The more accurate your estimates, the more likely you’ll keep to your budget and deliver a project on time. Having a tool to identify and collect costs for your labor, materials and more is the first step to running a successful project. Using a project estimate template is the perfect way to get your project planning on the right track.
Why You Need an Estimate Template
Estimating might not be an exact science, but it is one of the most important aspects of planning for a project. It’s how you build a budget by figuring out as best as possible what your project costs will be, including resources and how long you’ll need them for.
Managing a project means estimating time and costs, but it also involves bringing vendors and contractors into the mix. Putting out the call to contractors for bids needs organization to allow the project manager to look over all the different bids and choose the right one for the project.
If you don’t go through the stages of estimating your projects cost you go over budget and cost your stakeholders more money or threaten having the project fail, which loses all the investment. Making estimates is the foundation of your project cost management.
This means you need to break your project into phases, figure out all the tasks in those phases, what the duration will be and the resources needed to execute them. You’ll also want to know the sequence of these activities. A work breakdown structure can help, as can a Gantt chart with a timeline to show you the whole project in one place.
Of course an estimate is not foolproof. It can be wrong, so why waste your time taking the effort to do something that is ballpark at best? Because it’s better to be in the ballpark than it is to be lost out in the parking lot. Not to mention, you can’t play the game if you don’t have the equipment, which costs money. You have to have an estimate for executing your tasks to get funding to start the project.
When to Use an Estimate Template
There are typically five phases in project management: initiation, planning, execution, monitoring and controlling and finally project closure. The estimating for costs and time or getting estimates from vendors and contractors occurs during the planning phase.
It’s while planning that the project manager and team will start organizing the tasks that will lead to the project’s final deliverable. This involves employing one or several cost estimation techniques and approaches that will allow the project manager to figure out how much it’ll cost to complete the project, which is detailed in the budget.
There are many factors at play in making such estimations, of course. It’s not merely the cost of labor and materials, though that is a big part of any estimate. There are external forces that can impact your project, such as market conditions, exchange rates, weather and much more. These risks all need to be factored into your project plan as part of a risk management plan.
Using a project estimate template is not meant as a magic bullet to pierce all your estimating needs, but it stands as the first defense against overspending when you execute your project. Here you can collect those costs and the time associated with executing your tasks which are somewhat under your control. Labor and material costs are mostly fixed, though there are always unexpected absences to think about as well as fluctuating prices.
Who Should Use the Project Estimate Template?
As mentioned above, the estimate template in Excel is used by the project manager. That is, the project manager is tasked with leading the charge to estimate all costs and time related to managing the project. But this is not work they do in a vacuum.
One of the ways that projects are estimated is through historic data, which means looking back at similar projects and seeing how much money and time was needed to complete them, adjusting for inflation. This research will send project managers to their mentors or other project managers. These interviews can provide invaluable lessons and direction.
Another resource is the team. They are literally on the frontlines of the project and we’re hired because of their experience and skillset. Therefore, a project manager needs to bring them into the process in order to get a fuller picture of the cost and time needed to do the work they’re going to be tasked to do.
While there are many techniques and people to consult about estimating, including stakeholders who will have certain expectations of cost and time that must be taken into consideration, the buck stops with the project manager. They are in charge of making the final determination on estimates.
How to Use ProjectManager.com’s Project Estimate Template
The free project estimate template in Excel from ProjectManager.com is an essential tool as you go about estimating your project’s cost and time. It can be used by contractors you’ll hire for the project as they submit bills for the work done. Everything is included to help you estimate the cost and length of the project and who to work with in order to get it done right.
Company & Customer
To begin, get the specifics. There’s a place to place the name and contact information for the person submitting the estimate bid, including who prepared it. Then, underneath that, is space for the customer. This is the organization that is managing the project. The name and contact info follows.
To the side of this is administrative data, such as the date the estimate is submitted, a space to add a quote number and customer ID, as well as a place for you to write how long the estimation bid is valid for. All this is for internal use to help you keep track of the various estimates that come in.
Here is space to talk about the project or the specific part of the project that you’re getting the estimate for. This places the estimate in context, which is important as you work it into the full estimate of the project.
Here we come to the meat of the meal, where the project is broken down into project phases and under that a list of individual tasks. Across from each task is the name of the vendor and/or contractor who is making the bid followed by the cost of labor and materials. These line items are automatically added together and placed in a total column.
You can create as many of the project phases as you need to correspond to the estimates you’re collecting. Under each is a subtotal of all the tasks in that section. At the very bottom of the template is a cell that automatically adds all the subtotals together for a grand total. For any additional information you want to gather, each line item has a space in which you can add notes.
How to Import Your Project Estimate Template in ProjectManager.com
To get more out of your free estimate template, import it into ProjectManager.com. It’s easy to do and gives you more control over planning, monitoring and tracking your costs and time. To start, sign up for a free 30-day trial.
Import your Project Estimate Template
Once you’ve subscribed to the software or signed up for a free 30-day trial, you’ll see an import icon on the upper left-hand side of your screen. Click this and a window will pop up asking you to select the file you want to import. You can import any CSV file.
Set Start and End Dates
Once your estimated template is in our tool, you can use it as a stepping stone to your project plan. All the tasks will show up on the Gantt chart, with the resource planned costs. Add the duration for each task and you’ll see the tasks chronologically populate a timeline where you can see the entire project in one place.
Customize Your Gantt
From here you can begin to control the project, for example, linking tasks that are dependent on one another to start or stop. By identifying these dependent tasks you’ll be able to avoid bottlenecks later on in the project. You can also color code the Gantt and set milestones to break the larger project into more manageable parts.
From the Gantt you can describe and tag the tasks, even attach relevant files. Then assign them to your team. Tasks can be commented on to help you team collaborate and work better together. As they update their progress it’s shown on the status bar that connects the start and end dates of the task on the Gantt.
Work in Multiple Project Views
The tool has multiple project views. While managers might prefer the Gantt, teams can choose between a task list, calendar view and kanban board. The latter visualizes workflow and allows teams to manage their backlog and plan for sprints. Managers get visibility into the work and can reallocate resources as needed to match their team’s capacity.
Track Progress on Dashboards
To better hit your estimates use our real-time dashboard, which captures project data and automatically calculates and displays it in graphs and charts for an instant status report. Catch anomalies and address them before they take you off track. One-click reports will provide even more details and can be shared with stakeholders to keep them updated.
What Other Templates Can Help with Estimates?
The estimate template is only one of dozens of project management templates you can download free on our site. When you’re estimating you’re dealing with breaking down tasks and determining how much time and money they’ll take to complete. These two templates can help.
The amount of money you’ll need to pay for all the resources that will make your project a success is outlined in the budget. The free project budget template captures those financial details, including estimating the funds required for labor and materials.
Before you can make an accurate estimate you have to know all the tasks in your project. That’s where the free WBS template comes in. It is a tree diagram that allows you to identify every activity and deliverable working backwards from your final deliverable.
Related Estimate Content
There are dozens of free project management templates on the site, but there is also a section devoted to hundreds of articles on every aspect of project management. Using our tool and taking advantage of these educational resources will prepare you to tackle any project. Here are some recent posts on the topic of project estimates.
- Cost Estimation for Projects: How to Estimate Accurately
- 7 Steps for a Successful Project Budget
- 7 Tips for Preventing Cost Overrun
Estimating your project and collecting bids from contractors and vendors is only the first step in managing your project. If you’re looking for a cloud-based tool that can give you live data to help you plan, monitor and report better on your project, then try ProjectManager.com free with this 30-day trial.