Your Last Estimate Failed — Try This Instead

November 5, 2018 Sarah Lorek

So, your last estimate was bad. Okay, it was really bad— it outright failed. You can attribute your latest face-plant to “unavoidable” human error or sheer bad luck. But, no matter the reason, clients simply don’t want to be on the receiving end of a half-baked estimate, no matter the excuse.

Inefficiency in the estimating phase is costing your construction company. Today is the day you start improving your construction estimates. Say goodbye to bid blunders and say hello to exceptional estimates and bids. Here’s how.

Reduce Risk

Project estimation is not a perfect science, and any number of unforeseeable obstacles can put a wrench in a well-drafted estimate. A supply oversight, a labour miscalculation, last-minute changes, and more can send an estimate off the rails. In a way, there is more that could go wrong with an estimate than can go right.

This is why estimators must accept this simple fact: Risk is inherent in the estimation process. As a result, you should seek to reduce risk not outright eliminate it. Come to terms with striving for excellence instead of insisting on perfection.



  • Structure — Without a clear structure, coworkers and clients cannot easily identify expenses. A convoluted estimate runs the risk of duplicate or erroneous line items. Put yourself in the shoes of a layman and structure your estimate accordingly. An organised structure should make estimates easy to read.

  • Managing last-minute expenses — A last-minute deadline is an estimator’s worst nightmare because hasty work is prone to errors. When it’s crunch time, leverage any and all resources you can to get the estimate right. Estimating software which allows bulk substitutions, contains built-in assemblies, and allows document copying for easy cross-checking will help reduce the likelihood of last-minute blunders.

  • Learn from the past — Look to the past to better understand the estimates of the future. Study winning estimates from your company’s history and consider what worked and what didn’t, and let this information inform how you proceed going forward.

This is far from a comprehensive list of risk-management measures, but the above advice amounts to this: Don’t expose your estimate to unnecessary issues. Although perfection is unrealistic, mitigating risk is a great way to improve the overall quality of both your current estimate and estimates to come.  


Find the Right Estimating Tools

The tools of the trade have changed, and no matter how hard you clutch onto the pen and paper processes of yesteryear, project estimating is moving forward — with or without you.

Those that insist on the “old way” of drafting bids will undoubtedly be eclipsed by rivals willing to adapt to new technologies. Software specially designed for construction estimating helps streamline the manual, tedious, and error-prone elements of your work. Now is not the time to be reminiscent or prideful, so get with the times or get left behind.

With the right technology you can uncover several procedural benefits:

  • Accuracy — Excel isn’t the only game in town anymore. Sure, the spreadsheet has its place, but it’s easy for a miscalculation to hide in a complex spreadsheet comprised of hundreds of lines. Use software specific to construction estimation to ensure calculations are up-to-date and accurate. Something optimised to your field can offer bulk editing, cloud information storage, material databases and more to improve your day-to-day workflow.

  • Duplicatable — There is no need to reinvent the wheel with every estimate. Software with the templates, databases, and swipe files you need to duplicate past successes will help streamline the estimating process.

  • Profitable — At the end of the day, a good estimate is a profitable estimate. Optimising the estimating process through the right software solution means more bids for less money.

About the Author

Sarah Lorek

Sarah is the Lead Content Strategist for Trimble Buildings, CEC (Civil Engineering & Construction), and Geospatial. She has worked on many large scale marketing campaigns for Fortune 500 companies, helping them define their story and shape a compelling narrative. Now, she focuses on creating and sourcing valuable thought leadership content for our readers.

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