Emerald Blog

Stories, Tips And Tricks From Our Team’s Experiences With Primavera Since 1995

29 July 2019

Client Experiences #1 - Massive Upgrade

Written by Mary Lynn Backstrom, PMP, PMI-SP, PMI-BA – Implementation Specialist

When I first started working with our new client, I started out as a general trainer for the company’s employees. Our work began with typical P6 stuff, nothing new or especially exciting, but it was the start of a longer, more involved relationship with our client. I started helping them with turnarounds back in 2013 and I've been doing turnarounds with them every year since. I recently finished my 6th turnaround with the company - an 11-12 week long process that honestly felt a lot longer than it was. Due to a problem organizing the order of units, we ran overtime, and that was unfortunately just one of the many issues we had to deal with during that turnaround. As is often the case, a good amount of the complications we faced were unintentionally self-inflicted. Our client runs under an alliance contract umbrella with another organization that controls their project management and general processes. This organization had decided to do a major upgrade to P6 just a few weeks ahead of the turnaround execution. This naturally caused a lot of complications, as the workers involved in the turnaround had to do a lot of scrambling to figure out the bugs in the untested upgrades while simultaneously dealing with the turnaround itself, which was no easy task. On top of this, the upgrade to P6 wasn't just a standard upgrade - it was a move from version 6.2 to version 17, which is a big jump on any given day, but right before a turnaround... It was disastrous. There were all sorts of issues, including considerable trouble upon first-log in, and it created a lot of stress - way more than even on the typical turnaround! Units were in shutdown, people were pulling 12 and a half hour long shifts, the site was an hour away from where most of the personnel were stationed, IT issues were causing immense frustration - it seemed like everything that could go wrong did. Now, I've been in quite a few panicked, rushed environments over my 8 years of turnaround assistance, and this could easily have been one of them, but luckily the majority of the schedulers dealt with it very well, keeping their heads despite the setbacks we faced. And as for me - I went in with my usual mentality: get it done. So despite the constant uphill battle, we managed to pull everything together and get through the turnaround with our sanity intact. Overall, it wasn't the easiest turnaround I've ever been a part of, but complications are part of the job, and I'm happy to say that another yearly turnaround with our client went by successfully - if maybe a little bumpier than usual!

