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Easily Incorporate Subcontractor Cost Estimate Data into Your Basis of Estimate

Published 06/27/18

Improve Process Efficiencies and Save Time

Incorporating cost estimate data from subcontractors is one of the common hard-to-do tasks we encounter working with clients developing a proposal basis of estimate (BOE).  What often happens is the estimators need to “translate” what a subcontractor submitted into a common data structure used for the cost estimate.  This “translation” process is often time consuming with less than optimal results because the estimator had to make assumptions or transform the data in some manner.  This reduces the ability to verify the source data for the BOE.

Regardless of the internal process you follow to get the subcontractor BOE data – sometimes you need to work through procurement to get initial contract and statement of work (SOW) paperwork in place – it is imperative the other party clearly understands what data you are expecting from them.  They need specifics.  Without it, the subcontractor will make assumptions about they think you need. 

Best case, they provide data you didn’t know you needed which improves the quality of your BOE.  Or worse case, you can’t make heads or tails of the content.  When you don’t get what you expected, that means either a series of phone calls and data exchanges until you get something close to what you want or you spend extra time transforming the data in the same manner. 

Is there a better way to do this?  Absolutely! Here are a few steps you can follow to simplify and improve the process.

1. Plan Ahead

Plan ahead for what you need from your various categories of subcontractors and suppliers. What specific data details do you need to build out your BOE details for purchased services labor hours, material, or other component cost estimates? Once you know what you want, you are ready for the next step.

2. Create a Standard Template

Create a standard template or a secure direct data entry view for the subcontractors or suppliers to use. Why is this important?  It eliminates the time and effort wasted on translating or transforming subcontractor data – you have a common format to capture the data you need from external companies.  The template can be a simple format such as an Excel worksheet with one or more tabs to collect the data you need.  You can then easily import the data into your BOE.  For direct data entry into the cost estimate toolset, you may want to think about creating specific data views for each subcontractor so they only have access to the WBS element or other subsection of the cost estimate that applies to them.  Tools such as ProjSteam’s BOEMax proposal software make it easy to take either approach. 

3. Provide Specific Instructions

Provide specific instructions to the subcontractor or supplier so they know what you want. You may need to work with procurement to include the necessary details in the request for proposal (RFP) to the subcontractor or supplier.  Include explicit details about the content and type of data you are expecting.  Do you have specific data coding requirements for certain fields?  Are certain fields required or optional?  Are there any field limitations?  Are there any naming conventions?  How do they electronically provide you the data?  Are there security requirements that must be considered?  Provide an example with instructions.  An example can make all the difference because it illustrates what you are expecting.  It provides a model for the subcontractor to follow.  It makes it easier for the subcontractor to transform their data into the data format you need.  They do the work for you and they know what assumptions they used to create the content for you. 

4. Conduct an In-Person Meeting 

Conduct an in-person or web meeting with your subcontractors to review your template or data entry view. This meeting can be conducted individually with each subcontractor or as a group.  Why do this?  It provides an opportunity for the subcontractors to ask questions.  As part of the discussion, you may realize you need to add an extra column or two to capture other cost estimate factors you didn’t think about.  Or, you may discover one of the subcontractors had a completely different interpretation of your instructions.  This helps to ensure all parties come to a common agreement about the data requirements, formats, and other details.

5. Save and Reuse Templates 

Save and reuse your subcontractor data import templates. This helps the next cost estimator – or you.  In most cases, it is faster and easier to start with something used on another proposal and tailor it for the next one.  Treat it as an opportunity to continually improve the subcontractor templates.  Recording what cost estimate factors were collected on other proposals improves the quality of the BOE data details – you know what to ask for on a similar proposal.  You can also use the cost estimate template as a basis to collect the subcontractor’s weekly or monthly time phased performance data during the execution phase of a project.  With BOEMax basis of estimate software and ProjSteam’s companion MaxTeam earned value management tools, you can easily create a library of subcontractor data import templates you can use for the proposal and execution phases of your project.

Interested in seeing how you can use BOEMax to simplify your process for incorporating subcontractor data into your cost estimate for your next proposal?  Call us today to schedule a demo.