Since the early days of spreadsheet calculations, construction estimating software has come a long way. Today, software solutions let you upload and integrate digital plans with client portals and collaborative tools that can make estimating and invoicing seamless and transparent.
In a 2021 survey by the Construction Management Association of America, nearly half of all respondents claimed their estimating and bidding had been improved by engaging estimating software either as a check against traditional practice or by replacing it altogether.
New construction estimating software products appear almost every day. They range from apps designed for small residential contractors to software for larger companies with a broader portfolio. Whatever your budget, or scope of work, there is likely a level of offer that will work for your business, and there are custom solutions too.
So what is construction estimating software, and why is it becoming such an essential part of today’s contractor toolkit?
What is Construction Estimating Software?
Construction estimating software apps are designed to help speed up the process of making accurate material take-offs and labor estimates. However, the effectiveness of using any such program is only as good as the information inputted by the user.
Up-to-date material pricing and labor rates are the domain of a user. An estimating app can then convert those variables into an accurate price list. Some software boasts that it can estimate down to the last nail what will be required, but for most projects, where material wastage and contingencies have to be allowed for, this is optional.
If you cooperate with a material supplier, you may be able to integrate their price list into your app, making for up-to-the-minute accurate estimations of costs. Delivery costs can also be factored in, and this can be made easier if the software has a scheduling feature that allows for activity planning.
Integration with existing platforms allows uploading, assessing, and communicating information across an organization. It is essential in larger companies and may need a custom software solution to bring more benefits.
Usually, standard off-the-shelf estimating software for construction has several limitations. For example, it won’t tell you the amount of work your team can handle, how site access will contribute to or hinder activities, or assess many variables, like the weather or a particular client’s needs.
As with any tool, it is only ever as good as the skill and expertise behind its use. For example, experienced construction contractors can improve the accuracy and adaptability of a construction estimating app. Such an improvement is possible thanks to their knowledge base built over years of experience and their talent for problem-solving and lifelong learning.
What construction estimating software can do is provide the information you need to assess whether a project will be profitable enough. This conclusion is based on the competition in the market and the importance of a price for your company’s offer.
In construction, finding creative solutions to the many issues that present themselves, either when work-winning or during the delivery of a project, is dependent upon solid information. When the contractor bears the risks, this software can help maintain profitability and transform potential problems into opportunities.
Key Features of Construction Estimating Software
One of the top features of the best construction estimating software has to be simplicity of use. If a project takes too long to load, then it begins to make a job much more difficult, losing the benefits of an app.
A Short Learning Curve is Critical
- The more complex the system, the longer it will take to profit from the time and money spent on acquiring the app.
- While some apps offer training, and others include ongoing one-to-one support, it makes sense to keep things as simple as possible.
Integration with Other Services
- This is especially important for smaller contractors using apps such as Quickbooks to invoice their customers. However, it is also essential for larger contractors needing to merge large folders of drawings.
- Always check that the software is compatible with the digital platform your company is using.
Transparency and Trust
- Data integrity should always be high on any client list, but it should go hand-in-hand with security.
- Guaranteed data encryption and secure management of client and supplier information is a must-have in any platform.
- The ability to select the objects and participants of data sharing is important to ensure data security.
Strong Change Management Features
- A good estimating app should also have the functionality whereby it can be adjusted as market conditions and project conditions change.
- Construction is an industry where a client may decide to alter their end requirements mid-project, which means that an app should be able to cope with changing orders and help predict additional costs.
Scalability Over Time
- You might be just starting out, with a weather eye on future development, so you need to keep things simple in case things don’t work out.
- However, what if your plans work out and you are in the right place at the right time with the right ideas? In that case, you will need software that can grow with you.
If you are already established, there is always space to expand into. Using a scalable service could be the essential move you need to make.
Benefits of Construction Estimating Software
Custom software solutions can bring numerous benefits to your business. The best construction estimating software can directly enhance and integrate with your existing operating systems. It delivers exactly what your company needs to thrive and stand out in today’s market.
Change costs money. This is a key principle of construction estimating, and getting a clear steer on what that cost might be can sometimes be crucial for those making the decision, be they clients or contractors.
Problems pop up almost daily on large construction projects, and most of these can be managed and mitigated by an experienced and qualified site team. Bigger issues often need to be redirected from the site delivery team to the project management and client staff.
Better Decision Making
Using construction estimating software to assess the various solutions that arise from expert analyses of a situation can help a decision to be arrived at faster, especially when time is of the essence.
Projects are similar no matter the size. A timeline is usually too short for a client and never long enough for a contractor. So, if there is any way time can be saved on a program and delays avoided, then using an estimating tool has got to benefit all concerned.