08 July 2019

P6-QA in the Real World

Written by Sue Hopkins - Implementation Specialist

Before becoming an implementation specialist at Emerald Associates, I was a project manager and P6 administrator in a state government transportation agency for several years. I was responsible for managing 50-60 Primavera P6-EPPM (Web) project schedules and monitoring them to schedule completion. These projects were for the engineering and design of highway projects including tasks such as road maintenance, new road construction, bridge maintenance, and signals upgrades. Plan Development - Kick-off meeting To put together the project's plans, we started with a kick-off meeting to verify the full scope. These projects typically ranged from 500-1500 tasks and ran for 24 to 60 months depending on funding each year and priority. At the kick-off meetings, with a hard copy template schedule in hand, each department head would discuss their role in the project and request adjustments to the schedule accordingly. As the project manager during these meetings, I took note of any deletions, additions, relationship changes, duration changes, etc. required to the schedule and with some project teams we made the changes directly in P6-EPPM in a Reflection Project. The schedule changes from the kick-off meetings ranged from minor to significant. Once I made the changes to the project schedule, a 'final' draft was sent to all the team members who participated in the kick-off meeting so we could get comments and approvals in time for our submission deadlines. If no comments or changes were made, the 'final' draft schedule was accepted and the project moved ahead. Monthly Updating Progress on the projects was done on an ongoing basis, with scheduling being done nightly. Project updates including scope changes, adding new tasks, removing unnecessary tasks, and rearranging tasks that needed logic changes were done when needed, via email from the initiating department. I would make changes on a Reflection Project and send the new schedule out for approval, if the float remained positive. If the changes caused the project to fall behind or if a large setback was identified, a schedule review meeting would be held with all the main players in the project. At the meeting, the key players in the schedule's creation and project manager would all gather and review the schedule for the project. Changes would be done on the fly in a Reflection Project and re-scheduled during the meeting, when possible. If many significant schedule changes needed to be made I would note these changes and complete them after the meeting so we didn't waste time during the meeting itself and I'd send out the new schedule for the project team to review and approve again. Now theoretically the project schedule should have been fully reviewed by everyone involved. Unfortunately, this was not always the case and errors were commonly found within the updated schedule as the project progressed. There were a few reasons for this: Sometimes as a result of the dissolution of various activities, one activity would be 'overloaded' with unnecessary relationships and odd relationship types, often to the same activities, which would impact the schedule calculations. Also, periodically, there were problems with added activities that may have had relationships that were not added or added incorrectly or perhaps a duration was added incorrectly. Sometimes, a new activity ID would be entered incorrectly without notice. In essence, there were any number of things that could have negatively impacted our schedule quality. If only I had a tool available to check the nuances of the schedule for me and flag them, so I would know where to look. Little did I know there was a tool out there that would have saved me countless hours reviewing and analyzing this schedule. If I had had the P6-QA tool to help in analyzing my schedule after changes were made and before the schedule was sent out, I could have sent out a schedule that would have automatically been checked for logic, logic types, missing codes on the activities, activity ID format and other business process checks that we could have created specifically for our needs. The use of P6-QA would have cut down the time it took me to send out revised schedules from several days to less than one. Having P6-QA there to act as my safety net on the project changes as they were made would have been extremely helpful to ensure the changes made sense and did not negatively impact other parts of the schedule. I could have run the P6-QA check while everyone was in the meeting, let it pinpoint possible problems, and then discuss those issues with the team immediately. This alone would have saved me multiple e-mails back and forth after I analyzed the schedule after the team meeting. I am positive buying P6-QA would not only save any company time and money, it would help them produce quality P6 schedules.

19 June 2019

P6 Scrubber - Keep Your P6 Clean!

Written by Sue Hopkins - Implementation Specialist

Are you importing schedules into scrubbing databases, taking out all the unwanted data you don't want to pollute your production database, re-exporting the schedule and then importing it into the database where it should have gone in the first place? Do you have required specifications your contractors need to follow for their schedules, but have a hard time knowing whether those details are missing or incorrect until you've already imported them? Do you want to ensure you are not importing POBS tables and corrupted RISKTYPE tables? That's a lot of quality assurance to do! Maintaining your corporate data standards for dashboarding and reporting can be a full time job, especially when project teams have their own coding structures and requirements for their P6 Environment. Don't worry; there's relief. Emerald has developed a new tool that will do all that work for you! We are now introducing the* P6-Scrubber.* The P6-Scrubber is a configurable tool that resides outside your P6 environment, so you can run your XER and/or XML files through it to vet them for your specific criteria prior to importing it to your P6 database. You can decide whether you want to keep or remove data at the global, project, and activity levels. We provide a clean import file once the P6-Scrubber is finished, as well as a convenient report of the data that was analyzed. You can give feedback to your contractors about their schedules in minutes before you import their file into P6. Once the scrubbed file is imported to P6, the P6-Scrubber also flags projects and activities with the results it has found. We also put the results report in a notebook, so you can see the analysis P6-Scrubber did without opening a separate report. Using the new P6-Scrubber tool will save your team loads of time and help keep your P6 environment clean!

19 June 2019

ZOHO-P6 Integration

Written by Nicole Jardin, P.Eng. - CEO

When a new client request comes in, you can create a project from ZOHO CRM. For us projects come in several categories and we have task list templates ready to be used to create tasks to charge to. Typically the first task list is Business Development. We kick off with that and assign the team working on the initiative. We can then send the project, the task list, the tasks and the resources into P6. We can do that in one step or two depending on the task list development. In this case we have a good idea of the scope of work and were able to put it together with 2 task lists. So we can integrate bot the project and the WBS/tasks and resources right away. So we use a really simple user interface tight in ZOHO projects to kick this off into P6. We tell the integration to send both the project and WBS over. Once that is done, we can go into P6 and start actionining the work. We also get a message letting us know if there were any issues with the intgration, such as a duplicate project exisiting. If all is good, you should get a PASS message both for the project and for the WBS.

