Nothing will start a project off on the wrong foot like failing to deliver the estimate on time. If you cannot deliver an estimate on time, what kind of message does that send with respect to the project itself?
The place to start is to examine three things:
- How the promise is made
- What the process for selling/estimating looks like
- Whether or not there is one person ultimately responsible for it.
Then you can start to look into other areas that can cause your estimating process to become fractured.
1. Stop the Fumbles. This starts with making sure that the hand-off from one function – i.e. sales to estimating to operations – happens seamlessly. When individuals involved in this critical process report to different individuals, they face competing demands. Each function has its own set of priorities that can and will conflict with getting this specific job done.
Get everybody involved on the same page and acting with urgency:
- How are current estimates created – are we promising something that is impossible, are we shooting ourselves in the foot?
- Reorganize to place Sales, Project Estimating, and Material Ordering under one roof (one leader)
- Create SOP’s (Standard Operating Procedures) for each step in the process to ensure that the necessary information is collected early and once
- Manage the Estimation and Ordering process like the Project itself
2. Everything is about BFD. BFD means Better, Faster, Different. Putting sales, estimating and ordering under one leader will help eliminate things falling between the cracks, but it does not attack the root cause: inefficiency in the system.
Value Map each step in the sales, estimating and ordering process to eliminate redundancies and find places where work can happen simultaneously. Look for opportunities to:
- Remove Redundancy – are we repeating several steps that only need to be once?
- Finding the Holes – are we overlooking anything, are there activities/steps that should happen to make the process better or faster that is being missed?
- Data Access – is information collected previously available to everybody in the Sales>Estimating>Ordering process?
3. Stop all possible non-value-added activities. Now that you have the process mapped, the question to ask is: “If we placed that item on the customer’s invoice, would the customer be willing to pay for it?” If the answer is yes, look for more efficient ways of doing it. If the answer is no, ask if you can stop doing it. Most processes that haven’t been mapped for standard operating procedures have a minimum of 15% improvement available for the taking.