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Digital Dryshack #58, Estimating Survey 2013

June 10, 2013: Derek Singleton of Software Advice informed me last week that their new 2013 estimating software survey was recently published to the web. Check it out at Software Advice's Estimating Survey 2013. If you're an estimator, I suggest that you take the survey, as I did the other day. It's always interesting to see how our own opinions on the state of digital estimating compare with those of our peers. I am looking forward to this year's results.   We're also pleased to see that Derek & team acted on our suggestion in the 2013 survey, to tally and compare the popularity among the estimating software brands. Last year's results affirmed the value of investing in a dedicated estimating software system, according to the majority of those who took the survey. (I agree). Capturing data to describe and publish the digital state of our craft isn't easy.   Not all the survey's questions and multiple choice options fit my own view of the best way to go about collecting the info, but I sincerely appreciate the effort and good work by Derek and his colleagues at Software Advice. Whether you use Excel or a proprietary database estimating system, logon to Software [...]

2017-01-14T08:23:28+00:00 By |Consulting, Digital Dry Shack Blog|

Digitial Dryshack #57, Sage SQL 13.2 & new WBS Tool

As stated in Digital Dryshack #56, we've been working with the new Sage SQL Estimating 13.2, (on both Windows 8 and 7 remote desktop servers), and generally liking its new format and more modern look and feel. And the MS-SQL back-end is a huge advantage as well. We have a few early adopter clients, and while not without some problems, they too are generally upbeat about this new release. The main issues are related to estimate files becoming locked, primarily due to a program crash. The odd thing is that some workstations rarely if ever experience the problem, while others fight it often. Talking with our clients' IT departments who've installed 13.2, they're struggling to find a common thread to pinpoint why some workstations work well, and some don't. In our  testing so far, we've been lucky to experience problem-free installs. We like the smoother  front-end screens to create estimates and entries in the new Address Book. However saving and printing spreadsheet layouts and reports is more challenging and time-consuming than in prior versions. For the last simple budget I created, I ended up exporting to Excel to get the look I wanted, which was disappointing at best. We've started [...]

2017-01-14T08:23:28+00:00 By |Consulting, Digital Dry Shack Blog|

Digital Dryshack #56.2, Sage Estimating 13.2, MS-SQL Release

2013, IV, Digital Dryshack #56.2: We've been working with Sage SQL Estimating, dubbed version 13.2, the first major upgrade in years to the Timberline Estimating family. As the name implies, the big news is its back-end database, Microsoft SQL, a major step forward for the Sage Estimating platform. Gone is the oft-problematic Pervasive database engine, with its cryptic "PVData" subfolder structure, a ball and chain gladly shed. We're frankly excited to see the new platform with its more modern toolbars and screens, nesting windows, and more customizable user appearance. Another improvement is the way screen layouts and reports are saved, a weakness in prior Pervasive versions. The biggest obstacle for most estimators will be the amorphous "all in one" database structure, eliminating individual estimate files as we know them. This in reality is a good thing, it just takes some getting used to. For anyone familiar with Primavera's P3 transition to P6, you should understand the main advantage: for the first time, all your estimates reside in a single database! This opens up all kinds of new possibilities, difficult or impossible to achieve with individual files. Think multiple-estimate capability: queries, comparisons, and reports, in addition to dynamic integration with other [...]

2017-01-14T08:23:29+00:00 By |Consulting, Digital Dry Shack Blog|

Digital Dryshack #55: Obituary. PC, R.I.P.

As the technology pendulum pursues perpetual motion, its direction is unquestionably away from the more traditional desktop / pc-based platform as we know it, and toward the remote computing model. We are all using a variety of more connected tools, via laptops, ultra books, i-pads, 'Droids, and smart phones. And let's not forget the current storage fad, "The Cloud." (More on that in another post.) Some leading-edge construction projects now REQUIRE ipads (or Android) tablets be issued to field personnel. Because it saves time and money, that's why!  Web-based programs for project management, time collection, and other industry-related hosted apps are commonplace. Meanwhile, back at the desktop, most of us are using Citrix or a Remote Desktop client daily. For many companies it IS the primary platform. Why save files on a local pc, accessible to one, when the data can reside on the company's server, available to all, (who need to know)? Why should an IT department have to maintain 10, 50, 100, (or several hundred) individuals' laptops and pc's, when it can focus on a well-run server array, accessible by thin-client workstations instead? The savings in personnel hours, having only to upgrade software on a few servers instead, is [...]

2017-01-14T08:23:29+00:00 By |Consulting, Digital Dry Shack Blog|

PM software debate- web or hosted?

