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.
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
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.