In our experience in project management, we have repeatedly encountered a common problem: the lack of conformity and access to schedule software among project stakeholders. The licensing structures and costs associated with these software have contributed to inconsistent access, inconsistent deployment, and consistent headaches trying to manage files types, file versions, software versions, and converting between all of them. Often, on a single construction project, three (or more) scheduling tools may be used, typically Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Project, and Primavera P6.
The Cause: individual companies tend to choose which software fits them best based on the general guidance in the table below. However, when organizations collaborate on a project, their individual scheduling tools do not commingle well. On larger projects, an owner may dictate which scheduling software to use, transferring the burden of managing schedule information from various schedule types to the contractor or construction management firm.
|MS Excel||High||Low||Low||Lookahead Schedule, Small Gantt Charts|
|MS Project||Medium||Medium||Medium||Design Schedules, Small & Medium Projects|
|Primavera P6||Low||High||High||Large Projects, Enterprise/Portfolio Management|
At ProjectControls.online, we believe that schedule data is universal and schedule communication and understanding should not depend on software application conformity and version control. Our online CPM Schedule Services allow you to view, update, analyze, compare, clean, and convert project schedules developed in MS Excel, MS Project, or Primavera P6, without even needing these software.
- View and Share: anybody with an internet browser, on their computer, tablet, or phone, can view the schedule with our simple Gantt viewer. PC.o users can share their schedules publicly or privately with anybody in the world.
- Search and Export: PC.o users can search the schedule in the Gantt viewer without needing the source software. Users can also print the Gantt into a PDF, export the information into an Excel-based Gantt, or generate an Excel LookAhead schedule.
- Analyze and Compare: Not to be understated, PC.o automates analysis, schedule comparisons, and reporting. This is a big feature which will be highlighted in a future post.
- Clean and Covert: PC.o users can clean P6 schedule files and convert MS Excel, MS Project, Primavera P6 files, allowing each stakeholder in a project to continue using the tool that best suits their organization, while facilitating schedule conversion, communication, and collaboration . Let’s see how it works:
Step 1: Upload the source file(s)
First, upload one or many schedule files to PC.o CPM Schedule Folders. It is quick and intuitive, but if you need a quick refresher, check out our step-by-step tutorials on YouTube.
- VIDEO TUTORIAL: Importing CPM Schedules (MSProject & P6)
- VIDEO TUTORIAL: Import an Excel Schedule into PC.o Scheduler
After you’ve uploaded the files to PC.o, you can access the clean and convert functions by clicking the “Download File Options and Conversions” button in the Actions section of each file, as shown in the screenshot below.
Step 2: Clean
Primavera P6 schedule files contain a significant amount of data beyond the essential schedule information. PC.o allows you to easily remove global information, convert project codes, and remove POBS. Here is why these functions are essential:
- Remove Globals: P6 databases that include many schedules are commonly mismanaged; specifically, global layouts, activity codes, and calendars are used more than project-specific attributes. These database global attributes are included in each P6 file export. PC.o allows you to remove these if they are not relevant to your project, and to prevent database “pollution” if you’re importing a P6 file from another organization.
In your PC.o CPM Folders, when you select the “Download File Options and Conversions” button for a P6 file, you’ll get the menu above right. To Clean a P6 file, you are essentially converting it to clean version of the same file. On this menu, choose the attributes you would like to remove or convert. The full list and their descriptions are shown in the table below. On this menu, you can also convert the P6 file to a different P6 version and remove POBS.
