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This is question that pops up once in a while, sometimes with two parties hotly contesting the advantages of one versus the other: the purists often time claiming Primavera P6 to be the only adequate scheduling program while the pragmatists insisting Microsoft Project to be the better program.



Case Scenarios


In reality both sides are correct, but from their respective vantage points. MS Project and Primavera P6 are simply different programs. Ok, they do basically the same thing: that is they are both scheduling tools. But the way they go about is a bit different, particularly as it relates to the user experience.


Myself, I use both programs but at different times and for different purposes. Let's suppose that management requires a very high level summary schedule of just a handful of activities, which they want to distribute to other management level parties involved (e.g. the client, partners, corporate home office, etc.). Additionally the high level schedule might be presented at a management project review meeting.


In such an scenario my choice of scheduling program would be MS Project. It's quick, it's got a nice clean and familiar layout format that easier to read for non-technical people for presentation purposes, if necessary I can email the MS Project file to e.g. engineers for input/ review (these parties frequently having access to MS Project but very rarely to Primavera P6), and finally with MS Project it's very easy to "pull out of thin air" any dates for the activities being represented in the schedule. In regards to this last item, obviously fabricating a schedule in this fashion is technically an improper way to do it, but in some cases management might dictate artificial dates for various reasons outside of the actual present planning realities.


On the other hand if we are looking for a scheduling program to produce a schedule with over 100 activities, were multiple schedulers will later update/ progress the schedule, and were full use of logic (activities relationships) are intended to be used, then my choice of scheduling program would be Primavera P6.


Primavera P6 is a whole lot more rigid than MS Project. Entering data and making changes is a much more time consuming process... for example whereas in MS project it's possible to copy and paste a list of activities from MS Excel this is not readily possible with P6 (though there are workarounds of course but somewhat involved, and more often than not, not worth the extra trouble). But this rigidity in P6 is actually a desirable thing! Imagine if a junior scheduler while progressing the schedule was to accidentally delete, move or edit a bunch of activities. This scenario is much more plausible in MS Project than in Primavera P6. It's just a bit too easy to change things around in MS Project, which is good but also potentially dangerous.


Generally Primavera P6 forces the user to think a bit more about the schedule and be more methodic about scheduling. It also gives more options in the way it calculates activities versus MS Project. For large schedules personally I would be very reluctant to use MS Project.





Depending on the application a particular scheduling software will be more suited than the other. MS Project tends to be more pliable for small or summary high level schedules. A particular advantage is the ease of distributing MS Project files and the relative availability of the MS Project software among project managers, engineers and others.


On the other hand for larger detailed schedules with full logic definition (relationships) Primavera P6 offers more rigidity, structure and options (at the cost of some additional effort) as well as often inspiring more confidence among incumbent parties.


Note: However the most important factor relating to the schedule - much more than the choice of software - is the quality of the input! The adage "Garbage In, Garbage Out" (GIGO) is of extreme relevance here. It matters little if we schedule in MS Project or Primavera P6 and then for example forget to change the calendar say from standard 5 days to e.g. 6 days.


Link to related articles:


Schedule Quality Assessment)

Planning and Scheduling and QA Checklist


Why Project Controls

Project Controls - Remember the Alamo

Microsoft Project vs. Primavera P6 Scheduling

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