19 June 2019

Are You Importing Unwanted RISK TYPES?

Written by Sue Hopkins - Implementation Specialist

Remember our good old friend the POBS Table? Well, we have a new friend in town that is introducing itself to our database in the form of the RISKTYPE table. We have discovered numerous clients are importing XER files to their database that include a large number of Risk Categories, sometimes tens of thousands of them. No one knows where they originated, but they are multiplying and wreaking havoc. The problem comes when an export file is created with unwanted Risk Types and imported into another database, creating more values in the destination database. The destination database then could share their large number of Risk Types to another database. Each time, the RISKTYPE table is passed along, it grows, spreading and infecting more and more databases. But is this really a big deal? Yes, it is! There are typically two issues with the Risk Categories: 1. 1. The table contains circular references which cause P6 to crash 2. Gibberish characters appear in huge numbers of Risk Categories and the client has no idea where they came from. The cause of the circular reference, according to the Primavera Knowledge base, occurs when a parent risk_type_id in the RISKTYPE table references a parent_risk_type_id of child Risk_type_id causing a circular reference to itself. When Risk Categories are created each risk category can have an associated child risk (parent/child hierarchy) For Example: In the database, in the RISKTYPE table, each record has a risk_type_id and parent_risk_type_id where the risk_type_id is a primary key and the parent_risk_type_id is the risk_type_id of the immediate parent. If the parent risk_type_id references a parent_risk_type_id of it's child risk_type_id then this will cause a circular reference to itself and an error will result. The second issue is caused by an invalid special character (boxes, diamonds and other non-standard characters in the expected language) in the RISKTYPE table. This was the case with our client, who had unknowingly imported many of these characters into their database. This error is a lot like the POBS issue from a few years ago - an XER may contain tens of thousands of these records. This slows import performance and spreads the gibberish characters to everyone who imports the XER. Oracle has acknowledged that corrupt data can be imported from XER files received from external sources, and over time, this corrupt data can cause performance issues with both export and import of XER files. The creation of a RISKTYPE removal utility is being considered for a future release. In the meantime, there are several workarounds available for the problem. 1. Delete the invalid data from both the source and destination databases. Re-export the XER file from the now clean database and use the updated XER to import into the destination database. Many clients call this “scrubbing an XER”. 2. Request an XML file and skip the risk categories during the import. Note that the XML files are much larger than the equivalent XER files and take much longer to import, so if you are transferring data on a regular basis, XML is probably not a realistic option. 3. Remove the RISKTYPE data from the XER file with a text editor and resave. This is time consuming when there are thousands of records. Also, the risk to doing this is information other than the RISKTYPE could be inadvertently removed, thus corrupting the XER, in which case, Oracle will not provide support. Our recommendation is DO NOT DO THIS. All of these workarounds involve either time or risk and may not be practical. Emerald has created a better solution in the form of a utility called the *XER Cleaner* that will easily and safely remove the RISKTYPE data from the XER, as well as the POBS records. The XER Cleaner is very easy to use. Simply launch the XER cleaner, browse to the XER you want to clean and click Run. The XER will be scrubbed of all POBS and RISKTYPE records and the clean file is saved in the same directory with the original file name appended with “-clean”. We have removed over 80,000 RISKTYPE records from an XER file in some cases. The best part about this utility is that it is free to our clients and the whole P6 community. No warranty is expressed or implied. Contact us for your free copy. If you like this tool, check out our otherP6 add ons. (https://www.emerald-associates.com/software/emerald-tools.html)

04 December 2018

Tracking Mandatory Codes via P6-QA

Written by Mary Lynn Backstrom, PMP, PMI-SP, PMI-BA – Implementation Specialist

These reports require specific activity code assignments, and sometimes those are missing! Assigning these this is time consuming and frustrating. But don't worry, help is available... With the P6-QA tool!