The Digital Dryshack has been quiet lately, our efforts distracted by a heavy workload. Too busy with urgent business to do what's important. Sound familiar? The bane of the small business, (and some larger ones as well), catches us all from time to time. Lots of ideas. Some topics in front of me at the moment, of the many I've scratched out lately, follow: -> hardware ahead: ->thin client, tablets, & RDP (and the accompanying demise of the PC & laptop) -> new Construction Sequence Index (stay tuned) -> Project Management on the web, vs. on a locally-hosted server environment Starting at the bottom, we see an ongoing battle between the two project management software models. And to an extent the entire software industry as a whole. The primary advantages of web-based project management software : - easy access for team members - potential reduction of IT cost, by eliminating the need for internal software hosting and additional required security The primary advantages of internal server-based PM: - ease of integration with accounting, scheduling, and Windows / apps in general - full control of security and data backup regimen These four issues are among those at the heart of the [...]

Digital Dryshack #52: OmniClass for Job Cost

A colleague and friend of many years, Dominick Rose of CDM Engineering, introduced me to several months ago to the Omni-Class standard of construction classification. Omni-Class is a well-organized, multi-faceted methodology whose goal is, by its own definition to, "describe the Built Environment." A lot of smart people spent a lot of time designing this elegant schema, and it works. It uses multiple tables, each a wholly separate, organizational hierarchy, classifying various facets of construction differently. To name just a few of its several tables: Table 11 (Construction Entities by Function), sorts completed projects by function, assigning a numeric index to each primary type, (maunufacturing, education, medical, etc.) with a subset within each major type to all the numerous minor facility types and uses. It's a well-designed method of organizing the entire spectrum of facility types; all neatly finished and ready for us to use. Omni-Class includes the complete 2004/2010 Construction Specifications Institute's (CSI) Masterformat index in its entirety in its Table 22 (Work Results). In its Table 21 (Elements),  is the complete Uni-Format index, (with the significant improvement of an entirely numeric form. In my opinion, alpha indexes are klunky and cumbersome). Last and certainly not least of its [...]

2017-01-14T08:23:29+00:00 By |Consulting, Digital Dry Shack Blog|

Digital Dryshack: ENR Future Tech conference 2012: Future of Construction Technology

We just returned from ENR Future Tech conference in San Francisco, which was mainly geared to future technology in the construction industry. My goals for Rob & me were to make us think, and to generate ideas to help us provide more valuable services, with a higher level of expertise and broadened perspective, to our clientele. I wasn't disappointed. A quick 30,000 foot overview of only a few highlights from its lightng-fast program: Brian David Johnson, (Intel Corp.) futurist, on (what else?) the future: "you can't let the future happen to you." "First, Understand what people want to do in the future...next, use...(a defined) Process to figure out what is necessary to get there." (Timeline of computing): "Compute Moves to Zero" mainframe- mini-workstation-pc-laptop-mobile-ubiquitous 1960       - 1970   - 1980    -1990 -2000   -2010  - 2020 "How can we free up people to be better?" ----------------- David Brown, (D. Brown Management), on targeting and achieving worthwhile change within a construction firm's culture: "Tech is a process; there is no end." (beware of) ...."change fatigue...resistance to too much change..." (we see this often in our work with contractors) Do mini-implelmentations, 4-week turnarounds. ask, "can the benefit be quicly summarized?" [...]

Digital Dryshack: Pricing Policy for our Upcoming Estimating Database Tools: All for $0

While driving down to the Bay Area for the ENR Future Tech conference in San Francisco, Rob & I took the opportunity to discuss several aspects of our business, and the industry in general. One thing our Business Consutant had asked me about recently was our plan for selling some of the new estimating database tools that Rob has been developing. So I asked Rob about his vision for our target market and an approximate fair value sales price. I'll have to admit I was surprised by his response: "Let's give it all away for nothing." Hmmm. Not exactly representative of fair value for all the time it would save users, not to mention his time in development. Following the funny look I gave him, he elaborated: "It's the Open Source model. We give away the software for free, and support it for hire. It's why Google Maps and Chrome are the best products out there. It's the extension of the Linux model. Instead of charging for our software, and bearing the full responsibility of upgrading, tweaking, and making it better, we go Open Source, and anybody in the world can improve its functionality and add new features. Our programming team can include the [...]

Digital Dryshack: Estimating Software Survey

I was intrigued by the request from Houston Neal of SoftwareAdvice.com, to comment on his company's estimating software survey. As it was a topic near and dear to us and right in our wheelhouse, so I agreed. The link to the survey  follows at the conclusion, but first a few comments: The survey had a surprising number of participants by contractors earning < $5 mm/year, (almost half of the roughly 100 who participated), and about half as many were firms with > $ 100 mm, so the sample seems reasonably representative of the market as a whole, and sufficiently diverse to produce useful results. One number that didn't surprise was the leading estimating sofware isn't estimating software at all, but good ol' spreadsheets...(still)....and yet... While I did say not surprising, it is in my opinion, more proof that we are in a very conservative industry, even to a fault. For all the forward-looking companies who embrace BIM, Tablets & Time Capture technologies, there are 2 or 3 who still use spreadsheets to estimate, and paper for Daily Reports & Timesheets. As the presdient of a construction technology consulting firm, it never ceases to amaze me how backward-looking some of us are. [...]