Fair Contractor-Client Relationship
Integrating construction estimating software with virtual reality programs, AI scheduling software, and real-time progress apps are all coming down the line. They raise client expectations and hopefully enhance contractor and customer relations.
Transparency and trust help to build business relationships where fair pricing and timely delivery of a quality product will ensure years of ongoing repeat contract opportunities. This is one of the main aims of any successful building and construction business.
6 Best Construction Estimating Software Solutions
We have looked at some of the top software on offer today and selected a few that may be worth closer attention and a bespoke solution too, because, oftentimes, one size does not fit all.
The Tradesman’s Choice
For single contractors or small partnerships, PlanSwift by Construct Connect is an affordable entry-level software suite that comes with an optional training package to help you get the best out of your annual license. Just upload your plans and get a breakdown in minutes. It also comes with a free trial, so you can try it out before you commit. Overall, PlanSwift could be an ideal residential construction estimating software for domestic customers that gives the transparency that builds trust, the biggest asset a small contractor can invest in.
The Cost-Effective Choice
Contractor Foreman is the best value entry-level piece of software for estimating a broader range of clients. Conveniently, it comes with several price tiers: Standard, Plus, Pro, and Unlimited, which gives full access to the app’s functionality. Take a thirty-day free trial and see whether it works for you.
The Mid-Range Choice
Buildxact from Australia is said to be quicker than most commercial construction estimating software to set up. Still, the entry-level grade has restricted functionality, and you only really get the goods worth having, the Gantt charts, accounting integration, and other project management tools at the upper end of the offer.
The Larger Contractor’s Choice
For integration with other software, such as the accounting app QuickBooks, RedTeam is a great choice. There are no free downloads or trials that you can run. Instead, you will have to book a demonstration to see whether the interface would be a good, intuitive fit for your company.
The Major Contractor’s Choice
Pro-Est is a cloud-based app that is built for ease of collaboration within a team of estimators. Reassuringly expensive, the software takes some time to set up and integrate with existing software, but it is said to be versatile enough to adapt to most contractors’ requirements.
Your Construction Estimating Software Choice
Most construction companies run on ready-made commercial software, but often some solutions don’t quite do what is required. For example, they fall short or are not as seamless as they could be because every company has its own particular method of working, developed over time. Unless you and your business are starting from scratch, then it’s most likely that you have existing software and files full of company information that you need to manage as simply as possible.
The truth is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. But Intellectsoft has the expertise that can tailor make the cost estimating software for construction that your business needs.
Challenges in Developing Estimating Software in Construction
Construction is one of the most innovative and creative industries, with new ideas, standards, and materials being developed every year. Problem-solving and adaptability are the two main strengths of any construction business as site conditions change and client demands evolve.
- With a dynamic industry like construction, one of the most difficult issues is that the software can rely on historical data to produce results. Material prices are particularly volatile, especially in a globally connected world sensitive to disruption of trade routes, extreme weather events, or war.
- Most estimating software is ideal for running up the figures for your basic conventional projects. However, it may struggle to cope with a new material or more specific factors.
- Ensuring that the software can be integrated with real-time cost changes is a serious challenge that needs monitoring to provide ongoing accuracy.
- Even considering temporary discounts, the costs of annual or monthly licenses can be prohibitive to all but the largest contractors. To make matters worse, new software requires time to train your staff. So, you may have to rely on pen, paper, and spreadsheets for a little longer.
- As with all things in software development, the cost does tend to go down over time as things get streamlined, and the features that aren’t required fall away.
- Intuitive function and database integration are two more key challenges when it comes to getting your software working for you.
- Some software is a cinch to start using. However, it may take some time to be able to integrate all the price options and material and labor parameters.
- There will likely be a commitment to a lot of data entry time to develop a consistent set of results.
- Construction staff and contractors have been working with IT for decades, but you and your teams will require training on any new app. One that looks and functions like something you already use will take less time to onboard.
- Once it’s up and running, it’s advisable to check everything your software produces to ensure the prices proffered are accurate and in line with expectations.
The construction industry is constantly evolving, meaning that cost-estimating software for construction also has to stay on its toes or get left behind. A software developer that aims to stay a step or two ahead by implementing patches, updates, and revisions, and is open to customer feedback, will always remain preferred by clients.
At Intellectsoft, we have been building our high reputation and expertise for over 15 years. Our skilled team has created many custom-made software products designed specifically for the construction industry. We have built enterprise portals, management software, middleware apps, and other types of software widely used by leading construction companies.
So, contact our managers today and tell them what you need. With our solutions, you can improve your estimating potential and deliver winning bids and gold-standard projects for your clients.