Document emoticon standing out compared to the neetwork, folder, and messages emoticons

Estimating project costs in Microsoft Excel

Choosing between Excel or Cleopatra Enterprise

Here are 6 reasons why you shouldn’t

In the world of software, there’s hardly any tool that is more hated and loved at the same time as Excel. Some think it’s great because of its functionalities, others despise it for just the same. Most will agree it’s easy to learn but hard to master. In this blog, I won’t take sides. I’ll just point out why you shouldn’t use Excel for estimating project costs. Of course, Excel has a number of direct advantages. It is readily available in every organisation and almost everyone has a basic knowledge on how to work with it. It also allows for a completely custom setup to suit the person who needs to work with it.

Small errors can cause major problems

Although its limitless flexibility can be considered an advantage, the way Excel is set up can lead to a small typo in a nested formula somewhere on the twentieth sheet having a major impact on the end result of your cost estimate. There’s no easy checking of errors or mistakes, and fixing something is hard when you don’t know where to look. Using dedicated estimating software like Cleopatra reduces the risk of errors dramatically by using predefined cost models and calculations. Furthermore, if you accidentally enter some incorrect figures, the reporting tool along with cost breakdown structures and hierarchical cost levels will enable you to quickly restore the mistake.

Frustration of working with Excel


The never ending drive for efficiency and cost reductions lead us to pursue automation of tasks at every level of the organization, including cost estimating. Unfortunately, Excel lacks the capability of importing i.e. material take off sheets into an existing estimate, without the use of large databases which slows it down dramatically, especially if the used wording is not exactly as expected. Or how about alteration of certain parts of your estimate with strong interdependence? Combining predefined cost models based on real parameters? Sure, there’s VBA. But that’s hardly entry-level usage and requires quite some programming skills. Luckily, there are software systems that do support automation.

You’ll have to learn from experience

What I mean by that, is that no project stands on its own. Rather, you’ll probably have multiple projects within your company every year. Your cost estimators will always have to learn from previous projects, which ensures ever increasing efficiency and accuracy of your estimates. But how do you implement that learning cycle in an Excel based estimate? Other than used placing two Excel sheets next to each other and doing a simple comparison: you won’t. There’s no cross section analysis, nor core value evaluation or any other analysis that goes beyond the obvious. Therefore, make sure to use software that enables you to analyse past projects and implement gained knowledge in the next project, and don’t waste what you’ve got.

Stay tuned

Well, that’s already plenty of arguments to think about, so I’ll save the other 3 main reasons not to use Excel for estimating project costs for next week.

Can’t wait that long and curious about how Cleopatra Enterprise can be advantageous to your organization? Feel free to contact us or request a demo.

Related resources

A selection of user stories from our customers, explaining the value that Cleopatra Enterprise adds to their projects.

6 reasons why you shouldn’t use Excel for project cost estimating In my previous post I already discussed…

Read blog article

As a cost engineer looking for a software tool to create and manage estimates, one of your most…

Read blog article