When to Switch from Excel to Construction Estimating Software

It may not be necessary to ditch Excel (or similar spreadsheet solutions) in favor of construction estimating software. You and your team may not run into any issues, and you may feel unrestricted by estimations created within Excel.

If so, that’s great. Do what works well for your specific needs. But for many in construction cost estimation, it’s likely time to upgrade.

Of course, upgrading to software designed specifically for cost estimating isn’t free. Not only is there a subscription cost involved, but you also have to get everyone in your team on board. We understand how that initial change might feel like you’re moving a mountain. But with proper support, we’re confident that it’s worthwhile to try. With so many issues involved with construction estimation spreadsheets, continuing to use limiting, consistently frustrating software can feel more daunting than doing something about it.

Let’s pull back from the focus on cost estimating software for one moment and turn our attention to cost books. The big problem with most cost data is the focus on national averages rather than specific markets. Specific jobs rarely match universal data – and specific workflow rarely fits well with software for all. This is why we care about the cost data we reference and use. So why do we overlook our needs when it comes to project management and estimation solutions?

Software For Everyone = Not Optimized For You

Construction estimation with Excel means using software made for tax professionals, Etsy store owners, and meteorologists. It’s a platform designed for anyone and everyone, and construction estimators make up a fraction of a percent of that user base. There’s an absolute beauty about such a versatile tool, the switch army knife of software, but it also means it’s not specialized to account for our specific industry needs.

Instead of everything built around your needs, you have to build and troubleshoot custom dashboards. Everyone has to use the same template; otherwise, the organization can be a nightmare.

Construction estimating software, on the other hand, is specifically optimized for your business.

But let’s take off our rose-colored glasses for a minute. Let’s acknowledge that there’s a learning curve to whatever software solution you pick. That’s just a part of the process. But once you nail down the workflow, you’ll be on an accelerated path to better estimates in shorter time frames. Remember the first time you picked up a smartphone? Or the first time you switched from physical accounting books to software such as QuickBooks? That digitalization process was new and overwhelming. But with each passing month, things got easier. Tracking down customer history was simple. Hours of searching for information were reduced to minutes.

You Want Software for Cost Estimators, By Cost Engineers

CostPro by PT&C is web-based construction estimating software made by a team of cost engineers, who designed the platform to make their jobs easier. In fact, those who helped build the platform use it every day on projects across the country.

CostPro works hand-in-hand with PT&C’s CostBook, which features the most accurate, location-specific construction cost data that’s constantly updated. Together, the two pieces of software optimize estimations for even the largest and most complex tasks.

This cross-application communication is controlled on a centralized hub called CostCenter, a cloud suite that lets you find the data you need from CostBook and pull them right into your project in CostPro. Project managers can track progress while specialized engineers enjoy a streamlined, intuitive workflow alongside the industry’s best data.

Save time with construction estimating software

Pros of using our CostCenter suite:

  • Designed for team collaboration
  • Backed by a team of cost engineers
  • Cost data and estimation solutions were designed to work the same holistic vision
  • No in-office support or admin needed
  • Data saved off-site, so there’s no risk of losing your work
  • Cross-device accessibility for 24/7 access from anywhere

Pro of using Excel:

  • Ease of use
  • Low (and even no) cost for spreadsheet software
  • There’s a higher possibility of a user being familiar with some of the basics funcationalities

The Power of a Single Source of Truth (SSOT)

Without everyone working from a single source of truth (SSOT), they’re working in their own silo. They’re using their own data sets and resources. They’re tackling tasks in different orders and from different angles.

The format they’re using could look nothing like the format you’re using.

This is woefully inefficient. But a SSOT for construction cost estimates can be hard to come by. Even if everyone on your team uses the same cost data, the way each person utilizes that data can be inconsistent and it leads to significant problems. Within the CostPro environment, you have a shared digital workspace that every team member can see. If John modifies a material cost in one place, that pricing will update and populate throughout the entire project so everyone else will have access to the latest changes. The entire team would be working off a SSOT.

A Brand-New Platform Can Be A Good Thing

More job postings on Indeed specify Excel experience than there are buildings in Manhattan. That means most people have at least some experience with Excel, and with that experience comes learned practices that are hard to unlearn.

As your team grows, you’ll be onboarding people who know Excel but will need to learn the cost estimating software. That means a fresh approach that fits well with your existing workflow.

You Can Outgrow Excel Without Realizing It

“If it’s not broken, why fix it?” is an age-old expression. But what if something is simply outdated? An abacus can still work for your calculations but wouldn’t it make more sense to lean on software to do it. If it’s worked as well as it always has, it never will be broken.

When you’re in a groove, it can be hard to step outside of that and realize you’ve reached a point where you need something better and more powerful. Fortunately, that doesn’t change the fact that you’ve reached that point.

When you use CostPro, whether with your own data or in tandem with CostBook, you’ll have the power to:

  • Bid on more jobs
  • More easily handle larger, more complex jobs
  • Grow your team in exciting news ways
  • Collaborate with your team in highly effective ways

Even with a small team, it’s difficult to track changes and collaborate with Excel. The problem gets a little better through Microsoft 365, but it’s difficult to maintain a standard approach as your team grows in size.

CostPro is construction estimating software designed with collaboration in mind. You can even give the client read-only access so they can track the project too.

Inaccuracies Shouldn’t Come with the Territory

We don’t mean inaccuracy in terms of cost data. However, Excel and CostBook is better than Excel and no CostBook– but that’s a cost book conversation. Assuming your data is 100% accurate, construction estimation on Excel still comes with human errors and broken formulas.

What happens if the formulas shift in a cell? What happens if the lookup tables are formatted incorrectly due to a bad copy and paste? We’ve all accidentally deleted a row, column, or cell. We’ve all experienced broken formulas.

All of the errors that come with construction estimation in Excel get exponentially more significant as bids get more complex. Having less time to double-check everything means your business is growing, which should be nothing if not a good thing.

Upgrade to Construction Estimating Software Today

If you’ve outgrown Excel, consider taking the next step in efficiency with a modern solution designed for your industry. You can’t do cost estimates on QuickBooks, and accountants can’t do someone’s taxes on CostPro. Yet folks in both industries are powering through Excel despite there being a better option. Pick the tool that’s appropriate for the job.

Book a free demo today to see how CostCenter eliminates the pitfalls of Excel, makes your job easier and combines the best data with best practice.

The result is limitless growth unhindered by the limitations of construction estimation spreadsheets.


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