very easy to keep track of. Quantities of already taken off or accounted for. And as we get design iterations coming down, maybe it’s really important for me to be able to see what’s changed since the last time I ran this integration.

Rick Deans:

So taking advantage of tools like models. Even things as basic as Google Earth, being able to identify, for instance, if this is a proposed site where we’re going to build a new facility without physically going there, I have a pretty good understanding of access, conditions, any sort of restrictions, utility easements, et cetera, just from a set of plans, a drawing, or even widely available imaging software like this.

Rick Deans:

So we’re going to ask the question: is this a good time for housekeeping? We started off by saying, “Hey, construction is essential.” Most of the governing bodies that make those decisions have come down on the side of, “Yes, we still need to build things. We need to maintain our infrastructure. We need to build facilities. We need to keep things running along smoothly.” But maybe for us businesses dropped a little bit. Maybe we’re seeing a slowdown. Maybe some of our customers are impacted more than perhaps other organizations.

Rick Deans:

So might this be a good time to sharpen our proverbial saw? And some of the ways we can do that is by building out templates. Templates are just collections of cost structures and activities that can be prebuilt and used again, and again, and again by users. So if I’m going to be doing an estimate for a wastewater treatment plant, I can pull up my wastewater treatment template and maybe make some changes to some quantities, maybe remove some scope, maybe add some scope, but I’m starting from a point of editing rather than starting from scratch and trying to remember, “Gee, what are all the things we need to consider when we put an estimate together for a facility like this?”

Rick Deans:

On another level lower than that is this concept of cost item assemblies. And this is a set of tools that we’ve developed within InEight Estimate that allow for really an interview-style takeoff to occur. So an end-user can answer some questions. “What are we going to build?” “Well, we’re going to build a facility.” “Okay, great. How many floors does the facility have?” “It has six floors.” “What kind of facility is it?” “Well, it’s a mixed-use residential commercial facility.” “Okay, great.” Maybe that leads the way to some more questions being asked and answered.

Rick Deans:

Most users will interact with these cost item assemblies by providing those inputs. These are typically built by a few people within the organization, but they’re leveraged by all. And the results, what you get after answering those questions and clicking the button, is sort of an organizational best practices approach to building that type of facility or for putting that type of estimate together. So we’re going to take a look at some examples here.

Rick Deans:

Benchmarks. I know I’ve talked with a lot of you about benchmarking over the years, and it’s a really exciting set of capabilities. What I normally hear is, “Yeah. We really need to do that. We absolutely have to do that. But first, we got to really standardize on some agreed upon coding structures. And maybe this is a good time to do that.

Rick Deans:

Benchmarks can be super valuable in helping me validate the cost and the effort associated with doing a bit of work that I have some history on. They really let me leverage my organizational history in a way that is efficient. And especially now that I can’t walk down the hall into Bob’s office and pull one of the three ring binders off the back of his bookcase, and blow the dust off it and open to the concrete page. All of this data is available within our tools, and so I should be able to perform those benchmarks without having to have access to those physical artifacts.

Rick Deans:

So let’s take a look at these one by one within the application, because I think these are worth spending a little bit of time on. When I create a new project, there is a way for me to create a new project by copying a template.

Rick Deans:

So when I say, “Okay, great. I want to create a new job, and I want to copy it from one of my templates.” This is a list of my templates. So maybe I have templates for different types of transmission lines that we’re going to be building. I’ve got a template in here for refinery turnaround. I’ve got a template in here for a road and pipe job. Or maybe I’m going to be doing some work on a boiler unit, and I’ve got a template for an economizer. So those templates can include best practices approaches to building out that sort of work.

Rick Deans:

It’s great. It’s like a shopping list. Do you need to consider this? Do you need to consider this? Do you need to consider this? Once I’ve copied the template, I’m in my own estimate file. So if I need to add, or delete items, modify existing items, I could certainly do that. But those templates are great ways of ensuring that regardless of who is estimating that next project, whether they have 20 years of experience or they’ve just joined our organization recently, they’re all using the same set of data as the beginning of that estimate.

