Construction Scheduling: Primavera™ vs. MS Project™
Knowing which software to choose for specific construction scheduling services or a specific type of project, can significantly improve the efficiency of the construction scheduling process and produce a higher quality construction CPM schedule that is more commensurate with the needs of the project. Based on our professional opinion and extensive construction scheduling experience, we almost always recommend Primavera™ P6 applications for the vast majority of construction schedules; although, MS Project™ can still be a useful tool in the correct application.
The following comparison is based on our professional opinion only; software is constantly changing and the comparison was based on the features available when this White Paper was written 7-25-2013. Primavera™ (P3-P6) applications have long been the construction scheduling tool of choice for construction scheduling consultants and construction schedulers throughout the industry. Primavera™ offers many advantages that other applications cannot match such as a centralized database that multiple users can access at any given time. Different levels of authority can be assigned to different users for security and organizational purposes. Furthermore, Primavera™ allows multiple project-level construction schedules to be open simultaneously for program-level analysis.
Perhaps the most significant advantage of Primavera™ is the sheer magnitude of the processing capability that can compute complex construction CPM schedules that contains thousands of activities and relationships. Many large-scale projects (Construction, Energy, and Aerospace) could not be effectively scheduled on any other software platform. Customer support has significantly improved since the purchase of Primavera™ by Oracle.
MS Project™ can be a useful tool for scheduling novices or non-schedulers that are looking for simple schedules or bar charts with a limited number of activities. Both MS Project™ and Primavera can communicate to other Microsoft applications such as Excel. Primavera™ utilizes an Import / Export function to communicate to Excel.
When tracking construction progress and Delays that occur during the Construction project, it can be very useful to display multiple Baseline Schedules or other previous Schedule Updates. Primavera P6 allows the scheduler to assign and display multiple (10) Baselines to the schedule; this is a useful analysis tool. MS Project requires that the one Baseline be assigned at the beginning of the project and cannot be changed after Update start; if the baseline was not assigned, there is no way to assign later in the project.
Assignment relationships (logic) is much easier in P6 because you can either accomplish this task in the Gant view with a click and drag feature or in the Relationships tab where you can view both Predecessors and Successors simultaneously and adjust as needed. MS Project does not let the user assign logic directly to the Gant chart. Also MS Project does not allow the user to a SS (Start-Start) relationship and FF (Finish-Finish) relationship to the same activity.
Cost is sometimes a factor when choosing software for construction scheduling services. Depending on which options are chosen, a license of Primavera™ can cost over $2,500. MS Project™ is considerably less at around $800.
Based on our professional opinion that was derived from years and $billions worth of construction scheduling experience, some basic guidelines to follow when deciding on a construction scheduling tool are summarized below:
- Projects with over $1.0 million worth of scope → Primavera™ (P6).
- Projects with over 200 activities → Primavera™ (P6).
- Program-level analysis or simultaneous multiple project analysis → Primavera™ (P6).
- Multiple user interface (more than one person updating the schedule) → Primavera™ (P6).
- Construction schedule oversight and detailed analysis → Primavera™ (P6).
- Non-construction projects / simple schedules → MS Project™.
- Basic bar charts or timelines for display in MS PowerPoint™ presentation → MS Project™.
Following these simple guidelines listed above can assist you in deciding which scheduling tool is best suited for your project. Whether you are performing construction schedule services, construction schedule oversight, construction schedule analysis, or other construction schedule application, choosing the right construction scheduling tool for the project or application is critical to the success of the project.