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During the course of each year as we talk to clients and prospects, the subject of estimates, and the conversion of those estimates to a budget will often come up. We’re always surprised to find out that the common practice within that company is to rekey a detailed budget into backend accounting software. We’re surprised because there are better alternatives.

One option – How about an estimating system? The biggest drawback to using Excel for estimating is a lack of standardization. We’ve seen many firms where each estimator has their own spreadsheet and the way they calculate labor and material may be different from another estimator who works for the same company. If one spreadsheet is used across the company, users can face issues when using Excel in a multi-user environment, making it tough to get everyone on the same page.

While Excel is good at performing calculations, there is plenty of room for human error. For example, you’ll need to build formulas into the spreadsheet, and these formulas can easily be altered, either on purpose or by mistake. Mistakes in formulas can cause drastic discrepancies in your numbers, and it can be difficult to pinpoint where the mistake is coming from.
One estimating system that might work for you is Pro-Est, a product that integrates with many construction accounting programs. Pro-Est is now all cloud-based, includes both on-screen takeoff and estimating databases, and can automate the creation of a budget. You can create a new job AND import the budget right from within Pro-Est.

If you already have an estimating system. Many estimating programs are industry specific. The programs available for electrical contractors, for example, won’t really work for an excavator, and vice versa. Once you have trained your estimators and have your estimating database set up, there aren’t many compelling reasons to change.

It is rare, however, that any of those systems can’t create an output file in Excel or comma delimited (csv) format that will have the estimate summary. That estimate summary can almost always be mapped with a data import tool to allow you to import each final estimate to the budget – no rekeying should be necessary.

Even if spreadsheets are still the answer. Excel is versatile and flexible, allowing for custom formulas to make calculations. One of Excel’s biggest selling points is its ability to com-pute complex mathematical formulas quickly and accurately. Excel also offers a variety of functions and formats for data that allow the user to input repetitive data with minimal effort. We’ve seen some monster estimating spreadsheets!

No matter how large your Excel file is, or how many tabs are used to come up with the final estimate, we can usually map that estimate into a budget import file format.

The bottom line. If any of these options look like they may be a fit for you, give us a call. We’re happy to help arrange a demo of Pro-Est, show you how to map your current spread-sheet for budget import, or help create a custom import. We’ve even created custom im-port applications for those rare instances in which the estimating program is not returning results that map the way you want to your estimate.