Primavera P6 Software Review: CH2MHILL (2 of 2)
CH2MHILL, a $5 billion-a-year construction company with 24,000 employees, recently migrated to Primavera P6 after having used Primavera P3 for about five years. Erik Tuma, a project planning and controls specialist with the firm, said that, while he finds the software invaluable, he has felt challenged at times with minor bugs, poor technical support and a security flaw that sometimes sees him reverting back to P3.
Tuma appreciates that Primavera P6 is able to work with other tools, such as Microsoft Project management software. He said P6 allows him to take a preliminary schedule that project managers throw together in Microsoft Project before a scheduler takes that and develops the true project schedule in P6.
The calculations done in P6 seem to be more accurate with the real world results. Tuma said that float calculations are different in Project than in Primavera, so you’ll get different paths between the two. Project also auto computes actuals so you can't load in the actual costs from the accounting system. He noted, "Project basically just doesn't calculate the same as Primavera, which is our standard. I have heard some good things about the latest version but haven't been able to dive into it."
One of the useful features in P6 is MyPrimavera, which provides Web access to the project planning process. In one recent instance, an upgrade to Spokane, Washington's wastewater treatment plant, this feature made a dramatic difference in simplifying the management of a remote project, Tuma explained: "The entire design team was on site in Spokane, while I was down in Corvalis, Ore. They were able to get into the schedule and make their Schedule/ETC/Percent Complete changes themselves. It was a rather large project, so that saved me the time of having to personally enter all that data and allowed me to analyze the data more."
But although he favors Primavera P6 over other construction planning software, Tuma does get frustrated at times, particularly when it comes to the lack of user rights scalability. "CH2MHILL isn't going to give everyone Super user rights because an uninformed user could do a lot of damage to a lot of other people's work. At the same time, since we aren't Super users, we can't import schedule information from Microsoft Excel," he explained. "This is a problem when baselining a good size project. What we end up having to do is create the schedule in Primavera P3 (which allows you to import Excel files) and then integrate into P5 or P6. If I'm not using MyPrimavera on a job, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to take this extra step when I can get what I need out of P3."
Overall, Tuma rated Primavera P6 a 6 out of 10. "It's a pretty good program and one that I prefer to use; it's just not good enough to be an 8 or 9 yet."
How long have you been using this tool?:
Started with P3 five years ago and the company moved to P3 e/c two years ago and have been working recently with Primavera P6.1
What kinds of construction projects do you mostly work on?:
Water and wastewater facilities as well as transportation.
Where did you obtain it?:
It was supplied to me by the company.
How are you using this product?:
We are using Primavera P6 for cash flow analysis, resource loading, workload planning in proposals and for creating and updating construction schedules.
Why did you pick this product?:
Was this product compatible with the software programs you were already using?:
This was the tool that the company was using when I joined the firm. Is compatible with Microsoft Project. Since most of the non-schedulers use MS Project to give us a start of a schedule, this compatibility is beneficial.
Did you look at other tools on the market before picking this one?:
I have had some experience with MS Project, but I was not impressed with the CPM (critical path method) calculations, which are vital on all of our schedules. Also, Microsoft Project had resource loading shortcomings, which Primavera P6 does not.
Before you bought this product, were you using a different one to do the same job? :
This was the tool in use when I joined the company. Prior to Primavera, I believe the standard was Microsoft Project.
How many people are using this software? :
The entire project controls department is using Primavera software.
Comparing the way you work now with the way you worked before you bought this tool, what has changed? :
Can you give us an example of a job where this tool really made a difference?:
One example where Primavera has really helped me is on the Spokane WWTP (wastewater treatment plant) Upgrades project. We were able to use the MyPrimavera function so that the Design and Construction team in Spokane could provide their Schedule and Estimate to Complete estimates to me while I was in the Corvallis office.
Can you estimate how much time or money you saved or other measurable benefits your firm realized using this tool?:
This feature saved countless hours of trying to catch the project team on the phone to get status updates twice a month. Also helped the team provide better information being able to see the schedule in real time.
What are the best features (for your business) in this tool?:
Critical path calculations and MyPrimavera, which allows us to bridge design teams in multiple locations.
Do you think it's a fair value for the price you paid?:
What would you change about the product if you could?:
Increase flexibility in security rights in the enterprise environment. (This was mostly, but not entirely, fixed in Primavera P6). Better customer support and focus on solving known issues in future product releases.
Are there features that you don't use?:
There are no features that I do not use.
Who would you recommend use this tool?:
Primavera P6 is for project controls specialist only. Its price and ease of use will keep contractors and others from using it.
How much computer experience do you think someone needs to use this tool effectively?:
Not a whole lot of experience is needed to use the software. The main issue is learning where all the options and features are located.
Did it take much training (or studying) to learn to use this tool?:
Going from P3 to P6. You had to find out where all of your options had moved.
Have you ever called the company's support lines and asked for help?:
Yes -- there are long waits and not a lot of answers. Workarounds usually work, though.
How would you rate the user documentation? :
The online Knowledge Base is pretty helpful.
When the next version of this software comes out, will you upgrade to it?:
Yes, as it is our company CPM standard.
Overall, on a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate this tool?:
6. It's a pretty good program and one that I prefer to use, but it's just not good enough to be 8 or 9 yet.