Rick Deans:

Let’s take a look at cost item assemblies. These are really exciting. What cost item assemblies allow you to do, and I’ll just do this as if I’m a user walking through the process, I’m going to be estimating a warehouse that we’re going to go out and build. So I’m going to drop in a cost item assembly as a subordinate, in this case as a subordinate to the project row. And it’s going to give me a list of all of the different assemblies that I’ve got access to within this particular project. I’m going to select the warehouse wizard.

Rick Deans:

And what it’s going to do then, it’s going to prompt me through a series of questions. In this case, I have nine questions that I’m going to be asked that I’m going to answer. And watch what happens when I change these variables up top. Take a look and see how some of this data downstairs changes.

Rick Deans:

So if the length of the warehouse were going to be 800 feet, and if the width of the warehouse were going to be 375 feet. And again, as a user, I’m just answering questions. What’s the height of the warehouse? It’s going to be 45 feet high.

Rick Deans:

So you see many of these are numeric values. That I would just type in a number. I can also pick from a list. What’s the exterior wall system look like? Are those going to be tilt-up panels? Is it going to be metal siding? Is it going to be concrete block? Each of those answers would drive different results down here.

Rick Deans:

This is a preview of what I’m going to see when I actually bring this into the estimate. And you can see in our example here, we’ve got how many dock doors? We’re going to have two dozen. We only need 7,500 square feet of office space, and we’re only planning for 100 parking spaces.

Rick Deans:

So again, it gives me a really good idea. Based on some very basic inputs, I’ve got a pretty elaborate structure downstairs here that is going to pop right into my estimate, and that has resources, durations, productivities, based on what those inputs generated. So all the way down to the anchor bolts and the structural steel embeds, they’re all included here in this initial version of the estimate.

Rick Deans:

Now I can begin to refine this. If I need to go back and answer a question differently, I can always go back and edit my cost item assembly inputs. So if I needed to change the number of parking spaces from 100 to 125, very easy to do. And again, my estimate has been updated as a result of that.

Rick Deans:

So that’s cost item assemblies. Again, typically these are built out by a few people in the organization, but they could be leveraged by everyone. I don’t need to have 20 years of estimating experience to be able to answer those nine questions by looking at a set of plans or a set of drawings, but all of this rich detail comes along on the backend because they were set up by someone in my organization who knew what sort of output they wanted to generate.

Rick Deans:

And then finally, I want to talk about benchmarks. Benchmarks are just simply ways of comparing an existing estimate, an estimate we’re working on right now, comparing that against our history. So this is a multi-disciplined project. If I open up the civil group, and we’re going to be looking at some concrete here, I can see here’s a task for doing some formwork.

Rick Deans:

I can open this up, and I can see the crews, and the productivities, and the unit rates that I’ve come up with in this estimate. But perhaps more importantly, I can see how this estimate, represented by this white diamond, compares against my organization’s history for performing this type of work.

Rick Deans:

So these sort of green circles, these are the previously estimated data points. So I can see with reference to this type of work, what I estimated work was going to cost for a certain quantity, what it actually came in at. That’s the blue triangles. So you’ll see as I hover over any of these data points, I can get some really good data.

Rick Deans:

The orange square in the middle, that’s going to be my average for performing this work. So you can see my cost per primary unit for this work is a lot higher than what it’s been in the past. In fact, I’ve never estimated it to be this high, and only once in my history has it actually come in higher than where I’m estimating.

Rick Deans:

What’s really nice about this is you can set filters and you can determine which projects you want to use as a basis of comparison based on project level attributes. So again, if I were going to be estimating a wastewater treatment plant here in the Southwest US, I may only want to look at similar projects. I may only want to look at wastewater treatment plants in the Southwest. I might want to organize those by a geographic area. I might want to organize those by date. I might want to organize those by client, engineer, contractor, et cetera.

Rick Deans:

So these are the syntax of some of the filters that I’ve used. And then these are the auto-included data points. But even if I wanted to come in here and selectively turn some of these on or off, I would have that flexibility as well and redrawing that scatter graph on the grid. So very powerful set of tools.

