Understanding our customers’ needs
A key requirement of any software is that it solves a real problem and offers meaningful benefits. This can only be achieved by truly understanding your customers, their pain points and the difficulties they face. Ultimately, the better a team understands its customers, the more relevant its product will be.
Having many former estimators at Countfire puts us in an excellent position as they have lived the lives of our customers and can really appreciate the value Countfire offers. One of our founders was an estimator for 10 years and we have five other former estimators on the team all contributing to how Countfire evolves.
However, we also have a team of developers, designers and marketers who joined Countfire with little-to-no estimating experience. So, to level things up and to help us all equally understand our customers, we decided that the whole team should step into the shoes of an estimator for the day and experience the role for ourselves.
Going back to basics
In order to do this the Countfire team spent a day together in London with the experts (aka our product specialists) completing takeoffs and estimates the traditional way. We’re talking manual counting with highlighters, measuring on A1 print outs and estimates in Excel.
Estimators are well aware that speed and accuracy are the two most important factors when completing takeoffs and estimates and we wanted the whole team to see how difficult these are to achieve using a traditional style of estimating. What is it like to spend hours pouring over A1 print-out drawings with the pressure of deadlines looming? How do you deal with ever-changing specifications manually? Where do you even start when trying to turn vast quantities into an estimate? We were about to find out!
Completing a traditional takeoff and estimate
The manual takeoff process proved frustrating for many. There were cries of “I’ve lost count” and “this is so tedious” from around the room. As we edged closer to the midday deadline an amendment from the “client” resulted in rushed recounts and fights over highlighter pens.
The end result was inaccuracies and a severe lack of confidence in numbers across the board.
We then turned these numbers into an estimate, which each team completed in various ways - those of us who used Excel relied heavily on complex (and easily-breakable) formulas, or produced long and convoluted spreadsheets to account for kits, item prices, profit margins, and markups.
By the afternoon, each team was at different stages with their estimates. Some had just given up, others had settled on a number that “felt about right”.
Completing the same project with Countfire
Our next step was to experience the same project using Countfire and here’s our top 3 takeaway points:
- We instantly had more confidence in our numbers - selecting a symbol once was so much more efficient than manually highlighting each one, and the check sheets reassured us that we hadn’t missed any symbols or attributed them incorrectly. It also took less time to complete the takeoff as we could count and measure across multiple pages, cutting down the amount of time we spent per drawing.
- There were no complex formulas or messy spreadsheets this time as all the tools we needed to complete the estimate were in one place. The final estimate document was also presentable and ready to send over to the “client” with a breakdown of items estimated. It was also easy for us to see our profit margins, as well as add or edit individual markups to products or kits.
- Last minute changes to client requirements? No problem! Being able to create zones on drawings enabled us to exclude or separate quantities into different columns. This meant we were able to quickly and easily respond to changes in requirements at any stage during the process.
Whilst the team at Countfire are already sold on the benefits of automated estimating software, it was an eye-opener to go back to the roots of estimating and experience the manual processes and tools still used by many estimators today.
Our experiment gave us a better understanding of the pain points and issues that many estimators come across in their day-to-day tasks. Likewise, it also enabled us to better see and experience the true benefits that Countfire brings to our customers, reinforcing our mission to revolutionise the way electrical estimating is carried out.
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