|PC.o P6 Clean Feature||Description|
|Convert Global/EPS Activity Codes to Project Activity Codes||Convert all Global and EPS codes to Project Codes|
|Convert Global Calendars to Project Calendars||Convert all Global calendars to Project Calendars (NOTE: This will also remove all resources and resource assignments, because Resources rely on a GLOBAL CALENDAR, recommend converting RESOURCES to EXPENSES to keep costs)|
|Convert Resource Costs (Global) to Expenses (Project)||Convert Resource Costs to Expenses (Expenses are Project-based) and remove all Global Resources|
|Clear all Costs||Sets all Costs to 0 for Resource Assignments and Expenses leaving (Budget/Actual/Planned/Expenses)|
|Clear all Quantities||Sets all Quantities to 0 for Resource Assignments and Expenses leaving (Budget/Actual/Planned/Expenses)|
|Clear all Resources||Remove all Global Resources and all associated costs/units/rates (leaves expenses)|
|Clear all Expenses||Removes all Expenses|
|Clear all Labor||Remove Labor Only associated Costs/Qty Resources (Budget/Actual/Target)|
|Clear all Materials||Remove Material Only associated Costs/Qty Resources (Budget/Actual/Target)|
|Clear all Equipment||Remove Equipment Only associated Costs/Qty Resources (Budget/Actual/Target)|
|Clear Global/EPS Activity Codes||Remove Activity types of Codes from project Plan|
|Clear all User Defined Fields||Remove all User Defined Fields (which are Global fields) from the project.|
Step 3a: Converting between MS Project and Primavera
Both Primavera P6 and Microsoft Project offer importing tools to open different file types. As anyone who has used these functions knows, they are fraught with error because Primavera P6 and Microsoft Project have fundamentally different scheduling philosophies. Therefore, any conversion tool needs to pick a “philosophy” of how to convert. At a high level, either you hold dates and change logic/duration, or hold logic/durations and allow the dates to change slightly. At PC.o, we choose to hold logic and durations, to ensure the converted schedule ties closely to the original without making odd logic or lag changes that may not align with the original intent of the schedule. As MS Project and P6 schedule differently, the converted schedule may need minor adjustments in accordance with how the destination system schedules. For transparency, here are some important details about converting between P6 and MS Project.
- Constraints prior to the data date have to be removed
- Even a “start on” date will be held by MS Project during conversion, and will not move to the data date, because MS Project sets the data date as a constraint for activities that have not started and have no predecessor.
- MS Project does not allow a zero remaining duration with no Actual Completion Date
- For conversion, PC.o adds 1 hour so MS Project won’t assign a completion date.
- If you set a zero duration and there is an actual start, MS Project will determine that the activity is complete and assign a completion date.
- MS Project does not retain logic to the successor activity if the successor to a Finish-to-Finish (FF) relationship has started.
- MS Project does retain logic for Finish-to-Start (FS) or Start-to-Start (SS), but not FF relationships
- MS Project will provide a warning that this is a scheduling conflict.
- In P6, when an activity is in a FF relationship with a zero duration activity, the successor activity will start the next day (this only happens with zero duration activities).
- MS Project shows it correctly: a FF activity finishes the same as its FF predecessor
- MS Project does not have both a Finish Milestone and Start Milestone, MS Project adjusts the milestone dates based on relationships.
- If the milestone has a predecessor, MS Project has it act like a P6 Finish Milestone
- If the milestone has no predecessors, MS Project has it act like a P6 Start Milestone.
|Converting P6 to MS Project|
Having taken all these into consideration, the PC.o conversion process is fairly straightforward. When selecting a P6 file to convert to a MS Project file, you’ll see the screen at right. After conversion, open the MS Project file, click “Update Project” on the Project tab, then select “Restart the unscheduled work to start after” the P6 file data date.
|Converting MS Project to P6|
When converting an MS Project file to P6, you’ll have a few more options to consider: how to handle MS Project custom fields, text fields, resources and costs, and which P6 version number. The menu with these options is shown to the right. It’s important to note that MS Project and Primavera P6 manage resources and costs differently. To transfer resource and cost information to Primavera P6, you must decide if you want to store them as P6 Global Resources or as P6 Project Expenses.
Step 3b: Converting between MS Excel and MS Project or Primavera P6
Schedules or schedule data created in MS Excel can be converted into either an MS Project or Primavera P6 schedule using PC.o. Once uploaded to PC.o, converting the MS Excel schedule is initiated through the “Download File Options and Conversions” button, which leads to one of the following menus, below. The only difference between the two processes is the option to choose the P6 version.
Converting an MS Project or Primavera P6 schedule to an MS Excel file with PC.o provides options, to export cost and performance data, late dates, the WBS, and quantities data into the Excel file. The menus are shown below:
At ProjectControls.online, we strive to use innovation to improve accessibility to cost and schedule information. Using PC.o to clean and convert projects schedule allows project teams to manage schedule data, types, and versions. For an overview of this vital function, check out our video tutorial on YouTube: Convert (P6/MSP/Excel), Clean, and Export.
If you or your client is using Asta, Timberline, Scitor, Phoenix or other schedule platform and interested in converting to P6, MSP or Excel and leveraging the power of PC.o, reach out to us. We can help. As always, if you have any questions or would like to learn more, please don’t hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.