Everyone has individual cheat sheets. They’re usually Microsoft Excel workbooks that are updated every so often. Estimators create cheat sheets because either there isn’t a central database, or there isn’t one that they trust. In this case, I’m referring to a cheat sheet of historical project costs.
Estimators need to use historical information to get their job done, especially during the early stages of a project. They’re filling in the gaps and leveraging historical experience to present credible, defensible responses.
To support the sales process, estimators usually need to compile a budget quickly. This task may occur in their limited spare time, perhaps over a weekend. So they get desperate for something to help them with the task and they create it themselves. Kudos for their resourcefulness.
You thinkers out there already know what’s coming. Because each user is storing and managing a personal cheat sheet, sometimes the information varies between users when it shouldn’t. We call this multiple versions of the truth.
One prospect told us that they presented three different sets of data for the same project to an owner. The marketing staff in business development presented one set of data. Then the preconstruction group in the same office presented another set of data. Finally, the owner decided to change sites to a different region and another preconstruction group presented yet another set of data. At least they all used the same project photo.
As you might guess, this didn’t end well. Do you think this is an isolated case? Likely not. You may know of similar examples.
Owners have become more demanding and more intelligent. They often have their own central database or numerous spreadsheets. Do owners track more details than your team? Would they pick up on differences in costs, physical attributes, key metrics, and supporting information between sets of data?
We must all make the best of what we have, but sometimes there’s something
better out there.
By Nick Papadopoulos