Rick Deans:

And again, one of the things that pops up in conversations with customers about this as well, it’s just, “We need to develop a logical coding structure that’s going to allow us to call an apple an apple, and an orange an orange, and a pear and pear. And this might be a great time to do it. If we are experiencing some downtime, let’s maybe sharpen this organizationally.”

Rick Deans:

So looking forward, how do we manage through this? How do we keep our eyes on the road ahead and not get bogged down and frustrated with every little detail that pops up? I think it’s fair to say that strategic decisions will likely change as do the conditions around us. And I’m not talking about fundamental values. I’m not talking about safety, and quality, and cost control. Those things are always going to be very, very important in construction.

Rick Deans:

What I’m talking about are maybe the way we solve a problem today is not the way we solved it yesterday, and it’s maybe not the way we solve it tomorrow, but having the flexibility in our approach to solving problems is really going to be paramount. As we discussed earlier, the things that were readily available and relatively inexpensive six months ago may not be the case today. So we need to understand that, and we need to roll with the punches as it were.

Rick Deans:

One of the things that I’m certainly seeing now and I’m sure is going to happen is that those organizations that are able to quickly adapt to changes in their markets, in changes in their industries, they’re going to really have a competitive advantage because everything around us is changing at a rate that I certainly haven’t seen before.

Rick Deans:

And then organizations that are able to identify and monitor those trends and changes to those trend lines, being not only able to respond to those changes but to predict those changes can be a huge competitive advantage.

Rick Deans:

And as we get more and more data and we’re able to perform more and more analytics with that data and really have those analytics connected to our everyday work tasks, we’re able to surface more data, we’re able to make more sense of it in less time, and really look for those trends, look for those opportunities that might be arising, and be able to plan for those. And if there are risks, let’s be able to mitigate those. If there are opportunities, let’s be able to accelerate development towards those opportunities.

Rick Deans:

And then I’ll talk a little bit about this whole collaborative approach. Many of us are working from home. We’re spending a lot of time online with colleagues. What sort of tools are we using to communicate with each other? We’ve certainly been leveraging a wide variety of tools, depending on which client I’m interacting with. We’re using Webex. We’re using Skype. We’re using Teams. I know a lot of folks out there are using Zoom. But more importantly, what are the tools within the tools that we should be leveraging? So within some of these applications that I’ve mentioned, are we taking the extra time to learn how the annotation features work? Are we using the chat box in our presentations, et cetera?

Rick Deans:

This has always been the case, but I think now more than ever, we need to be sensitive if we’re presenting even to our internal colleagues or if we’re presenting to an external third party. Let’s be concise and focused, and appreciate the fact that our audience is probably rushing from another meeting prior to ours and rushing to another meeting after ours.

Rick Deans:

And so let’s be impactful with our statements and be concise and succinct, and really be focused and get our point across. Again, whether it’s we’re internally reviewing an estimate, maybe we’re going out and making a presentation to a client… and when I say going out, I mean we’re going outside of the virtual walls of our organization, but let’s be respectful of that. Hopefully, I’m not breaking any of those rules with this presentation.

Rick Deans:

And then one of the things that we’ve certainly seen is almost all of our software implementation and training services are being performed remotely, today, which is 180 degrees different than it was a year ago. So it’s not a perfect substitute for in-person interaction, but we certainly have seen several efficiencies realized through this approach. And again, we’re always looking for creative ways that we can deliver value to our constituent market, our customers, and the folks that rely on our products and services.

Rick Deans:

(silence)

John Klobucar:

All right. Thank you, Rick Deans, for that great presentation. We now move into the live Q&A portion of the webinar. So Rick, we do have a question that’s come in… a couple of them actually. So the first one we have is: are the assembly templates available in the estimating software, out of the box, or does the estimating organization have to set those up themselves?

Rick Deans:

No, that’s a great question, John. I think we certainly have samples that we can provide with the software. When I’m out working with customers, they typically want those to be dialed in to their productivity rates, their specific resource utilization, et cetera. But we certainly have some samples, and we can guide people through the process of putting those together, for sure.

