The justification of expenditures for technology can present a maze of decision-making for a building service contractor, but investing in the right bidding, estimating and workloading software is a decision most BSCs are confident making. To be happy with a software purchasing decision, contractors need to look beyond initial price and see the value that they will receive from using the bidding, estimating and workloading aids.

BSCs must analyze factors such as capital, deployment, implementation and training before making the leap into this software created to help them maneuver through deal-making and negotiations with current and potential clients.

Bidding, estimating and workloading software lets a BSC plug in variable factors such as time, specific services — such as mopping and vacuuming — that will be provided, and the number of employees working at a specific site. It also allows BSCs to plug in client-side factors such as the size of the area to be cleaned and their budget. The result, depending on the software, is an overview of what a BSC should bid on a certain job.

“The software is a valuable [investment] because you can become very accurate with your prices in terms of your square footage, supplies and overhead and it allows you to go back and critique my prices with it,” says Chris Kendrick, owner of Handy Hands Janitorial, Mayfield, Ky.

Finding the right source

An important first step in deciding whether to invest in bidding, estimating and workloading software is determining where to get the product. Depending on whether the BSC buys a package from a vendor or develops one on their own, the software can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars.

A home-grown solution means employing IT professionals or hiring an outside firm to deal with implementation and maintenance issues. Many larger BSCs already have IT staff or outsource, but for those contractors that don’t, such experts can be a significant labor cost to add. These costs can add up quickly and need to be part of the decision- making process of whether an investment in software is worth it.

Some software programs allow users to tap in through the Web. Others programs require purchase of expensive tech equipment such as servers or hiring additional staff to run the programs.

BSCs who choose to purchase software to run off their own servers appreciate the control of being able to run it in-house; those who prefer Web-based servers don’t have to take ownership of the software, which provides the freedom to use it while most of the IT responsibility lies with the provider. Whichever a BSC chooses, employees will still have to learn how to use the programs.

Part of the cost of implementing software applies to training. The tech savvy of workers is one issue BSCs need to address when making technology decisions. A new program that requires training time, possibly off-site, for each employee can be seen as a positive investment, bringing employees up to speed on things they should know. But it may deter BSCs who don’t see a pressing need to change their current system.

Other cost factors are additional devices that may need to be purchased for workers in the field, such as smartphones, and the training involved in using them. BSCs should ask software vendors whether initial and ongoing training is included in the cost.

Once workers are trained to properly use the software, it can go to work for BSCs. One basic revenue-side impact of bidding, estimating and workloading software is that it ensures a tighter bid, taking the guesswork out of the bidding process and increasing the likelihood of winning the account.

Saves money, too

In addition to making BSCs money, the software can save time and money as well. Some bidding, estimating and workload software allows BSCs to tap into already created specifications and current client information in other systems, streamlining sometimes time- and resource-consuming business processes.

Bret Meyers, president of Watsonville, Calif.-based Ameri-Kleen, says software has helped him streamline the bidding process.

“Our sales teams uses it daily to put together workload specifications and the financials together,” Meyers says. “The operations side also uses it when additional work comes or when specifications change. They are able to create new versions and get an updated version of the customer and pricing changes they need.”

Kendrick says the software has become a valuable tool that lets him build scenarios in which he alters factors such as labor and resources to see what the impact would be on the resulting bid.

“I can go in to the software and re-evaluate different estimates that we have made and tweak them to the customer’s specifications,” Kendrick says. “If we have to go back and rebid a job, especially in an economy like this, I can maybe increase or decrease the workers on [a job] to stay competitive on a bid.”

Making good impressions

Alden Services, a newer start-up in Dothan, Ala., has found bidding, estimating and workloading software to be an asset, says Owner Korey Bramlett. He uses a software package that will offer additional options as the company grows. Bramlett believes software is an affordable investment for BSCs of all sizes and needs.

“I want to get some bids out there and build some capital,” Bramlett says. Right now, with few employees, he doesn’t need workloading modules as much as he needs bidding and estimating ones. So for now, he’s only spending money on the programs he uses.

The software that Bramlett uses also helps him present a professional, organized bid to potential clients, making the best impression possible.

“It’s an image thing. I can’t run in there and ask if they will be my first client,” he says. “I want to show confidence. I don’t want to go in there with a bid written down on a piece of paper. I want them to know that I have put a good deal of time and effort into this.”

BSCs large and small can find real value in software that is easy to use and understand, with accuracy that helps secure bids.

Brendan O’Brien is a freelance writer based in Greenfield, Wis.