Primavera P6 vs versus Microsoft Project

Often folks are asking about the differences between Microsoft Project and Oracle Primavera P6. While coming up with a definitive list is more than challenging, below highlights some of the detailed feature differences between Primavera P6 over Microsoft Project.

It’s All About The Enterprise

It’s clear that Primavera P6 was designed for the enterprise from the start, while Microsoft Project migrated from a desktop application and added enterprise capabilities with Project Server. Now that Oracle owns Primavera P6, this gap is accentuated with the introduction of other heavy weight Oracle applications that support Primavera P6. Examples of these include Primavera P6 Analytics, Business Intelligence Publisher, Workflow and Primavera Gateway. These tools allow for integration with other enterprise applications marrying project information with other corporate data, applications and dashboards. Microsoft has not stood still either, with additional offerings such as SharePoint and Dynamics.

With all these true enterprise capabilities in mind, below are some of the more detailed features differences listed by real users. This list is not meant to be exhaustive and only compares the desktops versions. It is also important to note that we’re not recommending one product over the other.

Multiple User Access

Microsoft Project doesn’t allow multiple users to work on a single project at the same time, Primavera P6 does. In Primavera P6 you can specify what features of Primavera a particular user is permitted to use. Microsoft Project Server supports many projects at the same time, but a user locks a project when it’s in use.

Baselines

In Microsoft Project, 11 baselines can be created for a project. In Primavera P6, unlimited baselines can be created and as many as four of these baselines can be assigned at any one time to a schedule.

Progress and Status

Primavera P6 offers a feature called Progress Spotlight. This Progress Spotlight highlights activity table rows in yellow if they are due any status in the next period (day, week, month, quarter or year). Microsoft Project requires the development of filters to allow for the selection of activities requiring status.

Issues & Risk

Microsoft Project lacks a feature for tracking project issues or risks. Primavera P6 can record issues and risks against a project, WBS element or activity.

Web Support

Primavera P6 plans, documents and other information can be converted to HTML directly from the software. Microsoft Project doesn’t have such options.

Steps

The Steps feature in Primavera P6 allows you to create sub-activities (steps) of an activity; effectively a to-do list for discrete progressing. Each step has a weighting that can be used to drive % complete for an activity as the steps are marked off as completed. The additional P6 Step Template allow this feature to be used for common processes that appear often among projects. This capability is not available in Microsoft Project.

Expenses

In addition to resource costs, Primavera P6 allows planned, remaining and actual project expenses (training, travel, ODC) to be entered at the activity level.  Microsoft Project doesn’t have this capability.

Custom Fields

Both Microsoft Project and Primavera P6 allow you to create custom fields. Microsoft Project also allows you to define formula for custom fields and add additional values to it. In Primavera P6 you can create a blank custom field, but you cannot set formulas to it, so users have to manually enter values in each field, for each column. You can use Activity Codes in P6 to create a column that has values that can be picked from a list similar to the Lookup feature in Microsoft Project’s custom fields.

Multiple Activity Relationships

In Primavera P6, more than one type of relationship can be established between activities, e.g. we can have FF and SS between the same two activities. In Microsoft Project only one relationship can be made between two activities.

External Relationships

In Primavera P6, multiple projects can be opened at one time for editing. This allows for relationships to be established between activities in different projects when inter-dependencies exist using identical techniques to assign the relationships. Microsoft Project uses a special feature called Links Between Projects to achieve inter-project dependency modeling.

Project Website

Primavera P6 can create a comprehensive website comprising of all the project details including activities, resources, reports, risks, issues, WBS, and anything else that a user can define. This website feature is not present in Microsoft Project without using Project Server.

Multiple Project Creation and Tracking

Both Microsoft Project and Primavera P6 allow for multiple projects to be created and viewed. However, Primavera P6 capabilities extend beyond this to include multiple project tracking, multiple project or WBS comparisons, cost and units calculations.

Discussions

Primavera P6 has the ability to have threaded discussions with other team members from within the tool.

Hint Help

To help new and experienced users alike, P6 Professional offers a Hint Help toggle feature that explains the values and calculations for a column when the cursor is placed on the field. No equivalent feature exists in Microsoft Project.

Summary

There are many more minor differences between Primavera P6 and Microsoft Project but above list attempts to highlight seem of the more commonly referred differences between the two tools. We are well aware of folks that favor one system over the other and I’m sure this list will spark much conversation, debate and disagreement.

Using this list to support a decision to buy one product over the other would not be a wise idea. Also, these comparisons are only between the desktop versions.

Choosing an enterprise project management system should be based on your organizational requirements which would be at a much higher level than a few detailed features listed here. Finally, enterprise deployments often involve integration and information sharing with other corporate applications, must run on a particular IT infrastructure and support existing processes. All of these requirements can have an effect on your decision which way to go.

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