John Klobucar:

Okay. We’ll move on to a few others that we have that have come in from our viewers. When you showed a Google Earth image, how would you take off elements to import quantities into Estimate?

Rick Deans:

No, that’s a great question. The InEight Estimate software actually has integrations with 2D takeoff tools. So if we can convert that to a JPEG, or a PDF or any kind of a 2D flat file, all we would need to do is just simply within that software set up a scale, that one inch equals a kilometer or whatever that might be, and then we have some tools that would allow us to bring that data into InEight Estimate as well as keep it updated. I think that particular set of tools does a great job of letting the user know what’s already been imported and what’s changed since it’s been imported.

John Klobucar:

Okay. Thank you for the question, Ross, earlier. Joshua has a question. How do you set up a contingency percentage add-on set up like the one that was demonstrated?

Rick Deans:

Yeah. We would use what we call dependent cost items. And what those are, those are costs that are a function of other costs that are occurring in the Estimate. So I can set up a contingency amount, for instance, at X percent of my labor costs or Y percent of my material cost. And then as I’m working in the Estimate, changing those, what we call subject costs, those are my labor and equipment costs go up and down, those percentages will remain intact and I’ll always be calculating a contingency based on those.

John Klobucar:

Okay. Thanks for the question, Joshua. And again, if you have any more questions as we’re having our Q&A session here, just submit those questions into the box on your screen, and we’ll get to them as they come in.

John Klobucar:

So Rick, you’ve mentioned plug days when taking quotes from subcontractors. How would this work when integrating with a scheduling system like P6 or Microsoft Project?

Rick Deans:

Great question. Yeah. So when we integrate with scheduling tools, we can really manage two durations. So when we’re getting a quote from a subcontractor, if they say it’s going to be $10,000 and it’s going to take 16 days, both of those elements are key to analyzing that contractor’s a viable bid package. So when we’re using the schedule, we would use what we call plug days. And as opposed to calculated or productive days, these don’t really need any sort of detail behind them. I can just put a placeholder out there and say, “It’s going to take 16 days,” without any underlying data or productivity that’s going to help them make that formula.

John Klobucar:

And another question, how has this transition affected InEight?

Rick Deans:

We talked earlier about how construction is deemed an essential business and that’s keeping our customers working. I think we’ve done a great job of pivoting to deliver our training and our services, and supporting our customers online. We offer cloud-based solutions for the industry. And I think we’re seeing more and more organizations really have a need for that sort of collaborative cloud-based, system-based solution, where people can collaborate and they don’t necessarily need to be in the same room as we’ve been talking about.

John Klobucar:

Okay. So we don’t have any more questions yet that have come in in addition to the ones we’ve just answered. I’ll pause here for just a couple of seconds to see if anyone has any more questions. If you do, please get them in now, or else we will be wrapping up our broadcast. So it doesn’t look like, Rick, we have anything more, but would you like to make any closing comments before we wrap up our presentation?

Rick Deans:

I just wanted to thank everyone for taking time out of their busy day. I know things are stacked up, people are pulled in all sorts of directions now in this new normal, and we’re really excited that folks took the time out to visit with us. We hope it was informative, and we hope that perhaps people learned something or at least reinforced what they were thinking as they came into the session.

John Klobucar:

One other one’s popped in. What’s the difference between Bluebeam and InEight?

Rick Deans:

Yeah. Great question. InEight is really a cost estimating engine that takes into consideration all of those finite details, where the other product is more of a visualizer or a way to, for instance, annotate PDFs. I look at them as more complimentary than competitive tools.

John Klobucar:

All right. Rick, fantastic job. I thank you for the presentation. So that will be a wrap for this webinar. And we thank you so much for tuning in.

John Klobucar:

To learn more about InEight, a tool in our broad portfolio of construction project management software, visit ineight.com and click on the “Request a Demo” button. And if you’d like to see a schedule of upcoming webinars, we do lots of them here at InEight, visit ineight.com/webinars, and you’ll see a complete listing of all the things we have coming your way that you could enjoy. Thank you for watching. This concludes our presentation.

Rick Deans:

Thank you.

Rick Deans:

(silence)