Friday, April 3, 2009

Common Sense

This is a completely chicken-free post. Honest, it's vegetarian friendly!

From time to time people ask me to build stuff. Normally it's some kind of electronic device: something to control LED lighting, pan a videocamera, monitor the server room from their computer and print a schedule of when the door was opened or closed, whatever.

The thing is, I always go through the same process: what's the basic requirement? What are the subtasks to build the product? How long does each task take? How much will parts cost, etc. and out comes the notebook and a pen.
Then last night, during the latest iteration of this, it occurred to me that I should just write an application to let me play with the numbers and then spit out an estimate along with a schedule for the client, and a task list for me.

Sure, I can do it in Excel (side note: is there anything you can't do in Excel?), but a specific program to do this will be much more flexible. So I'm writing one.

So, dear readers, those of you working in job shops, painting houses, constructing barns, owners of janitorial service businesses, what are your quoting needs? If I'm going to the trouble of building this, I may as well make it useful to more than yours truly.

So please post or email with your suggestions. I will consider each seriously.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Sure, I can do it in Excel (side note: is there anything you can't do in Excel?), but a specific program to do this will be much more flexible. "

Ermm, Are you really sure? Although it might mean making a new model each time, or at least tweaking an old one, can a programmed model ever be more flexible than a spreadsheet (or series of, Excel or otherwise...)?!

farmboy said...

Thanks for the correction. I should have said "efficient" not flexible. I find purpose built software more productive than spreadsheets. My problem with spreadsheets is that they make me think too hard :-)

Laura said...

We build speech enabled apps. To estimate projects, I use an Excel spreadsheet. So much per dialog (question/answer pair or statement), so much per prompt to record, so much per data look up by web service or otherwise, so much per CDR (call detail record for billing) etc.
New items are weighted heavier, changes/deletions are weighted lighter. Project specific miscellany has to be added manually. That is the only real limitation.

It makes for a quick RFP turnaround.