Tony explained: Firstly it has to be free because subcontractors will, on principle, refuse to pay even a penny to submit a speculative quotation. We have made it free to all our existing enquiry management customers because we want a universal uptake so the system can make a real difference to the industry. Of course we hope this will result in further sales of the main estimating product as well.
The compilation and sending of enquiries has always been a thorn in the side of estimators. Things have improved since we (largely) stopped killing trees by sending everything on paper but there has never been a consistent approach across the industry.
Some contractors attach documents to emails, others use drop box or one of the many other file sharing systems. In any given week a subcontractor could receive enquires via a dozen different systems, often having to remember a different log-in and user name for each one. He will also have to remember how to navigate around a dozen different menu structures.
This has led to subcontractors being frustrated and in a significant number of cases simply not even bothering to look at the enquiry. If they do look at it their misery is often compounded, because they have to wade through hundreds of documents they aren’t interested in, to find the ones that they need to see.
I have spoken to a great many subcontractors and the message is loud and clear. They want ONLY what they need in a consistent and easy to access format.
Obviously the main contractor’s estimator doesn’t set out to make life difficult (despite what some subbies may think) that is not going to help him get quick responses in and get his own tender in on time. But given the lack of any single system designed to create concise trade packages most are forced to just send everything to everyone and let the subbies sort it out. Don’t get me wrong some contractors go to a great deal of effort to produce targeted packages, but it is a great deal of effort and takes a lot of time, often using several software packages which don’t really talk to each other very well.
ConQuest OLE (On Line Enquiries) is a cloud based application completely integrated with the main estimating product. Tony explains: We could have quickly cobbled together a solution by linking different packages together but I quickly decided it had to be designed and built from scratch and be 100% inside the main product to be really slick. After five years of design and development the reaction from ConQuest users and subcontractors alike indicate that it was worth the effort.
So what does it do? Tony gave us a synopsis: Contract documentation can be loaded into ConQuest from anywhere in any format. Trade packages are created so easily people often laugh when they see for the first time. If you have a BoQ in ConQuest, the system will created fully formatted and formularised trade bills in excel or PDF. Trade specific invitations to tender are created by mail-merge. One copy of each document is then loaded onto the ConQuest cloud.
The system contains, or is connected to the main subcontractor database. You can create multiple lists of subbies by area, trade etc. OLE also has its own purpose built email server which sends messages in batches of any size to your selected subcontractors. No documents are attached to the emails. The subcontractor receives an email with a secure link to the ConQuest cloud where he can view and download documents very, very easily.
The automated tracking system lets you know when they have viewed or downloaded documents in real time and enables them to indicate whether or not they intend to submit a price. Chase up and thank you emails can be sent automatically in a few seconds.
Numbers sometimes speak for themselves:
– Over 330,000 enquiries have been sent on the system
– Over 50, 000 U.K. Subcontractors using the system
– Over 150 new Subcontractors every day
– 15% average increase in returns
– 25% quicker returns.
Furthermore ConQuest users report saving days of time and a steady improvement in both the speed and quantity of positive responses from subcontractors.
So what are you waiting for, asks Tony?