Are you using Excel for cost estimating?

2000 pts.
Data analysis
Microsoft Excel
Over at, we have noticed that a fair number of cost estimators, cost engineers and contractors in the construction industry use Excel to determine how much a particular project will cost and to prepare the cost estimate that they present to potential clients. Is anybody out there using Microsoft Excel for cost estimating purposes, whether it's in construction or in another industry entirely? What are the pros and cons, the benefits and limitations, of using Excel? Do you use Excel as it is, or have you purchased (or downloaded) plug-ins that add macros, modules or formulas? Finally, is Excel an application that you'd recommend for cost estimating, or do you think you and your peers would benefit from industry-specific software? Thanks for your input. --Brian Eastwood, Site Editor

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I have used EXCEL extensively in this process, although I’m not right now and I do not have copies of the materials I developed as this was sensitive data that I’m sure my previous employers would not approve. I was a consultant for many years and I found that every organization had EXCEL and it provided an easy and inexpensive way for others (including the technical, financial, and executive personnel) to participate in the development and understanding of the financial information. It was easy to adapt to each company’s standard methods, to modify, to summarize across spreadsheets in the workbook, to create formulas calculating extended costs, depreciation, etc. . It was also easy to create nice-looking reports for presentations at various levels of detail depending on the audience. In all, I was quite pleased with it as a tool, and it was well-accepted, and again, “free” in the sense that everyone already had the software.

A good resource might be the Business Functions website. There are some forums under the site that might also provide some insight.

I’d agree on the above.

Pros- Easy to use and familiar interface
– Widely available even with the receiving party
– Flexible to accommodate multiple plug-ins as well as business rules

– However you can only use the same in a “techy” way
– there is no security to the data. Of-course you can protect the excel sheet, and in turn protect the data or business rules that you use for the calculations but its still pretty much basic.

All in all
Its not a flashy “sales Gimmick” kind of thing, were u can embed animations / colour to put in branding and show case to end users that u are getting something out of the world, but it gets the work done.

There are also tools available that pull in data from excel and add all the jazz to make a decent and secure presentation.. It would depend on your requirements, but yes.. by default excel would be the most cost effective and easy to use and deploy solution that is out there.

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  • SbElectric
    I concur with most of the comments. Only item want to mention is that the Excel based cost estimation system is not suitable for multi-user environment. By that I mean it is mostly updated/modified and maintained by one person. Database type of approach gives you more flexibility, control, security, easy way to keep historical data for later reference, etc. But Excel application is priced “right”!! -- free and most organizations have knowledgeable person for the care and feeding of the system. Let us know which system you finally selected. SbElectric
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