Oracle Primavera P6 Version 8: Project and Portfolio Management
Last week we did a review of a new book Oracle Primavera P6 Version 8: Project and Portfolio Management written by Daniel L. Williams, PhD and Elaine Britt Krazer, PMP. You can read the review by clicking here. We loved the book and got the chance to get their thoughts and answers to a few questions that we had.
How did you two meet?
Elaine: At Collaborate two years ago, I had heard of his company and went to the Oracle Application User’s Group Special Interest Group meeting for Oracle Primavera.
Daniel: The Primavera SIG had just been formally founded, and I was the chairman. We had our first meeting there, and during that I asked for volunteers. Elaine came up and spoke with me afterwards, saying she was interested. From that we got to know each other, and soon after we created the role of P6 Domain Lead, the board chose Elaine to fill that role. And now I must say that Elaine has really embraced that role and does a phenomenal job analyzing our bi-annual enhancement surveys and presenting our results to Oracle.
Elaine: After that, one day he called me and asked if I would review a chapter on a book he had just started and wanted to know if I had any experience. As we talked he asked if I would consider writing the rest of the book with him. He had done the outline and chapter one and two when I began helping him. We divided up the chapters, reviewed each of the others’ work and the rest is history.
Tell us why you wrote the book?
Daniel: I was approached by Packt in May of 2011 asking if I was interested in writing a book on P6. My first inclination was that I’d better pass, since writing a book is a big obligation. As I told the Packt representative at the time – I very much love good technical books, and conversely really, really hate bad ones. And I did not want to create yet another terrible technical book!
But then I got to thinking about it. I knew that I personally wanted to read a good book on P6, and really wanted to have a book that I could give to others, a book which could serve as an introduction to P6 for new users, or as an introduction to version 8 for long-time P6 users. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted such a book to exist, and realized that if I wanted such a book, I’d better take this opportunity to write one.
Elaine: There are some books that focus on the technical features and how to use them, but very few books would tell you why or when to use those features or at what time to choose one feature over another. Usage of a tool is very different than adoption and Oracle Primavera is best adopted rather than used. We wanted to be a primer for the novice, but to ensure advanced users would benefit too, so the process and best practice had to be a part of it.
Daniel: Also, there are some books that cover P6 from a classroom learning point of view. There are books that discuss scheduling best practices, but with no specific software. And the system help and online guides from Oracle are helpful with the basics of how to use P6, but are not strong on the why, the culture and mindset behind using P6 to manage projects. We wanted to cover all of the aspects of P6 at a level that was useful, and also within the context of real-world examples. There are many things that P6 can do, but not all of those features are things you should do. And we hope that we have succeeded in this.
Now as I said, writing a book was a daunting task. I worried that I would write something only from my own point of view, and also worried about having the support of someone else helping to keep me on schedule. So I was elated when Elaine agreed to co-author. This really helped me stay in focus and the experience and ideas she brought were invaluable.
How did you come up with the format? Particularly blending the web client and the fat client within the same chapters?
Elaine: Several good writers have produced great books on the P6 client but many are industry specific. We felt a need for a book that covered both clients that was foundational for most industries and with examples from multiple industries. For enterprise adoption, that is to use P6 R8 as it is intended, users are role-based and using the part of the tool best for their function in the PM process. Resource Managers need to use the web with the Executive team. But schedulers and planners are still more productive in the client. Other roles depend on the company and which knowledge areas they focus on.
Daniel: The book is divided into two sections. The first half covers the traditional core of P6 – projects, WBS, activities, resources, scheduling and so on. We felt that these were most easily shown through the fat client (aka the Optional Client), which is also the common tool of choice for schedulers. So those chapters mainly focus on the fat client, though we do mix in certain things from the web client, such as importing and exporting projects, which are quite different in the web client.
The last half focuses on things that either only exist on the web client, or which are stronger on the web client. This includes portfolios, dashboards, and capacity and resource planning. But as you note, many topics are mixed between the two sections. It is my opinion that while the fat client will be around a long time, the web client has been and will continue to become more and more functional. I see this evolution in many Oracle products, and am sure that web-interactivity will continue to improve with every release. As someone frequently called on in install and support P6 installations, this makes my job easier.
