Is it Time to Exit Excel?


5 Ways Spreadsheet Estimating Could Be Holding You Back

Excel has long been a mainstay of construction estimating, mostly because it’s a readily available product that’s fairly affordable and simple to use. But as many contractors have discovered, Excel is far from an ideal estimating solution for construction; it has a number of limitations that can affect your company’s ability to work efficiently and produce competitive, winning bids. This report will give you a better understanding of the shortcomings of Excel spreadsheet estimating—and why stepping up to construction-specific estimating software can help your company better meet your growth and revenue goals.

Limitation #1: Excel Calculations Can Be Flawed

Excel calculations can pose a real problem for construction estimators. Why? Because formulas can be flawed, costs can be miscalculated and user alterations--intentional or otherwise—can compromise the accuracy of your numbers long before the final bid is submitted.

By replacing spreadsheet calculations with software created specifically for construction estimating, accurate values for materials, labor, equipment, taxes, mark ups, bonds, insurance and other costs are generated automatically, eliminating the potential for human error. Data remains consistent, accurate and reliable no matter how—or when-- you look at it. And there’s another benefit: having full confidence in your data means you spend less time chasing errors and trying to decide which numbers to trust in disparate spreadsheets.

Just as important, construction-specific estimating software helps ensure that data is completely current, offering continuous upgrades and enhancements that keep track of changing industry and market conditions automatically— including pricing updates on labor and materials. That’s important protection for your bottom line that Excel can’t provide.

Limitation # 2: Excel Doesn't Keep Your People Connected

It’s essential that your employees work as a single, unified team from the outset of a project until final close out. That means having a level of connectivity and collaboration among stakeholders that Excel doesn’t support.

Cloud-based construction estimating software, on the other hand, offers a new level of access and connectivity among users. It helps break down siloes and facilitates stakeholder communication, giving teams a new ability to share information in real-time and collaborate on key decisions and “go forward” plans. With a centralized repository of project data, a cloud-based estimating platform can accommodate an unlimited number of users simultaneously—and offers new levels of project visibility to everyone involved. Estimators, project managers, field teams and accounting personnel are on the same page throughout the life of each project, without the risk of data inconsistencies and errors.

Cloud-based construction estimating is ideal for remote users, too. Accessible from mobile devices 24/7, cloud estimating platforms give an increasingly mobile workforce a new ability to connect, communicate and collaborate, wherever they are.

Limitation # 3: Excel Data is Hard to Transfer

Running a profitable construction job depends on getting accurate, trustworthy information to the right people in every phase of the project lifecycle, from initial bid to final close out. But with Excel, it can be difficult to maintain a standardized approach to content and format, especially when more than one estimator is working on the same project. Even more challenging is making sure that estimate data transfers correctly into other back office systems. And manual alterations made in Excel— intentional or not-- can compromise estimate accuracy. 

Software created specifically for construction estimating, on the other hand, offers direct integration with many popular construction accounting and project management software solutions, eliminating the need to manually enter estimate data into software on the back end. That kind of automatic information transfer saves time and all but eliminates unintended re-entry mistakes.

Limitation #4: Excel Won't Keep Pace with Growth

For many construction firms, there comes a time when Excel simply isn’t big, or powerful, enough to tackle increased estimating volume or complexity. A construction-specific software solution delivered via an online cloud platform is a better alternative, immediately addressing the need for scalability, either up, in times of growth, or down, if demand and usage shrinks.

For smaller companies that want to grow, the demands of maintaining a relevant database and debugging Excel for multiple users can be overwhelming. Large general contracting firms face their own issues with Excel, including a limited ability to respond to new opportunities, or even properly manage estimates that have already been produced. Sudden changes in volume and demand are nearly impossible for Excel to accommodate, and contractors pay the price.

A dependency on Excel can also mean lower levels of productivity, interfering with the ability to scale and grow. From initial setup to formula testing and verification, working with Excel can waste time better spent on other tasks; with a commercially available product, that work is done for you. The bottom line? If you get to the point where you don’t have the time or manpower to maintain and verify the integrity of your data in Excel, then a more powerful construction-specific estimating solution is the answer.

Limitation # 5: Excel Doesn't Offer a Dedicated Team

Unlike Excel, estimating software developed specifically for the construction trade is typically supported by a dedicated team of qualified technology and customer service professionals who stand behind their product—ready, willing and available to answer questions, troubleshoot potential issues and help optimize the value of your investment. Their collective understanding of the construction industry and estimating process is invaluable in helping estimators build and maintain a database that reflects specialized estimating requirements as well as changes in the industry itself.

These dedicated teams keep your business up and running, too, providing a fast response to client queries and service requests to avoid unproductive system downtime. Construction software on-boarding specialists can even accelerate the transition from Excel. Why? Because they know how to import historical data from the Excel environment and help make the move to a standardized estimating system fast and trouble-free.

Just as important, dedicated support teams stay a step ahead of product updates and enhancements and are readily available to walk users through new features and functionality. That means your company always works with the latest software versions and stays at the peak of estimating productivity.


Every year, the construction industry grows more competitive and technology-focused, demanding that contractors adopt new tools and processes to maintain market advantage. Excel simply can’t provide the kind of estimating power, customization and connectivity that makes peak performance possible. For that reason, construction companies that cling to the familiarity of Excel may be jeopardizing their ability to compete effectively, work efficiently and achieve their growth objectives. By adopting a more powerful automated construction estimating platform, especially one based in the cloud, contractors of all sizes can better manage the complexities of today and position themselves for success in the future.