Sage Estimating (formerly Timberline Estimating) is an extremely intuitive and easy to use solution. This software offers detailed as well as conceptual takeoff capabilities. It also offers several electronic takeoff solutions which speed up the estimate generation process even further. Available in two versions (Standard or Extended), the solution comes with a variety of sample databases. Or, if you’re interested in getting a jumpstart with your database efforts, Sage offers a variety of customizable, industry-specific, pre-built databases including RS Means.
Due to the software’s flexibility, it can suit your needs regardless of your company size. However, we find Sage Estimating is best suited for companies that run operations of at least $1 million due to its cost. Construction firms beyond this benchmark will find this solution to be suitable for their business and estimating needs.
Laurie from Bowman Constructors
Specialty: General contractor
Portfolio size: Single user
This is not your ordinary, read your screen for tips type of software. I always picked up any accounting software with ease. That was not the case with Timberline. It took some very expensive training and many hours of frustration to learn it. I know that after 10 years there are a lot of things that I don't take advantage of, because I wasn't trained and I don't have the free time to teach myself. (Believe me, I tried!)
It is difficult to access specific info in the canned reports. Also, weird things can be left hanging in the background and you need tech help to get it out. That is of course if the tech support rep is knowledgeable enough to fix the problem. I spent over an hour on the phone and was supposed to get called back with the fix and never did.
Things can "slip into the background" and you have no idea how they got there. Also, I don't find that account analysis is something easily accomplished with the canned reports. If you are really savvy, you can make your own reports and I'm sure you would be much more satisfied.
Not all of the tech's are knowledgeable enough to fix complex problems. I just had an experience this last month where I spent a lot of time going over an Accounts Payable issue. The tech said she would have to work out the solution and she would call me back on Monday to complete the task. She emailed Monday and said it would be Tuesday. I never heard from her again. I was not impressed. It was a total waste of my time. It also makes me wonder why we pay so much money for the top support package. There are also techs that are brilliant and solve the problem quickly. That's why a gave a "7" and not a lower number.
It is excellent for sending info from one module to the others. It is very helpful during the cost analysis process.
It is not user-friendly. You can't "read the screen" and muddle through on Sage like you can with other accounting software.
Make sure you have a savvy person to run the software. It is very involved and not something you can just jump into and teach yourself as you go.
Chuck from Second Look Consulting
Specialty: Construction manager
Portfolio size: Single user
Typical estimators don't have a global estimating understanding. They think estimate to estimate. Its not until you're a Senior Estimator or above that you understand the need for all the bells and whistles.
No bid day or separate alternate solutions are supported.
They have spent the time and developed a great and well-thought-out product.
Because I'm an independent consultant, I don't interact with the vendor at all.
It offers the flexibility to price anything you could dream up in detail and break it out any way you want.
The base databases are unreliable unless you develop them.
Get some basic training, read the help manuals, and don't be afraid to click buttons.
Robert from Simpson Building Contractors
Specialty: Design/build firm
Portfolio size: 2 to 5 users
It's easy to use, understand, and find things. It also works well with a cut and fill program.
It's easy to change settings, edit the database, etc. I like how you can edit the database.
I rarely have any technical issues except for the address book.
Customer support is good, as long as you buy the right plan.
It's easy to use and works well with Digitizer.
There are issues after updates. If you skip a few updates, it seems that some things don't work as well when you finally do update.
It's not always easy to get the address book to keep working.
Aurelia from AVI Roofing.com
Specialty: Roofing & siding
Portfolio size: 11 to 20 users
It has become a lot more user-friendly since 2009 and earlier, when I first started using it. I like the ease of use with the keyboard and not having to use the remote. I also like that you can have multiple windows open and the drill-down options. The toolbar across the top has helped a lot with the user-friendliness of the program.
There are some minor glitches we run in to. I would like to be able to have more access for reports to modify and create. Some reports in the vendor section do not pull receivable information accurately or at all, and vice versa. Some reports do not allow you to copy or modify. Some of the auditing is too extensive, like trying to change a vendor or delete an item on a purchase order requires you to create a whole new purchase order, which then messes up our numbering system.
I think for the most part the functionality and organization are really good.
It is way too expensive for minimal support. We get more out of hiring an outside consultant or doing internet searches to resolve our problems.
I like that it has more options for reports, forms, and queries than QuickBooks. Also, the program links between different areas of accounting and production, like work orders to invoicing and purchase orders. It performs well with Job Costing as well. I also like the functionality and organization that Sage Contractor provides.
The customer support is too expensive for the limited support we are granted. We pay for an outside consultant as well, who assists us more with the program than the customer support we sometimes get. It is also very expensive to add users, especially as a smaller business that does a lot of volume.
Hire a consultant to help you in the beginning process, and hire an employee to do the technical sides of this to update parts, reports, forms, etc.
Dana from Manchester Community College
Specialty: Government - state & local
Portfolio size: 11 to 20 users
When built correctly, the assemblies are very intuitive and make the job of estimating very quick.
Estimating allows me to customize and accurately represent the scope of the project through many avenues. Whether sorting by project phase location or other BS codes, the review of the estimate becomes easier to understand.