There are a number of difficult concepts in P6 that are hard to explain e.g. duration types. How did you come up with such great examples?
Daniel: Well, Elaine and I think about these ideas a lot (maybe too much!), both in teaching others and in actively managing projects. We also enjoy discussing these ideas with colleagues – which is why we are so involved in the Primavera SIG. At conferences and on calls I had many discussions with colleagues over Start-to-Finish and how best to explain that one, for example.
Elaine: Laughing here. Because it had to be able to speak to people like me, not simple terms, but efficient terms that I can apply in my job today. I am a process person, I love organizational design. I really get that successful Projects are the only piece of work that experiences an organization in a horizontal manner, across departmental divides. I have worked in Information Technology and successful software installations are very different than successful enterprise tool implementations. Enterprise tools need to efficiently move work through an organization with accurate inputs so the output is a quality product. This can support good decisions and can lead to more repeatability. Too often, IT is asked to install and IMPLEMENT and the business doesn’t inherit something they understand how to use. No training can connect the software to the organization at that point. So long story short, I came up with examples that organizational leadership and primary users would understand and be immediately applicable for the organization.
How would experienced Primavera P6 users benefit from reading your book?
Elaine: The tool is so flexible and scalable that it can take years to discover the combinations of features that produce a product. The settings, the activity types, the calendars, the relationships, the duration types, the percent completes, all magically must be used in tandem and in the right combination. The combination depends on the organizations focus and maturity. Sometimes the industry, but that is usually only a small part believe it or not. If a mature organization wants earned value, those settings are different than a subcontractor shop completing a schedule. And the contracts can completely change an implementation. Companies doing work using Firm Fixed Price contracts are quite different than one performing Time and Materials work. So that said, experienced users have likely only experienced a few combinations, not a full range of combined features. In this book we explain enough of the “chains of features” that experienced users can learn a lot. I suspect we could write a book on just different chains and their use. Who knows, that maybe next for us.
Daniel: Users who are experts in P6 may not necessarily have experience with version 8.2. Many people I know are on version 6 or 7, and these people can learn about the new features in release 8 through the book. Even experienced users who are on version 8.2 will benefit, as they may use the tool in one industry-specific way, while the book explains uses of P6 from many points of view and many different industries. For example, the way that a plant manages turnarounds in P6 is very different from how a public entity manages its capital works program. But users in each of those industries can find valuable ideas from each other, and insights into how to use P6 in new ways.
Some of the screen shots in the book suggest that you were using Primavera P6 to communicate. Did you manage to sleep after being told “go to bed, the book will still be there in the morning”? Seriously, we’re you collaborating remotely and how did you do that?
Daniel: I’m not sure about Elaine, but I mostly wrote the book at night after kids went to bed, and occasionally I would have a weekend morning as well. But the ideas were churning in my head throughout the day. And the writing went in fits and starts. Some nights I would stare at a blank page and come up with nothing. Some nights I would start investigating something in P6 that I thought I knew, and then lose myself for several hours, learning much, but writing nothing. Other nights everything just seemed to click and I would finish page after page.
As far as collaboration technology, we really did nothing more complex than share files on DropBox, send lots of email, and talk on the phone. We met a few times as conferences such as Collaborate and OpenWorld, but those in-person meetings were less about the book, more about just connecting on a personal level and catching up on life outside of work.
Elaine: Laughing…Well there are tons of gems in the book. Secret messages to each other and to our families. My pet name for my husband is in there, my son’s company name is in there, dog names, and yes—even notes to Daniel. But no, we were not on the same database when we took shots.
Daniel: I also have few secret items in the book such as lyrics from a Beatles song and my favorite brand of rum.
Good project management practice talks about gleaning lessons learned at project closeout. With the book project complete, what lessons have you learned?
Elaine: We learned a lot about publishing and working with a remote team in India. Packt was unbelievable. Their response and input was timely and informed. They could not have provided a better environment of communication for this book. They listened to both Daniel and I, it was a true collaboration.
