by Don McNatty
In a recent web article in a project controls journal the author put forth a perspective that Primavera P6 is becoming extinct and cited our (DRMcNatty) support for other tools as one indication of this. In our opinion, this is far from the case and we explain why in this article.
As a scheduler, I can understand the authors’ frustrations and perspective based on how the Primavera product has evolved from the original P3 in “DOS” days, through the purchase of Eagle Ray (P3e in Windows) in 1999 to the Oracle acquisition in 2008 and the evolution of P6 EPPM (P6 Web) through the present day. It’s been a long ride for many of us.
I have a much different opinion based on three very important points.
“Evolution of the application“. The tools we use today have their roots in solving a very specific business problem. In the case of Primavera P6, it was CPM scheduling. As P3 became the market leader in the late ‘80’s – early ‘90’s more people became exposed to the output. Pressure grew from other project stakeholders (besides schedulers) to be able to participate in the process and to have status and forecasts more often – as often as decisions need to be made. This led to a variety of other tools in a variety of environments (such as Primavision – originally the name of the P3 component to produce graphics but also used as the name of the original web version of P3e). What drove the functionality of the P6 application was the demand for participation by the whole project management team, not just the schedulers. I can remember starting out P3e, P3ec, P5 and P6 training classes, which were largely full of P3 expats, by making the statement “it’s no longer about you…, it’s about managing the project, not just the schedule”. While many of us expected that the Windows-based tool known today as P6 Pro would continue to evolve, it did not, primarily because of changes in technology and the market.
“Evolution of the technology“. As project stakeholders, beyond just the schedulers, demanded more participation and functionality it became clear early on that the Windows-based environment was not the best platform for the future. Most Windows software developers who could see the future are not working with Windows developed add-on apps which eventually become primary applications in a web browser environment. This has been a frustrating ride for many P6 Pro users who have had to deal with the evolution of web technology from Java to connectivity to wireless speed (or lack thereof…). We have seen some remarkable changes in web technology over the past ten years and as speed and reliability improve every year, software developers will invest in web-based tools. The days of using a Windows-based tool stand alone on a laptop, are numbered because of trends in the overall technology provider and user market. So, the Windows based P6 Pro (or any Windows based software tool) will eventually come to an end. Just as we gave up P3 to move to P6 (Pro) we will eventually move to P6 in a web or Cloud (see Market Trends…) environment. How long will that take? I think it could be at least 5 years. Believe it or not, there are still P3 users out there, in caves in Arid-zona I think.
“Market trends”. I feel very fortunate to have witnessed since 1979, the growth of computer technology to manage projects. One rule I learned is that nothing lasts forever. For technology providers to be successful they need to look to the future and adjust their research. Oracle has done well in anticipating and adapting to the changes in the market and here we are today, heading headlong into the “Cloud Environment”. I think we are about halfway there. In 2005, we felt that in 10 years selling software (then over 60% of our business) would no longer be the case (in 2015 software sales were less than 5% of our business). In 2006 we developed our hosting and managed services approach to help our clients run Primavera software in the cloud. So as software sales declined, hosting sales increased and along with it, we recognized a market for subscription-based (Cloud) utilities to work with Primavera and other project controls tools. The current trend in the market is for subscriptions to Cloud based software. As an example, I use Office 365 on various devices based on an annual subscription. I still prefer to run Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote primarily in a Windows 10 environment on my Surface Pro, but I could run them all on the web in a browser. With Oracles current embrace for the Cloud and subscription based licensing we’ve seen a great deal of frustration for schedulers who still want to use P6 Pro (because it’s a better scheduling tool than P6 EPPM). I’m sure this frustration is what’s feeding negative perspectives on P6 and expect that to be the case for the immediate future. However, as 5G wireless and global access becomes the norm in another 3-5 years, solving the speed and access problems we have today, the market will demand the 100% cloud environment. We aren’t there yet but the road ahead is very clear to me.
Extinction is when you disappear. P6 is not extinct and will not be anytime soon. P6 has been and will continue to be the market leader in global project controls markets. While investment in P6 Pro is minimal, P6 as a product will continue to evolve as a “Cloud” application. P6 best fits the overall, long term, program management requirements of the largest percentage of global owners who define the environments and “rules of engagement” that the rest of us participate in.
I see nothing on the current market that will challenge P6’s dominance any time soon despite how frustrated many schedulers are with the product. P6 Pro will eventually be supplanted by P6 EPPM just as all Windows based tools will eventually be supplanted by the “Cloud” environment. I’ve seen so many changes in technology over the past 40 years that anything could happen though! Remember SuperCalc, WordPro, Lotus…?
Not all of our clients participate in these “large program environments”. Are there better CPM scheduling tools on the market than P6? Depending on your needs, yes. Have some of those scheduling tools evolved where P6 has not? Yes. And, as a project controls tools and services provider we are prepared to help our clients meet their business needs whether it’s setting up a program management information system to handle a $150B, 40-year program or just to do very good schedules across all of their internal projects. We are always on the lookout for and investing a great deal of our own money in new tools and technology to ensure our clients have the best available choices.
In conclusion, while Dick and Joel have been gone for a while and the Primavera name has been supplanted by “Engineering & Construction Global Business Unit”, I have confidence that Mike Sicilia and his team will continue the evolution of a program and project management tool. It stopped being just a scheduling tool over 10 years ago but it’s not going to be extinct any time soon.