Milestones Professional Software Review
Wendy Duncan of iParametrics, which works closely with Bechtel on building liquefied natural gas (LNG) plants, has been using Milestones Professional for a year and a half. The program, which Duncan described as "a more intelligent version of Microsoft Excel," is now the preferred construction scheduling software for the development of Level 1 construction schedules at Bechtel.
"It is extremely useful for presentations of existing projects and proposal-level schedules, and updating the schedule is easy since you can visualize how far ahead or behind you are" she said. "It takes one-third of the time it took in Excel for us to make the schedule. There are even bigger time-savings when we do updates."
One of Duncan's favorite product features is what she called its "intelligent columns," which can generate standard data for values such as durations. "Even the formatting is intelligent," she said, "since you can define 'rain-out periods' recurrently on a multi-year project.
Duncan deemed Milestones Professional easy to use for anyone comfortable with Microsoft Office. "A few days of hands-on work after reading the manual is all it takes to come up to speed," she said.
Duncan rated Milestones Professional a 9 out of 10 and said it would be the ideal construction scheduling software for "every EPC company, manufacturer or other business that must create one-page Level 1 schedules."
How long have you been using this tool?:
I have been using it for about a year and a half.
What kinds of construction projects do you mostly work on?:
Bechtel designs and constructs liquefied natural gas (LNG) plants, refineries, chemical plants and integrated gasification power plants.
Where did you obtain it?:
It was provided to me by the company.
How much did you pay?:
I didn't buy this product, but it is available for $249 as a download or $269 as a boxed software package. Upgrades cost a little more than $100.
How are you using this product?:
I am using Milestones Professional to create Level 1 construction schedules on one page. It is now a preferred Bechtel tool for all business development Level 1 schedules and Level 1 for all existing projects.
Why did you pick this product?:
I was not part of the decision-making process.
Did you look at other tools on the market before picking this one?:
Bechtel also uses Primavera scheduling software. However, Milestones gives us the flexibility to create Level 1 schedules on a single page. It is now a Bechtel preferred tool for all its business-development Level 1 schedules and Level 1 for all existing projects.
Comparing the way you work now with the way you worked before you bought this tool, what has changed? :
Milestones' software has a much better presentation than tools we used in the past. Before using this construction scheduling software, we used Microsoft Excel to make Level 1 schedules. Excel has the flexibility to draw and create layouts, but it was rather cumbersome. Milestones Professional is a more intelligent version of Excel. It has many built-in color schemes, formats for bars or end-points, and enables us to easily create schedules.
It is extremely useful for presentations of both existing projects and proposal-level schedules. I can easily customize reports and include calculated fields for totals or earned value.
Can you give us an example of a job where this tool really made a difference?:
I am not allowed to name our specific projects but all Bechtel Oil, Gas & Chemical projects use Milestone Professional for construction scheduling.
Can you estimate how much time or money you saved or other measurable benefits your firm realized using this tool?:
Compared with Excel, Milestones Professional is a blessing. It takes one-third of the time it took in Excel for us to make the schedule. There are even bigger time-savings when we do updates.
What are the best features (for your business) in this tool?:
In Primavera, one row is used for one activity. However, Milestones Professional allows for multiple activities, or milestones, on one row. This gives us lots of savings on space. There also are a lot of 'intelligent columns' that can generate standard data, for example durations. In fact, even the formatting is intelligent, since you can define 'rain-out periods' recurrently on a multi-year project. Updating the schedule is easy, since you can visually see how far ahead or behind we are from the plan.
Do you think it's a fair value for the price you paid?:
I don't know how much my company paid, but at the advertised price it is extremely affordable and a great value for the work we do.
What would you change about the product if you could?:
I'd like Milestone to add auto-numbering, especially when a user adds or deletes rows on the schedule.
Are there features that you don't use?:
We don't use earned value and percent complete features because Bechtel has a separate progress measurement system in place.
Who would you recommend use this tool?:
This is ideal for every EPC (engineering, procurement and construction) company, manufacturer or other business that must create one-page Level 1 schedules.
How much computer experience do you think someone needs to use this tool effectively?:
Anyone comfortable with standard Microsoft applications can use this software.
Did it take much training (or studying) to learn to use this tool?:
A few days of hands-on work after reading the manual is all it takes to come up to speed.
Have you ever called the company's support lines and asked for help?:
Yes, I've called many times. The online support is terrific.
How would you rate the user documentation? :
We do not have a formal training program for this construction scheduling software, so everyone uses the manuals often. The documentation is detailed and easy to comprehend.
When the next version of this software comes out, will you upgrade to it?:
Yes, and I am sure Bechtel will too.
Overall, on a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate this tool?: