Monday, February 9, 2009

TeamWork Solutions and Primavera and Microsoft Project

Note: All trademarks and trade names used in this discussion are the property of their respective owners.


In this post, we discuss the roles that these three systems play in organizations that use them. We review the benefits of each tool and how, together, they provide the user with more options. We also discuss exactly how TeamWork Solutions communicates with Primavera and MS Project - including how it sends data to and receives data from Primavera and MS Project. As the discussion proceeds, we pay special attention to potential problem areas in transferring data and also point you to more effective ways of enhancing TeamWork Solutions to Primavera and/or MS relationship in your organization.

What is Primavera?

As there are many new business people entering our business environment, we spend a little time here discussing what, exactly, Primavera is. Primavera is a software package that performs scheduling calculations. It was created by Primavera Systems. In 2008, Oracle acquired the company together with its software tools. The most commonly used tools are called P3, P3e, P5 or P6. You can think of these as different versions with P6 being the newest version. Primavera is, justifiably, considered to be the industry standard tool for scheduling of projects. It has by far the most users of any scheduling system on the market. Microsoft Project is its closest competitor. The primary physical manifestations of a Primavera schedule are the graphical outputs that it provides - both on-screen and in reports. These include the bar charts (also known as Gantt charts), logic diagrams (also known as PERT charts), time-scaled logic diagrams (which combine the bar charts with logic), resource histograms (which plot resource usage against time) and cumulative resource curves (also known as s-curves). The tailor-ability of these graphics in Primavera is powerful and allows end-users to directly affect how they would like their outputs to appear.

How about Microsoft Project?

MS Project has steadily evolved over the years into a robust and full-featured scheduling tool. It now provides similar capabilities to P6. The same type of outputs are available from MS Project as are available from P6. Some people prefer the functionality of MS project over P6. It has a more 'Excel-like' feel to it that appeals to the legions of Excel users out there.

Tell me something about TeamWork Solutions

TeamWork Solutions is a business tool that has evolved over the last 20 years. It has its roots in interfacing with Primavera and MS Project. Early on, it became obvious to us that businesses such as process plants (refineries, mills, utilities, chemical plants) required a high degree of adherence to a business process while managing their work. This work includes maintenance, inspection and capital projects work. Plants perform their work on assets. It is imperative that the history of all of the work that is done on these assets be available, in a single database, for use as a reference during the life cycle of these assets. TeamWork Solutions has developed as an asset-focused tool that enables all of the work, including routine maintenance, turnaround maintenance, preventive maintenance, capital work, to be scoped, estimated, planned, executed and tracked in a single system. This powerful database is a strategic weapon that the plant has against a number of major and problematic issues. These include:

  • Lack of adherence to business rules by temporary personnel hired to help out
  • Lack of a standard process for managing all asset-based work
  • Lack of a system that connects to other condition-monitoring (CM) systems in-house
  • Lack of a uniform system for reporting on the status of assets that are being worked on
  • Lack of a system that improves the quality of data and thus reduces the time that people spend re-entering this data

These may seem relatively inconsequential, but the price to a plant of not paying attention to these simple issues is enormous. Already, we have seen that data relating to projects and turnarounds that were scheduled in P6 are not available in the asset database where the routine maintenance work was tracked. This provides a potential for huge disconnects in the plant managers' view of an asset's reliability. Safety is also a potential problem here.

Simply put, TeamWork Solutions provides a single asset-focused data repository for work in a plant, that enables plant personnel to make sound business decisions with a high degree of confidence.

Critical Functions

In addition to simply collecting all of the work-related data, TeamWork Solutions includes the ability to do a number of critical functions that are sorely needed by plants:
Work Management FunctionTypical Current PracticeTeamWork Solutions Business Rule-based practice
Scope Development and ManagementEach source of work (ex. Operations, Process, Reliability, Safety, Inspection, Engineering, etc.) maintains their own multiple spreadsheets in Excel, and send these on an ad hoc basis to the planner when they are 'ready' to do so. Many ad hoc revisions continue to show long after the 6-month deadline. This requires the planner to have to do last-minute adding of scope.TeamWork Solutions provides each external department with a web page that allows them to enter their planned scope in the same database that is used for planning. When they flag a scope as ready to Plan, it shows on the planner's desktop. the planner always has a heads-up on potential new work. This visibility of potential work helps the entire plant staff to be aware of what is still to be done––nothing is hidden away out of view.
Cost estimating of project or turnaroundMS Excel spreadsheets are currently the primary repository of cost estimates. The work done here is essentially lost to future reviewers of the work scope as this information is not readily available.TeamWork Solutions provides simple and focused tools that help the estimator to quickly assemble accurate estimates of cost based on the scope of work that has already been identified. As the scope is in this system, there is less opportunity for miscommunication about the scope and the timing of the work being contemplated.
Work scope planningCurrently this is done in MS Excel mostly. Planners are usually well trained in field processes but not so well familiar with computing software. However, MS Excel is well within their abilities. This, however, means that they enter data that has already been entered, and then later this data has to be entered elsewhere.TeamWork Solutions' planning tools allow for a smooth pass-through of relevant data from the scope and the estimate. The planner's planning workbench is easy enough for planners to use without having to learn a complex scheduling tool.
Scheduling of the planned workThis process is typically handled with P6 or MS Project. This requires yet another entry of the scope of work into a schedule-type format, this time by expensive project schedulers.TeamWork Solutions incorporates all of the tools associated with business-rule-based scheduling. This means that you simply do not need to re-enter any data and can use the data 'as is' to create very effective and accurate schedules automatically. In addition, TeamWork Solutions provides simple tools to transfer this schedule data into P6 or MS Project, so that you can take advantage of these programs effective reporting and display tools.
Baseline ManagementIn current practice, the scheduler remembers to create a baseline schedule when it is determined that one is needed. This is done by using the create Target process in P6 or MS Project.TeamWork Solutions automatically creates a baseline and a revised baseline following the addition of each approved change of scope into the plan. This automation is dated and provides a clear path of the events leading up to the change. This is useful when post project or post turnaround reviews are made to determine the reasons for budget or schedule variance.
Milestone and Period ManagementCurrent practice requires that each milestone be entered into P6 or MS project. Activities and Tasks that lie in a turnaround or project period must be linked manually by the scheduler.TeamWork Solutions employs and automatic milestone generation and automatic linking system. This automates entry of as much as 70% of the ties that a scheduler makes––and it does so in a business-rule based, accurate manner. This is another example of the value-added that TeamWork Solutions brings to the scheduling process.
Execution of the planned and scheduled workForemen receive work lists that are created in P6, MS Project or Excel. Often, foremen further simplify these lists so that they can provide them to their crews along with drawings, data sheets and safety instructions as required by the plant's business process.TeamWork Solutions has a module that is focused on field supervision. This provides them a simple way to see their work days in advance as well as enables them to provide electronic feedback on the plan directly to the planners. Electronically attached notes and drawing provide them with a way to print electronic work packages, saving an enormous amount of coordination time.
Tracking of time (LEMs), aka incurred costsIn order to accurately track costs being billed by contractors, owners currently employ a variety of tools including dedicated time-tracking tools. These tools are usually stand-alone databases or spreadsheets and require considerable re-entry of data in order to be compared with other project progress data.TeamWork Solutions' Incur app is integrated closely to the plan and this ensures that time, materials and expenses are accurately charged to work items in the plan. This information is also obtained in a way that actually reduces the overall effort that is spent in collecting this information. Foremen are the source of the information and this helps to reduce the workload on both foremen and timekeepers.
Tracking of progressProgress measurement is frequently done in Excel spreadsheets. Yes, once again, a new set of spreadsheets is employed in helping to track progress in the field.TeamWork Solutions' integrated execution plan ensures that progress is reported on the planned work items. If a work item or work package is discovered in the field and is not in the plan, TeamWork Solutions makes it easy to add. This ensures that people are not forced to 'hide' the costs associated with ad hoc field work, as is so often done.
