A project cost estimate, or budget, helps project managers and stakeholders achieve project objectives within limited financial constraints. Cost estimation involves forecasting or predicting all costs associated with a project and establishing budgets against which actual project costs can be compared and managed. Cost estimating tools are used to develop budgets for project components and activities.
Generic spreadsheets are the simplest cost estimating tools. They are particularly useful for simple projects with a limited number of elements. A spreadsheet is an electronic table made up of a number of horizontal rows and vertical columns. It generates results by manipulating data that is entered in its cells. According to Rodney D. Stewart in the book "Cost Estimating," as of August 2010, the most popular spreadsheet programs for cost estimation include Microsoft Excel, Ability Plus, Lotus 1-2-3, Lucid 3-D, Javelin Plus, PFS: Professional Plan and Smart Spreadsheet. Spreadsheet add-ons and software modules/cost-estimation templates can be added to regular spreadsheets to assist untrained users in performing complex cost estimating calculations. DevWave Software Inc. markets various templates that allow users to easily fill out proposal estimating forms.
Software Systems and Programs
Software cost estimating software/programs are algorithms and databases that are automated to estimate costs, resource requirements and create project schedules for projects. They are highly specialized software programs that perform calculations on user-entered and project-related data. The results of the calculations are displayed on a computer screen or printed in a document. Sophisticated software systems and programs are used to perform complex cost estimation for large-scale projects. Programs include McMax, foxBASE+, Clipper, RBASE, PC/Focus, Quicksilver and DataPerfect.
Online cost estimating tools are a reliable and convenient alternative to expensive and complicated software packages. Used typically for small-scale projects, online cost estimation tools usually require users to sign up and enter relevant project data and deliverables. COCOMO (Constructive Cost Model) is a popular online project cost estimating tool developed by NASA. The software gives a rough estimates of costs associated with project modules and tasks. Other cost estimating tools include Cost Estimator (for construction projects) and eTask Maker. These and other tools generate cost estimates, supporting details and comprehensive cost management plans by working on inputted historical information, estimated activity duration, resource rates and requirements and work breakdown analysis.
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