Evolving Beyond Excel: Minnesota Builder Experiences Big Difference with ConstructionOffice System
Minnesota-based Nottinghome Builders is managed by Tom Osfar, a second generation construction professional. He has over 25 years experience in the construction industry and now specializes in new single-family homes, completing as many as 30 residential projects a year. Since purchasing ConstructionOffice Professional XT and becoming a UDA TotalCare member, Tom has decreased time spent per project and paved the way for higher profitability.
Before Tom turned to construction productivity software, he already had a basic method in place for managing projects, a familiar situation for many construction professionals. However, after trying ConstructionOffice, he realized how much more the software system offered. "I had devised some estimating sheets myself using excel - simple formulas that allowed me to enter size, square footage, or quantity. They would calculate out percentages and then give me my totals, but I couldn't build the level of detail into it like ConstructionOffice has."
Initially drawn to ConstructionOffice because of its familiar, Excel-based environment, Tom found the flexible nature of the project management system to be just what he wanted. "I really liked that it was adjustable to meet my needs. The estimating software has serious depth of detail if I want it there, but I also have the option of working with lump sums. I'm able to take it to whatever level of detail I need."
UDA Estimates are structured to have a sheet for each category that is linked to the main Project Totals page, where the totals for each category and subcategory are compiled for easy reference. The advanced estimating tools allow users to choose between a detailed method where cost and quantity for individual items are estimated for, or a lump sum method which only requires a single amount per category or subcategory. Tom's choice was to use both interchangeably.
Tom has been working with ConstructionOffice for almost two years and continually sees how much more effective it is than the strictly Excel-based method he used before. "I'll take a lumber bid and input the lumber items, not necessarily each individual item, but group totals. And as I'm working with my salesmen and my customers, if changes need to be made, like doors or whatever, it's very easy to go in and make changes. I just enter the new costs and the whole sheet updates automatically. It's just so easy to keep the estimate going along with the project, and as far as tracking the project numbers, it's great that I can see the estimate versus actuals. I couldn't do that with the old spreadsheets I built in Excel."
Another feature Tom finds beneficial in ConstructionOffice that was missing from his earlier system is the ability to run a variety of reports. "The reporting features are incredible as well - there are many more types of reports than what you get with a regular spreadsheet. ConstructionOffice is just more of a comprehensive package, from importing and exporting information, to generating different types of customized reports."
"The report I use the most gives me the numbers from the project totals sheet in the estimate. Typically, you don't need to see all detail all the time, so it's nice to be able to have project totals report where there's just a certain portion of the work - like maybe just being able to view the numbers for the concrete category."
UDA Estimating not only enables users to customize reports, but it also offers them the opportunity to modify the on-screen appearance. "The flexibility is really nice. I can also design my project totals page to display the way that I want. For instance, in the lumber category of my estimate, I don't need to see all of the line items like I do with other things. But I do want to see that I have a lumber bid and a few options.
"Sometimes I use these reports to show my customers, and it works out well because when you have your project totals, you're looking at hard costs. It's quite nice to be able to sit in front of a customer with the numbers and let them see exactly what you're working with. That lends more credibility because it shows that you're not just making things up."
Although estimating and reporting are the main aspects of the ConstructionOffice system that Tom utilizes, he has also taken advantage of other features in the system. "I've done a few exports to Microsoft Project. They work really well and give me a good way to learn that phase of construction. I've also used the lien waivers and looked at the contracts, and there's definitely lots of other stuff in there that I will use."
"I've pretty much been working the business by myself, so it's taken me slightly longer to utilize all of the components. But, I've been using ConstructionOffice quite a bit lately - daily, actually. At one point or another, whether I refer back to it or modify something, I use ConstructionOffice every single day. I'm looking forward to getting it fully integrated, though. I'm sure that in the future it will make an even bigger difference in my business."
ConstructionOffice is engineered to have a complete library of tools that will meet the needs of any industry professional, and Tom counts the investment as a smart business decision. "It's definitely a benefit to my working environment to be able to get everything on a computer, organize it by project, and have the capability of integrating things like scheduling and QuickBooks and estimating all in the same place. Having my project information on the computer makes it easily recallable, and I even sync it with my laptop to take it with me. ConstructionOffice helps me save time and that saves me money."
Quick Facts about Nottinghome Builders
Location: Dayton, Minnesota
Industry: Single Family Residential
Projects per year: 30
Years in the business: Since 1988
Number of Employees: 25