Reporting of progress and forecastsThe Excel file that is used for determining progress may also be used for reporting progress. Alternatively, additional spreadsheets are pressed into service to help the project controls people to deliver reports that management expects.TeamWork Solutions' reports assemble the data from the plan and schedule. Progress data from the field is converted into earned value. Incurred hours and costs from the field-generated LEMs are compared to earned value at the end of each shift or each day. This provides accurate measures of CPI and SPI for the entire project as well as for increasing levels of detail down to the work item.
Change managementChanges or Extra Work are a routine part of the project execution phase. Current practice involves the maintenance of a list of changes in an Excel spreadsheet. These changes, once approved are then manually added to the project or turnaround scope.TeamWork Solutions automatically tracks changes! It does this by flagging added work automatically. This work remains in the plan and awaits approval, electronically. If the execution people are proceeding without approval, they are not expected to 'hide' their progress or their incurred costs - they have a real work item to charge. TeamWork Solutions' Approval tools helps to route a change to people with the requisite spending authority. Approvals result in an automatic assimilation of the planned changes into the revised baseline.
Cost trackingCost tracking and forecasting involves the comparison of Budgeted costs to Incurred costs, Invoiced costs and committed costs. This process is currently almost universally done as a spreadsheet-based exercise by the cost control technician. It involves much re-entry of data and is thus prone to error as well as changing business rules.TeamWork Solutions' integrated cost tracking tool, allows electronic linking with your accounting system to obtain the invoiced and the committed costs. In addition, incurred costs are obtained from the internal Incur LEM-tracking system. All of this means that your cost tracking information is always at your fingertips - without the need for any data re-entry! Forecast algorithms that are based on desired business-rules are employed to ensure that all of the reports produced by the system adhere to a consistent set of criteria. Management gets used to this and the project team benefits from this consistent approach as well.
History trackingMost of the Excel and P6 system do not track history. It is not easy to see when and how changes were made to a work package that caused its scope to grow from say, $100,000 to $200,000.TeamWork Solutions employs a behind the scenes history tracker that keeps tabs on all quantitative and qualitative changes to the scope of work that occurs following an approval of the plan. This means that there is an audit trail that can be followed that indicates who changed what scope and what the ensuing cost of the change was.
Approvals managementCurrently, approvals are a drastically manual and time-consuming process. It is not unusual to see people 'looking' for a supervisor to get the signatures required on certain documents. Imagine the time that both the supervisor and the subordinates can waste in this effort.TeamWork Solutions' Approval system allows a document that needs approval to be routed electronically to the right person, and from there to the next person until all of the requisite electronic signatures have been obtained. The date that these were signed is automatically save as is the amount of time that it took for the signature to be obtained. Appropriate business rules are available for allowing designees to do the signing.
Document managementEach piece of work done in the field is accompanied, at a minimum, with a safety document. In addition there may be many other drawings, data sheets etc. Current practice involve the foreman or a designee going to file cabinets, retrieving the documents, copying them, then returning them to the cabinet. This process is time-consuming and does not help the field personnel to be efficient at all.TeamWork Solutions' Documents tool provide the means for the field to get electronic work packages, which have all of the necessary documentation ready to go when they send it to a printer. (This is just one benefit associated with the object-focused document and notes management system that is embedded in TeamWork Solutions.)
Communication managementCurrently, email inboxes and email folders bear witness to the chaos that email has wrought on business processes. Untold amounts of useful, project-specific information are buried in emails. This information would be far more useful if it was available in the project record. Users manually search their emails while the look for 'something' based on what they remember.TeamWork Solutions' Notify is an electronic means of ensuring that any commitments, comments, requests for information, etc. that are associated with any part of the project are recorded, date stamped and available for review at any time. In conjunction with the Backlog tool, this allows each project or turnaround team member to be always aware of what is being expected of them and of what commitments they have made.
Issue managementWhen potential work is first identified, it is not always clear that a work package will be needed. Until that time a list should be maintained. Currently, this list will exist on paper or in Excel.TeamWork Solutions' Issue tool provides a simple way to manage all types of issues until they move into resolution mode and even until complete resolution. Using this tool ensure that no issues are ignored. Business rule drive the business to address issues in a timely manner.