One of the numerous features available in the P6-QA tool is quickly checking a specific set of mandatory activity codes in P6 Schedules, producing quick results to know which files as well as activities in the files are missing the mandatory activity code assignments. Mandatory activity codes in the P6-QA Tool can now be set at the global or project level. In previous versions of the P6-QA Tool the Mandatory Codes check could only be used on Global Activity Codes. Quickly ensuring the mandatory codes are assigned helps ensure reports issued are correct.

Thinking this is difficult to set up/use? No catch, the process is easy.

 

First Step: Login to P6.

Set up the required codes as Mandatory codes in the P6-QA Tool. Sound difficult? Not at all! The activity codes that are assigned as Mandatory simply need (*) added to the end of each activity code.

Let’s have a look at a small example.

We have one Global Activity Code set up as Mandatory (above).

We have two Project Level Mandatory Codes set up (above).

We have assigned some of the Mandatory Codes to some activities above. We need to run the P6-QA tool.

Above is the project file this example is using – the QA-P6-QA Last Run Date has been cleared to run the P6-QA Tool. Note the QA-CL – No Mandatory Code and the QA-CL- No Mandatory Global Code columns. These will be populated to indicate at the project level the status of the two checks. Our example is running just one project file – you can set up a QA – Frequency (see column above) for the P6-QA Tool to run on each file or manually run single or specific groups of P6 project files.

Above the specific tolerance fields have been included, which can be set for these two checks. You control the specific conditions flagged in the P6-QA Tool and at which level.

The layout above is grouping by activity type, showing the activity codes and their assignments from the P6-QA Tool check.

The user can filter/group and sort on the mandatory activity code values right in the activities tab to produce a quick layout that directs them to the issues to facilitate quick correction. Use your specific project codes to create a layout that works for your business. Don’t forget – save your layout/reuse. This is a simple example of 3 mandatory codes - set up the codes you require as mandatory - a few or many more.

27 November 2018

P6 Tools – Part of Your Company Digital Transformation?

Written by Mary Lynn Backstrom, PMP, PMI-SP, PMI-BA – Implementation Specialist

Hearing a lot about ‘digital transformation’ lately? Digital transformation can be defined as the acceleration of business activities, processes, competencies and models to fully leverage the changes and opportunities of digital technologies and their impact in a strategic and prioritized way.

What elements are included in your Digital Transformation plan? Can your team afford to ignore new technological advancements? Planning a strategic and prioritized path forward to fully leverage changes and opportunities in digital technology can have a very positive return on investment. The Digital Transformation for a company varies from company to company and can be a large project encompassing many different elements depending on said company and its current state.

Here's an example of leveraging changes and opportunities new technologies can provide. Say your team uses Primavera P6 for Project Management, yet doesn't use P6-Loader, P6-QA Tool, CAPPS or TAPS (barcode updating), and P6-Calculator for any efficiency gains, are you getting the best out of the tool. In many surveys conducted over the years by Oracle and Primavera, P6 is highly underutilized with 100% of clients using P6 for scheduling, 60-70% for resource management and only 30-40% for cost management and earned value analysis.

Emerald Associates specifically designed our productivity tools to address pain points users commonly encounter when using P6 so you can do better managing your projects and get more out of the project team;

P6-Loader:

The P6-Loader automates manual data entry through the secure import and export of most data elements between Primavera P6 and Microsoft Excel.

The P6-Loader allows for the controlled extract and upload of data at the global and project level and eases the challenge of manipulating your project data by leveraging the spreadsheet functionality of Excel.

The P6-Loader goes above and beyond the built-in import and export functionality in Primavera P6. It has also become a desired replacement for the outdated Primavera SDK (Software Development Kit). Now, with version 4 being cloud enabled, it is quickly becoming a desired tool to help with migrating to the cloud efficiently. With close to 1 Billion of transactions pushed through the system, it is making teams worldwide more productive.

