Still Using Excel for Your Proposal Cost Estimates?

Anyone who has lived through preparing a proposal in response to a government RFP knows how difficult it can be to organize the data and narrative content. Often long days of concentrated effort to make sure you are producing a winning bid – and you make a profit. It’s a vital part of business development. Winning proposals means the company stays in business.  The proposal team’s mission is to ensure the company stands out from the competition and presents a compelling response. 

To quote others, preparing the proposal schedule and cost estimate often feels like herding cats.  You need to pull together other people’s assessments of what it will take to deliver what the customer is asking for in the statement of work.  Assumptions are made about the scope of work, how to accomplish it, and level of risk.  You frequently need to rely upon expert judgement from your company’s engineering, manufacturing, or technical people to put all the pieces together – and they need to agree the proposed approach makes sense.  You may or may not have previous historical data available to help you work through that process to ensure you are producing a data driven cost estimate

There are a thousand and one questions you need to answer as you prepare your schedule and basis of estimate (BOE).  What is the approach you want to take to deliver what the customer is asking for?  What are tasks and sequence of those tasks?  What type of resources do you need and for how long?  Do you have them in-house or do you need help from other companies?  What materials do you need and are there any foreign suppliers in the mix?  What’s the time frame to accomplish the work?  What are the risks?  Can they be mitigated to an acceptable level?  Are there unique requirements that mean you need special resources, tools, equipment, environment, or security? 

Time to Step Up from Excel

Perhaps you have found yourself in this situation.  You are collecting a mixture of inputs from your technical experts to create the cost estimate.  You are merging content from multiple spreadsheets into one, copying columns, adding columns, inserting this, deleting that.  Then you discover someone calculated something incorrectly, or they added something you didn’t expect.  Did you catch that in another submission?  Now do you have to redo some of your previous work?  What were the assumptions again?  It becomes a mind-numbing blur.  Then, try and align the cost estimate with the schedule – a whole different challenge to make sure they tell the same story.

The designers of BOEMax proposal software have been in your shoes and decided to do something about it.  The result?  A better, faster, and easier way to produce a credible data driven cost estimate. 

A Better Way

ProjStream’s BOEMax bidding software is designed to:

  • Provide a WBS and workflow framework to organize the data and the proposal team.  The first step is building the WBS in BOEMax or importing the structure from another source such as the schedule or historical data.  You can also import and parse the lengthy statement of work (SOW) documents that you can map to the WBS elements.  That means you can quickly produce a single, standard framework the proposal team or technical personnel can all use to break the work effort down to the level they need determine resources and estimate the work.  

BOEMax functions as “command central” for the proposal team. Everyone can access the same proposal project, develop their cost estimate data, price it, and enter their basis of estimate assumptions and rationale narrative text in one place. No need to copy and paste or reassemble content because everything is contained in a single database.

The other benefit? With the built-in workflow functions in BOEMax, everyone on the proposal team can track where things are in the proposal development process. They know who is responsible for what and where things are the approval process. When the audit log is enabled, the proposal manager can track who made what changes when so they are aware of “stealth” changes that can occur.

  • Establish standardized methodologies for developing cost estimates.  Why reinvent the wheel for every proposal?  With BOEMax bidding software, you have the means to establish a common library of proposal components every proposal team can leverage.  For example, you can establish a library of complex rate structures for the different types of cost elements such as labor, material, subcontract, and other direct costs.  You can establish hierarchical bills of material (BOM) that make it easy to price components.  Or, establish a Process Library of estimating templates to capture repeatable work processes with labor and BOM relationships built in.  This increases accuracy and consistency in approach – the proposal teams have a foundation to build and substantiate their cost estimates using prior estimates or historical actual costs.
  • Integrate bi-directionally with schedule tools That means which ever direction you start, the network schedule tasks with resource assignments and the time phased cost estimate data are in alignment.  You can trace the data from either direction and get the same result.  Need to change the proposed schedule tasks, duration, or resources?  No problem – you can quickly reprice the revised time phased cost estimate in BOEMax and you know the data matches. 

  • Make it easy to evaluate alternatives.  Need to do further analysis to determine the best approach to propose?  With BOEMax proposal software, you can create different versions to compare the cost estimating and pricing results.  Perhaps you need to compare different risk mitigation actions, select the best alternative for a purchased part, or determine whether to make or buy a component.  You can save the result of your analysis for future use – either for another proposal or the project team can use your documented analysis at contract award to develop the performance measurement baseline (PMB).

  • Produce standard cost summary or custom proposal reports.  You can leverage the BOEMax database to produce the required reports with ease.  All the reports are fully traceable from the top down or bottom up.  You can combine rich text data with the cost estimate details to demonstrate traceability between the WBS and WBS dictionary, related SOW, BOE assumptions and rationale, and schedule driven resource cost estimate data.  The perfect basis for developing the PMB after contract award.

Why Make the Change to BOEMax?

BOEMax proposal software was designed with you in mind to improve the quality and traceability of the cost estimate data as well as eliminate the data “wrangling” that wastes time.  Producing the proposal response is stressful enough.  With BOEMax, your proposal team can focus on creating a comprehensive and compelling proposal the customer can’t resist.

Call us today to schedule a demo today to see how BOEMax proposal software can streamline and improve your cost estimating process.


Topics: basis of estimate, proposal cost estimate, proposal software, estimating and pricing, BOEMax

Author: Tom Shanahan