The construction crowd came to Oracle Open World to learn how the latest features in this popular tool may help us be even more productive and ease our daily burdens. We left with a mixed bag because, after all, it is the automated recalculation of the schedule, giving us a clear picture of the impact of changes during the past update period, that is the heart of CPM.  

Recognizing that Oracle had to address the majority of the 40,000 attendees, not the small fraction from the A/E/C world, and that the statements of Oracle spokespersons (and salespeople) had to be directed to the majority, I was still somewhat concerned with the message. Primavera Project Management products were repeatedly touted as helping management choose “the right project at the right time.” Joel Koppelman’s keynote address promoted P6 to help decide “which projects to prioritize and perform, and which projects to slow down or stop.”  Portfolio Project Management. “What to do, postpone, or drop.”  Not the world of A/E/C.  

If our choices include upgrading the machine shop or buying a new crane, knowledge of which will have the earliest financial impact may be useful in our decision making. But these decisions exist while the choice is entirely mine – for my projects. In the A/E/C world, we have teams of independent players who have committed to, and are obligated to, our projects. Once committed, we need a tool to perform, and not to choose whether to drop.

The new P6 version 7.0 is touted to have “over 100 new features and capabilities.”  Some are more important to the IT department than to the field, such as further integration with MS Sharepoint and JAVA. A new feature will send an alert to the dashboard of your CEO if you add an activity to your project. Another will send an automated message to the blackberries of key individuals if you record an “Issue” to an activity. How much of your time will be required to set up and enable these functions was not discussed.  

But also some real improvement for schedulers. Calculated user defined fields have been added to the product. The timescaled logic diagram functionality has been improved, even beyond P3. Printing of calendars is now supported. However, most of the new reports are designed for use by senior management or display at a public zoning meeting, and most of the integration is to assist the back office obtain “one true set of deliverables across the entire organization.”   

This may be the real challenge for the Primavera team within Oracle. I ran into one senior manager from a water utility who uses P6. He builds his own schedules entering appropriate activities and durations. (Updates?  What are updates?) He had no idea what is used in the field (perhaps MS Project), nor what, if anything, is used on contracted-out capital projects. He was the only person his firm sent to San Francisco. (What are the implications to marketing and further product development?) 

Oracle has provided Primavera funding for additional R&D that is even greater than that provided to other product lines. The development team has done an excellent job of starting the integration of the date precision of Primavera to other product lines of Oracle. But this also implies support of personnel who use this data to build our projects. I have high hopes Primavera will continue to support and further improve this key attribute to their flagship product.  

CPM scheduling is my professional passion, and I hope that Oracle / Primavera has not left the heart of CPM scheduling in San Francisco.