Managing a project or a turnaround involves far more than can be done in Primavera's P6 or MS project alone. They can be a part of the solution, however, it's the management of the rest of the spreadsheet and databases that is the primary problem that TeamWork Solutions resolves. The sheer number of people that are used to manage projects and turnarounds can be reduced, and those that remain can have a significantly better work product by using TeamWork Solutions.

How does TeamWork Solutions send data to P6 or MS project?

TeamWork Solutions' Export Manager utility tool allows us to create a map from each of the schedule-related elements of TeamWork Solutions' database to either P6 or MS Project. This task is something that a TeamWork Associate will typically perform for you. You can then simply export your data to MS Project or to P6. Once the data is in P6 or MS Project, you can use those tools to do whatever you wish. Any changes to data made in these tools will not be automatically sent back to TeamWork Solutions.

In TeamWork Solutions, a project or turnaround is broken down into work packages. Each work package has one or more work items. Each work item has Resources, Materials and Contracted costs. The following table is a simplified version of a map that shows how TeamWork Solutions' data generally maps to P6 or MS Project data. A more detailed map is developed for real-life usage of the TeamWork Solutions to P6 or TeamWork Solutions to MS Project links.
Period and window functionality does not exist.
TeamWork Solutions Data ElementTeamWork Solutions CommentsP6 CommentsMSP Comments
ProjectTeamWork Solutions handles multiple projects in a work set. Typically a work set holds all of the projects that a business unit manages.P6 handles projects as part of its WBS.MSP treats a project as a single entity and the data is saved as a single file.
Work PackageTeamWork Solutions requires a project to be broken down into discrete work packages. These may be asset-based in the case of a turnaround or contractor or discipline-based in the case of capital projects.P6 does not have a work package per se, however it does allow you to have unlimited levels of WBS. TeamWork Solutions' work package is mapped as an activity code.MSP does not support the concept of work package directly. However TeamWork Solutions' work package is mapped as a task code.
Work ItemA work item is the basic schedule-able element in TeamWork Solutions.P6's activity is derived from a TeamWork Solutions' work item. The activity ID is typically assigned by TeamWork Solutions as the work package ID concatenated to the work item ID.MS Project's task is derived from TeamWork Solutions' work item. The task ID is a sequential number that is assigned by MSP.
Milestone/ Period/ WindowTeamWork Solutions auto-creates and manages a milestone for the start and finish of each period. A period is a timeframe (ex. pre-shutdown or commissioning) that requires all work items tagged with that period to be scheduled in that period. The period expands or contracts to fit the work in it. In addition, TeamWork Solutions supports the concept of a window within each period. A window, like a period, has a start and finish milestone.Milestones in P6 are manually created as needed and are manually tied to their successor and predecessor items.Period and window functionality does not exist.Milestones in MSP are manually created as needed and are manually tied to their successor and predecessor items.
Human ResourceTeamWork Solutions supports the entry of manpower (crafts, skills, trades, professional) resources.TeamWork Solutions' manpower resources are transferred to P6 activities as created.TeamWork Solutions' manpower resources are transferred to MSP tasks as created.
Equipment ResourceTeamWork Solutions supports the entry of equipment resources.TeamWork Solutions' equipment resources are transferred to P6 activities as created.TeamWork Solutions' equipment resources are transferred to MSP tasks as created.
Consumable MaterialsTeamWork Solutions allows the entry of consumable materials, rates and markups associated with each work item.TeamWork Solutions' materials are not sent to P6.TeamWork Solutions' materials are not sent to MSP.
Contracted costsTeamWork Solutions allows the entry of contracted costs associated with each work item.TeamWork Solutions' contracted costs are not sent to P6.TeamWork Solutions' contracted costs are not sent to MSP.
CalendarTeamWork Solutions employs calendars on each work item to determine the shift schedule that the work is executed onTeamWork Solutions creates a calendar in P6 to match that in TeamWork Solutions.TeamWork Solutions creates a calendar in MSP to match that in TeamWork Solutions.
Resource ratesTeamWork Solutions computes burdened rates for human resources from rate schedules that are part of the contract.TeamWork Solutions does not currently send rates or any costs to P6.TeamWork Solutions does not currently send rates or any costs to MSP.
Resource limitsTeamWork Solutions computes resource limits for resources based on available manpower in its employee table. You can also employ TeamWork's utilization rate to allow for unforeseen work scope.TeamWork Solutions does not send resource limits to P6.TeamWork Solutions does not send resource limits to MSP.

As you can see, there are many pieces of data that we currently support sending to P6 or MSP. You can have enough data in P6 or MSP to produce your colorful outputs. If additional information needs to be transmitted, this can be arranged quite easily.

How does TeamWork get data from P6 or MS project?

Bringing data in from P6 or MSP is a completely different problem that sending data to them. TeamWork Solutions, is, by design a repository of data that meets the business rules of your business. There is a high level of consistency and accuracy in your data in TeamWork. This is due to data integrity constraints that are built into the database. However, this is not the case with projects in p6 or MSP. In these cases, each scheduler has his/her own pet approaches to handling the scheduling and coding problems in p6 and MSP. The result is that when you compare the work of two schedulers in P6, the results are quite different from each other. If a commitment can be made by the P6 schedulers and MSP schedulers that certain standards will be adhered to for coding the activities and tasks respectively, then the Import Manager module in TeamWork Solutions may be employed to manage these imports on a routine basis. In any case, a TeamWork associate will be needed to get this process analyzed and started. Typically, it is less than a day's work to configure an import.


TeamWork Solutions and scheduling applications such as P6 and MSP are designed to solve completely different problems. As such, they can co-exist synergistically in your organization and can routinely contribute to successful outcomes for your projects and turnarounds.

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