Primavera P6 Professional and Microsoft Project are both capable tools for project management. For CPM scheduling, these two programs are by far the most popular. Both programs allow you to create, update, and track project schedules. However, there are a variety of differences between the two.

There is often a debate between project managers in regards to which software is best. Both P6 and Project offer their own competitive advantages. One advantage to Microsoft Project is that it is generally more accessible for new users. However, although Primavera P6 does have a bit of a learning curve, it offers many capabilities that Project does not. Using Primavera P6, you can perform more advanced workflows and generate higher quality CPM schedules.

If you’re debating which project management program to use, here are 8 benefits to using Primavera P6 over Microsoft Project.

1. Multiple User Access

Primavera P6 allows multiple users to work on the same project, at the same time. This is especially useful for collaboration among team members in different locations. When P6 is set up with a SQL Server, it uses a centralized database – allowing multiple users to perform updates at once. These updates will appear in real time, showing the most current status of the project. This helps maintain communication throughout the project lifecycle.

Microsoft Project, on the other hand, locks a project when in use by a user, so only one user at a time can work on it. For collaboration, P6 offers a big advantage over Microsoft Project. Users can collaborate and communicate with project partners worldwide. This also puts less stress on the individual – instead, the entire team can work together to get the job done.

Access Preferences in the Revu menu in Bluebeam Revu 2019

To see which users are currently working within a project in Primavera P6, select File > Open. Select the desired project and press Users. The Project Users window will show all users that currently have the selected project open.

2. Unlimited Baselines

In both Microsoft Project and Primavera P6, you can create and save baselines. Baselines allow you to copy the project schedule at a particular point in time. Baselines are generally a contractual requirement for comparing actual data with planned data. It’s a good practice to create a new baseline after every status update to maintain a record. Depending on the length of your project, you may need to create a large number of baselines.

In Microsoft Project, you can only create 11 baselines. P6, on the other hand, allows you to create unlimited baselines. This is incredibly useful when working on projects spanning many years.

If you need to create and compare a variety of baselines, you will want to use Primavera P6. The ability to create unlimited baselines allows for more sufficient project comparisons. Unlike in Project, P6 allows you to keep a record of all historical project versions.

Access Preferences in the Revu menu in Bluebeam Revu 2019

To create a baseline in Primavera P6, select Project > Maintain Baselines. Select Add from the Maintain Baselines window to save a copy of the current project as a baseline. Continue in the same manner to create new baselines as the schedule progresses.

3. Variety of Activity Types

Project schedules often make use of different types of activities – such as milestones or summaries. Both Primavera P6 and Microsoft Project allow you to choose from different activity types. The activity types determine how the activity is scheduled. For example, one activity may be dependent on the calendar and another may be dependent on the assigned resource.

Microsoft Project features only three different task types: Summaries, Tasks, and Milestones. P6, on the other hand, has six different activity types available. This allows for more precision when scheduling activities.

Level of Effort is one activity type that is available in P6, but not in Project. These activities are “hammock” activities – they summarize the durations of other activities in the schedule. Level of Effort activities are especially useful for tracking durations for a specific phase or the project as a whole. Unfortunately, Microsoft Project has no equivalent option.

P6 also has both Start Milestone and Finish Milestone activity types. Microsoft Project, however, only has a single Milestone activity type. Milestones represent major events within the schedule, such as the start or finish of a phase. With Start and Finish milestones, you can differentiate between a phase’s start and its finish. In Project, there is no differentiation – instead, you would need to use the Task Name to convey this information.

Access Preferences in the Revu menu in Bluebeam Revu 2019

To change the activity type in Primavera P6, first select the activity from the Activities table. In the General tab of the Activity Details section, select an option from the Activity Type field.

4. Expenses

Depending on your contract, you may need to costload your project schedule. Most commonly, you can cost load by creating and assigning resources. Both P6 and Project allow you to create and assign resources to estimate the project’s budgeted total cost.

P6 features another tool for cost loading as well: Expenses. Expenses are project costs that you enter in at the activity level. They represent one-time costs, such as travel expenses or training materials. Expenses are easier and faster to use than resources, as you create them directly for the activity. Additionally, they allow you to differentiate global resources from project ones. In future projects, you can be sure that you’re not reusing any project-specific costs.

Project, on the other hand, does not have this capability. In Project, you have to create the resources first, and then assign them to activities. This is a more cumbersome and less efficient method of cost-loading.

Access Preferences in the Revu menu in Bluebeam Revu 2019

To add an expense to an activity in Primavera P6, select the desired activity. Within the Activity Details, navigate to the Expenses tab. Press Add to add a new expense and enter in the desired information. Expense costs will add to the activity’s Budgeted Total Cost, along with the assigned resource costs.

5. Activity Steps

When working on larger schedules, your Gantt Chart may become over-packed and cluttered. The Gantt Chart provides you with a timeline of activities and their progress. You will need to monitor the Gantt Chart for schedule analysis. However, if the Gantt Chart is too crowded, it will be difficult to process all that information.

