Advice From a Pro

Jan. 1, 2008
Gx Bug Web

Marco Cecala is president of Take-off Professionals, based in Peoria, AZ. For the past 15 years his company has been using both AutoCAD and non-AutoCAD software to prepare takeoffs and machine control data for construction companies around the world. Projects range from small commercial pads and parking lots to interstate highways and airport runways.

He offers these tips to help you in selecting and using estimating and bidding software:

  • Decide what you want from the program. “Just about any of the programs will provide good takeoffs and give you the same basic results,” he says. If you also want to do other jobs, such as providing data for GPS machine-control systems, you’ll need programs that offer these features as well.
  • Compare ownership costs. Don’t choose one program over another based on the purchase price alone. Also consider the long-term costs of owning the program. As Cecala points out, some software makers provide free technical support, and some charge for it. Some add new features to their products more frequently than others, requiring you to pay for each upgrade to stay current. “If a company offers free support but you have to upgrade every year at $2,000 each time, support is free only if you upgrade each year,” he says. “Listen to what the salesperson tells you. Then, ask for the names of three customers and verify with them what the program actually costs to use.”
  • Don’t look back. Once you’ve bought a software program, stick with it. “The biggest source of dissatisfaction I see is when people think that another program is better than the one they bought,” he says. “The grass isn’t greener on the other side of the fence. You may wish your program offered the same feature found in another, but that other one doesn’t have some of the features you like in your program. Don’t worry about it. Take advantage of the training offered by the software maker. Focus on your program and get proficient with it.”