Daniel: Ha – a very good question! And not ironically, I must say that the key holding everything together is a well-defined schedule, and well-defined responsibilities. Certain chapters had to be written in a specific order so that they would flow properly. For example, we needed to discuss resources well before resource management, and portfolios before ROI.
We had a very good team at Packt who received the chapters, routed them to reviewers, and got the marked up files back to us for revisions. And I must give kudos to our reviewer Robert Self, the main domain expert in P6 who provided much of the solid feedback that really enriched and improved the overall book. Some of those examples you mentioned are directly from him.
But while writing the book I also learned how to write the book. When I first began I was quite unsure how to organize material within a chapter, or even how much to cover in a chapter and to what depth. But toward the end I really formed a good feel for what to write and how to write it. It makes me want to write more! (Are any publishers reading this? I have plenty of ideas!).
Elaine: We also learned about each other’s past experiences with P6. I think Daniel and I learned a lot from each other about P6.
What other things would you want potential readers of your book to know about?
Daniel: One thing I strongly believe in is continuous improvement. I have already found things I want to add to the second edition, and am very open to suggestions from readers. As I mentioned earlier, this is a reference as much for myself and my colleagues as for others. Just today one of our developers asked “what is a notebook topic?” and I said, well see here in Chapter 4 we cover this. Another new hire just took a copy of the book home in hopes of getting up to speed on what it is that our company does. So please, send me an email, write a review, let me know how it can be better.
Another thing I want readers to know is what to not expect from the book. The book will not make you a master scheduler – that is a vast topic that we cannot even hope to cover in this text. It is also not a detail-by-detail workbook going over each specific detail of P6. You can get much of that from the online help. Some things we simply gloss over, sometimes because they are not core, and sometimes because they require a level of detail that would warrant an extra 200 pages to do justice. We also do not get into installation and administration of P6 – that alone is worth another book! It really is a guide to what is in P6 version 8, what each feature does, what each is for, from a users point of view. But it is still written to give the reader a firm foundation in P6 and all of its functionality.
How long did the whole process take?
Daniel: I was contacted by Packt on May 31st, 2011, signed the author contract on June 30th, finished the last-minute corrections mid-August, and the book was published August 22nd. So 1 year, 3 months from first contact to publishing.
Elaine: I joined Daniel in the effort at chapter 3 after the outline was defined. My part was 8-9 months.
Thanks Daniel and Elaine.
If you would like to buy the book, all the formats of it are available directly from PACKT Publishing here.
About the Authors
Daniel LeRoy Williams
Daniel leads the Primavera Practice of Partners Consulting. This team works with diverse companies in engineering, construction, energy, and other asset-intensive industries, helping them to better measure, manage, and control project costs and schedules. The team specializes in implementing Primavera and integrating Primavera with other systems such as Oracle EBS, PeopleSoft, and JD Edwards.
Daniel was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and raised in the small town of Clinton. He attended LSU (Geaux Tigers!) and obtained his PhD in Physics from the California Institute of Technology (Go Beavers?) in 1998.
Daniel speaks regularly at conferences such as Oracle OpenWorld, CPM Construction, JDE Partners Summit, and Collaborate. He is the founding Chairman of the Oracle Primavera Special Interest Group, which works to provide educational and networking opportunities to the Primavera community and to ensure that Primavera users have a unified discourse with Oracle.
He lives in Boulder, Colorado with his wife Heather and their two children, Sean and Finn.
Elaine Britt Krazer, PMP
Elaine began working with Primavera products as a project manager for a Government contractor in a Top Secret environment in 2003. Having managed projects since 1986, she embraces Primavera as her tool of choice. She has written training materials and published materials that combine best practices (as defined by the Project Management Institute and from experience) and the appropriate use of Primavera within client organizations.
Her philosophy is that understanding an organizations’ strategic goals for projects are the foundation for project management excellence and Primavera is the tool of choice.
She has a Masters Certificate from George Washington University 2002, and her Project Management Professional (PMP) and ITIL Foundations certifications. She is an Oracle Certified Primavera Implementation Specialist and is Primavera Training Authorized. Elaine has worked in most major industries implementing Primavera. Her past includes technical change management, business process redesign, data center management and PMO creation.
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