This is part of a presentation that I made to a group of the largest EC's in the U.S. It was in 1989 but most of the items remain true today. BTW, one of the "failed EC's" is still marketing lots of things but not so much into estimating. Just what all EC's need, an estimating program designed by a failed EC.

A packaged system restricts you to the programs supplied with the package and they cannot be added-to or modified without infringing on the copyright of the licensor which could result in civil and/or criminal liability. In fact, most package systems cannot be modified in any manner due to the program structure. Attempting to do so will disable the entire system.
You may not copy the programs to another machine as to do so will again violate the copyright.
If there is a new function that you would desire the system to perform, possibility the vendor could get it written for you at their price.

Additionally, you will be contacted from time to time and informed that "an up-grade is available that is much improved from what you have now and you can have it for the great price of $,$$$.$$". Sound familiar? (There is one package available that has been "up-graded" seven times with corresponding cost to the user's of over $8,200.00 for a package with an original cost of $2,300.00).

I was able to determine that thirty-six (36) estimating packages were available for purchase. Two (2) were marketed by active electrical contractors. One of the two is for use by estimator trainees and would drive an experienced estimator "Up the wall". Twelve (12) were marketed by FAILED electrical contractors, eighteen (18) were
marketed by non-electrical firms and four (4) were of undetermined origin.

The package systems currently marketed range from a simple spreadsheet template to a system that requires a mini-computer to operate. The requirements of some of the packages are that you must purchase their hardware regardless of your present configuration. The cost ranges from $195.00 to $70,000.00 for software only.

A commercial/industrial contractor does not require a data base with eight hundred and thirty two (832) items related to residential work nor does the residential contractor require five thousand (5,000) items related to commercial/industrial. That is precisely what you purchase with some of the systems available.

"In-House Systems"

An "in-house" programmed estimating system provides the user with flexibility, control over estimate formats, generation of "Bills of Material" for quotation purposes as well as purchasing, integration with payroll, job cost, accounting, progress billing, generation of AIA 702 and 703, and just about any other information exchange desired between various functions of your business.

The system must be as easy to use as possible.

This requirement for simplicity is of utmost importance in order for the system to be accepted by your "old-hands". If a system is designed and implemented without their input, chances are that it is doomed to failure at the outset. Radical changes in your present format of estimating should not be considered. Always keep in mind that your estimators have been working without a computerized system for most of their careers. To make radical changes will alienate them and build resistance to the system.
The ************* system was designed with the input of all Project Managers and is constantly being updated with new features as a Project Manager has an additional function that he would like to have the system perform.

The system must be flexible

A rigid structure of programs that is difficult to modify or make additions to will be a source of frustration to users. The system should be menu driven, provide minimal "on-screen" prompts, enable changes to be made rapidly, offer choices as to material and labor values, and be disk intensive so that no information is lost in case of power failure or accident. A "memory resident" estimating system should be avoided at all cost.

Basic requirements for any system
Menus and sub-menus to assist in ease of operation.
"Help Screens" that are available to the user with a single key-stroke.
Documentation files that may be accessed to detail program structure and intent.
Escapes from the program without data loss.
No system is fool-proof but your system can be made as near as possible to that end.