For this reason, Primavera P6 allows you to create Activity Steps. You can use Activity Steps to break activities down into smaller chunks of work. Instead of having to add each task as a new activity, you can add them as steps to a single activity. The Gantt Chart only displays activities, so you can add steps without further complicating it. Activity steps also make it easier to measure the progress of an activity. Instead of having to estimate a percent complete, this value will adjust based on the completed steps.

Microsoft Project, on the other hand, has no option to create Activity Steps. Instead, you would need to add each step as its own activity. This can lead to a more complicated Gantt Chart and make it harder to perform schedule analysis.

Access Preferences in the Revu menu in Bluebeam Revu 2019

To add steps to an activity in Primavera P6, select the activity and use the Steps tab in the Details section. To add a new step, press Add. You can use the Activity Steps tab as a to-do list, checking off items when completed.

6. Progress Spotlight

After creating a baseline schedule, you will need to update activities as they progress. You should perform status updates regularly to keep a record. Most projects are statused every month, or every week. Because you’ll be doing this so often, you will want the process to be as easy as possible.

For status updates, Primavera P6 offers a feature called Progress Spotlight. This tool highlights all activities that should be performed within a selected period. This helps you find the activities you need to status for each update period much faster.

In Microsoft Project, you can only do this by creating and applying filters. Although you can achieve the same result, Progress Spotlight lets you do this much faster. Progress Spotlight not only helps speed up the update process, but it also requires no extra effort from the user.

Access Preferences in the Revu menu in Bluebeam Revu 2019

To use the Progress Spotlight tool in Primavera P6, select View > Progress Spotlight. The spotlight will begin at the Data Date. Click and drag the spotlight within the Gantt Chart to adjust the selected period. All activities set to occur within that period will highlight within the table.

7. Issues and Risk Management

An important part of project management is responding to risks and issues as they occur. These unexpected variables can potentially affect the project plan. For example, if weather conditions or labor strikes occur, you may need to adjust the project schedule. When the unexpected occurs, it’s important to notify stakeholders and owners right away.

Primavera P6 has several tools available to identify and monitor risks and issues. On the Risks page, you can create and prioritize potential risks. For each risk, you can perform qualitative and quantitative analysis to see the effect it may have on the schedule. There is also a Project Issues page, where you can create and monitor issues as they occur. From this page, you can even alert team members of the issue via direct email.

Microsoft Project does not give you the ability to manage and identify issues and risks. Instead you would need to manually enter this information through Notes or Custom Fields. This can lead to a lack of vital communication between project partners.

Access Preferences in the Revu menu in Bluebeam Revu 2019

To add an Issue in Primavera P6, select Project > Issues. Select Add from the toolbar to add a new issue. In the same way, you can add risks to the project by selecting Project > Risks. Select the Add button from the toolbar to add a risk. For both, use the details section of the page to identify additional information.

8. CPM Scheduling as the Default

Most contracts require project schedules to use the Critical Path Method of scheduling. This is a method of scheduling that allows the logic of the project to drive activity dates. With CPM scheduling, you are not setting Start and Finish dates for activities. Instead, you enter in information about the activities and the program will provide Starts and Finishes for you. CPM Scheduling is extremely popular as it ensures that project schedules are realistic.

In Primavera P6, CPM Scheduling is the default. The program will calculate Starts and Finishes whenever you schedule the project. There is little room for error here – unless you make changes to your Schedule settings, the program will use the Critical Path Method.

Microsoft Project, on the other hand, allows you to perform CPM Scheduling – but it is not the default option. By default, Microsoft Project will allow you to manually schedule your activities. Users can pick and choose when they want activities to start and finish – which often leads to unrealistic timelines. In Project, you can switch to Auto-Scheduling, which makes use of the Critical Path Method. But, again, this is not the default. It is extremely common for new schedulers to mistakenly manually schedule their projects when using Microsoft Project.

Because Primavera P6 uses CPM scheduling as the default, you do not need to worry about making this error.

Summary

Primavera P6 and Microsoft Project are two of the most popular project management solutions. However, there are many differences between the two. Primavera P6 offers a variety of advantages over Project when it comes to collaboration and efficiency. There are many extremely useful tools available in P6 that have no equivalency in Project.

Although Primavera P6 has many advantages, new users may find the software difficult to use. For this reason, it is always a good idea to take a Primavera P6 training course. These trainings outline how to use the program with live demonstrations and hands-on activities.

Taradigm offers a one day, virtual training course for Primavera P6 that will teach you the essentials of the program. You can find our next Primavera P6 Essentials course on our calendar here.

Additionally, we now also offer a Primavera P6 Advanced training course. If you have some experience, but are looking to further your knowledge, this may be the option for you. You can find our next Primavera P6 Advanced course on our calendar here.

If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, please use the comment section on the bottom of this page. Don’t forget to subscribe to our blog to get more Oracle Primavera Cloud tips & tricks directly in your inbox!

Lauren Hecker is a Primavera P6 Professional Instructor who teaches onsite and virtual Primavera P6 Fundamentals and Advanced training courses. To see her next open enrollment course, please visit our calendar. To schedule an onsite or custom course, please contact us!

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