Signs of a Clunky Estimating Process
By Rick Dill
General Contractors, this article might just be the most life changing thing
you read this year. Maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but you should read
this if you are experiencing any of the following:
Are you having to stay late at the office or work weekends to finish your
Are you having subcontractor coverage anxiety?
Is your extra work affecting your marriage or home life?
Are you losing sleep at night?
If you answered “Yes” to any of the above, you may be suffering from a
syndrome called CEP (Clunky Estimating Process). This syndrome is very
common but the prognosis is good. It is easily curable, sometimes in as
little as 24 hours using software focused entirely on the preconstruction
The primary causes of Clunky Estimating Process include:
Having separate spreadsheet(s) of subcontractor data instead of a
centralized database that can be shared company-wide
Selecting subs and sending invitations and addenda manually
Lack of an integrated Online Plan Room portal
Tracking bid responses manually
Keeping subcontractor info and Prequalification forms updated
All of the above efficiency killers can go away using web-based bid
invitation software that will automate your preconstruction process. There
are software providers such as PipelineSuite® or other comparable programs
that will import your existing spreadsheet of subcontractors for you and
have your company up and running within 24 hours. Let me explain each of
these key pain points and the cure:
1. Separate vs. centralized database shared company-wide.
Having separate lists of subcontractors for each estimator is clunky.
Imagine having one database that your company can access anywhere via the
web on a laptop, tablet, or mobile device. When one estimator updates a
company, everyone else in your company will see that sub’s current data.
2. Selecting subs and sending invitations and addenda.
Manually selecting subs is time consuming, but software makes it simple to
select subs by trade and quickly filter and invite only those subs that are
more likely to bid (based on geographic area for example). Another advantage
of software is that you can send an addendum notice without bothering the
subs that said they won’t be bidding.
When emailing manually, it’s not easy to know who actually opened your
emails, but with many bid invitation software systems you can see the day
and time the email was delivered, opened, and when they clicked on your
link. If you send faxes, you no longer have to stand at the fax machine and
dial numbers individually; the software sends them via its own fax server.
Tracking which subs received your emails and opened them is valuable,
especially when sending a critical addendum.
3. Online Plan Room portal.
Emailing plans and specs only works if the files are small. The most
efficient method for both parties is a single portal where your subs can get
everything they need in one place. Most portals allow subs to respond Yes or
No to bidding, view and download plans and specs, view project info, launch
a map and get directions to the job site, view any addendum notices, submit
an RFI, and update their company info. Some software systems also allow you
to post public projects on your company website using a simple widget.
4. Track who is bidding, who submitted a bid, and even who is awarded.
Many GCs still manually track which subs are bidding in a spreadsheet, as
well as which submitted a bid and then which are awarded. There are several
efficiencies gained by using software to automate this process.
a) Subcontractors are able to click a button in their email to respond Yes
or No, or via the Subcontractor Portal after they view the plans
first to see if they want to bid. Their response automatically updates the
GC’s bid list thus eliminating manual entry.
b) Subcontractors can upload their bid into the portal.
c) The GC can send a “Thank You” email to subs that weren’t awarded. This
helps eliminate follow-up calls from subs wondering if
they were awarded.
d) By tracking this in a software program, GCs can view historical
metrics about a sub including how responsive they are and what percentage of
projects they are awarded. Tracking history and metrics manually is too
time-consuming to do manually.
5. Automating Subcontractor
Prequalification and keeping company info updated.
A Prequalification process that is paperless saves time for both the GC and
the Subcontractor, since neither have to retype any data. The old way of
subs manually filling out forms requires the GC to manually input and
update… a painful waste of time. The automated way allows the GC to email a
link to an online form embedded in their company website, and once approved,
the subcontractor is automatically updated or added to the GC’s database and
ready to invite to bid on projects.
By automating these key points in the bid process using preconstruction bid
Invitation software, companies can overcome their Clunky Estimating Process
and improve their quality of life. What most don’t realize is how fast and
easy it is to get setup…in just 24 hours, Clunky Estimating Process can be
About the Author: Rick is the President of PipelineSuite® which he founded
in 2002. Rick is also a member of the American Society of Professional
Estimators, Orange County Chapter 3. For more information, visit
or you can contact Rick directly at