The look and feel of the product is wonderful. We were beta testers of the Win95 version, and the familiar appearance of the spreadsheet allows the users a degree of comfort that instills confidence during the learning curve and further through use.
The support team, in my opinion, couldn't be more dedicated to the customer and solving any and all problems I have encountered
Sage's Timberline Estimating allows more flexibility in all aspects of estimating. From building specific items to substituting items, working with smart assemblies, and modeling, there is no other system that I have used that lets me customize the materials, subcontractors, and crews the way Sage does. The support received from Sage is top-notch.
The upfront time in loading in and customizing the database consumes a lot of time. Once in place, the time savings are incredible!
Look over the available databases to see how well they fit your particular business. If one is not available, build your own!
Heather from Millfield Construction Co
Specialty: General contractor
Portfolio size: 2 to 5 users
You cannot undo changes easily. It doesn't fill in fields automatically that it really should.
We have to keep separate Excel sheets to track certain things.
I feel it was designed by people who didn't actually use the product how it was intended. Logical connections are overlooked.
Yearly support is very expensive. Even then, the support is lousy, and the knowledgebase is worthless
The software is okay, but it needs work.
It's not intuitive. I wish it was all in one instead of three different pieces to do job cost, estimating, and purchase orders.
Use it before committing if possible.
Robin from Ledgerwood Associates
Date: December 2011
Why choose Timberline estimating over Excel or the Big Chief notepad?
1. Integration, Integration, Integration
a. Dynamic link to Onscreen takeoff tools (I can be in the estimate quantity field and jump to the plans, measure the quantity while color coding it using the mouse, and it inserts the quantity in the estimate).
b. Quotation/Procurement - one of the most important add-ons. Allows the user to create quote sheets from takeoff items, email them to vendors, negotiate prices, then choose to use that quote in the estimate budget or push it through to a purchase order or subcontract. Remarkably powerful integration tool, plus you develop a bid history library.
c. CAD - beyond onscreen takeoff (which is only an image of the drawing where you still measure quantities). CAD integration uses CAD item libraries to electronically feed CAD driven quantities from the drawings (but you still have to "estimate" the work to be performed). CAD primarily provides the material components and quantities.
d. Scheduling Integration - the ability to generate a text file recap of the estimate sorted by a schedule activity, or export the recap to a Microsoft Project Schedule native file format, or to create a Primavera native file format. NOTE - it is not a scheduling program; it is a utility to convert the estimate to specific data file format used by specific scheduling software products.
2. Reduction in errors.
a. Database formulas work every time and warn you when something is missing. Excel can break formula links, fields, worksheet links, and references and become too complex to manage and generate a wrong calculation with no warning.
b. Database estimates can be sorted in almost unlimited ways using "WBS codes" (work breakdown structures). This is a fancy name for tagging an item with a sortable field such as material class, building number, floor number, alternate, and then sorting the estimate by those tags in a multiple level sequence - on the fly. Very important with so many cuts and adds taking place in today's estimating processes. It also quickly generates field-oriented docs (bill of materials; by floor, by area, etc.), Budgets - sort by job cost summary instantly, etc.
c. Cuts and Adds are a given in today's fast paced estimate environment, recalling a scope section and revising it repeatedly is a reality. This is the most common cause of estimating errors when bidding. Having an audit trail of changes and to quickly make a revision to all components by answering simple questions is very powerful (see smart assemblies and Modeling as well).
d. Parametric estimates - increase the production of an estimator without increased rework or errors. Answer a set of parametric scope questions and the assembly generates all detail components for the estimator. Eliminates errors, reduces rework, ends the "takeoff for a bid - then takeoff again to build it" issue.
3. Database standards
a. A standard item library for everyone in the company to use creating ease of assimilating new estimators, improving cross training of roles, having common logic that can be reviewed easily to see how the result was generated. How many times has an excel estimate template morphed into multiple complicated versions within a company? Not with a database central price book and takeoff system.
b. Flexibility - allows the estimating "artist" to be flexible with their style of results. The assemblies will allow scope questions to be used differently by each estimator (one wants unit price, another wants man-hours, another wants total Square Footage). They can get all of that with a single common system setup.
c. Pricing - many cost pricing service products integrate and can be combined with a company's own in-house price components. Run into that goofy system you have no idea what it costs - look it up in the pricing service system (and by regional pricing in the market). Have your own factors - apply them to the pricing.
There are many other reasons to consider a database driven integrated estimating system. The above are just a few that show why excel or paper are outdated for today's fast paced estimating demands. It is not just the takeoff - it is all the other integration of "clerical / admin" grunt work stuff that an integrated solution improves within an organization.
Four stars - there is no PERFECT system... but no others come close to this overall solution.
Glenn from Commercial Contractor
Date: June 2011
I have been estimating commercial construction projects for the past 15 years.
If you are on the fence with estimating software, look no further than Timberline. I have tried them all and none of them are as fast and refined as Timberline. Other companies put on a good sales show but the application doesn't measure up. We actually spent about $15k on a company's software licenses, and after using it we found it to be slow and klunky.
How good is Sage Timberline Estimating? Well, we walked away from $15k to use Timberline. Yeah, it's that good.