P6-QA:

Emerald’s P6-QA tool removes the burden of manual schedule and business process analysis by automatically identifying deficiencies in Primavera P6 schedules based on scheduling best practices, industry standards, and user introduced business process requirements.

The P6-QA tool is unlike other third party Primavera schedule validation tool because it seamlessly integrates directly into Primavera P6 itself, allowing for the improvement of project management skills and scheduling quality in real-time. The P6-QA tool can be run at a preset interval such as weekly or monthly, or on an as-needed frequency to maximize your P6 schedulers’ ability to self-critique and ensure effective quality control.

When your resident engineering team is your frontline reviewers, this tool makes their role much easier and more efficient saving you a lot of time getting your contractors schedules reviewed, critiqued and hopefully approved so you know if the project is still on track without an expensive team doing a lot of analysis. When you are reviewing schedules every few weeks on a project this is significant in time savings as well as the time freed up to address any issues on the project.

CAPPS:

CAPPS is our tool that lets the remote users and likely non P6-Experts to get the project updates into P6 from wherever they are and whenever they have a moment. This means waiting for updates once a month is a thing of the past. Taking 2 weeks every month to get your portfolio updated is a thing of the past. Real-time statusing is doable with variances and deviations able to be highlighting and interjected into the schedule as they are happening making your forecasting, change management and claims avoidance mush more effective.

TAPS:

TAPS, or the Turnaround Progressing System, uses barcode scanning technology to eliminate the need for lengthy manual data entry when updating your Oracle Primavera P6 schedules. Simply use a barcode scanner to find, start, update or cancel any activity within the schedule in two quick scans.


With TAPS, status updates can be done 75% faster while increasing your team's accuracy, since there's no chance of manual data entry errors. The first scan finds the task and the second scan starts, finishes, and statuses the task with any of the percent complete types available in Primavera P6.

The progressing flexibility along with the ability to calculate and report Earned Value at the resource assignment level makes TAPS a strategic enhancement for all Primavera P6 users.

P6-Calculator:

The P6-Calculator performs calculations that are traditionally unavailable in Primavera P6.

P6-Calculator automatically performs calculations on data in P6 to present information to users that would otherwise be difficult for them to see, improving visibility and digestibility of complex P6 data and enabling better decision making.

All of the above tools are available on the Oracle Cloud Marketplace.

This is just one small example of an opportunity to leverage the changes and opportunities of digital technologies and claim the positive rewards of their impact. Help your team work smarter, not harder by empowering your team with the best tools!

01 November 2018

Oracle Prime – Cost Sheet and Viewing Budget Changes

Written by Mary Lynn Backstrom, PMP, PMI-SP, PMI-BA – Implementation Specialist

Oracle Prime uses the Cost Breakdown Structure (CBS) to track, manage and report costs in the Cost Sheet page. Costs in the Cost Sheet can be viewed in the base currency or the project currency.

Before we visit the Cost Sheet in Oracle Prime, let’s have a high level look at the CBS and Cost Categories.

The Cost Breakdown Structure (CBS)

A Cost Breakdown Structure (CBS) is a set of cost codes used to track, manage, and report costs related to a project. The CBS standardizes costs into categories that represent manageable cost sources (customized to your organization requirement) and a standard cost classification system. The CBS cost codes are classified into three types: expense, capital, or none. CBS codes are used in top-down and bottom-up cost planning and tracking.

Segment Definitions:

Use a segment definition to define the hierarchical depth of the CBS and how codes will be concatenated.

Segments Definitions can be edited in the Cost Sheet as well the CBS screen if need be.

You can create a custom CBS at the workspace and project level. When you create a CBS at the project level you can select the budget sources for your project, which can be edited from the Cost Sheet page up until the project is baselined. Our file (above) is already baselined, so we don't need to do this.

Cost Categories

A cost category is used to define costs into a category more specific than a CBS code.
Cost Categories are customizable - above is a very simple set for our small example.

Overview of the Cost Sheet

The Cost Worksheet can be viewed by CBS Codes or Cost Categories. (CBS Codes shown above.)

You have access to a flat list display and a hierarchical display of CBS codes.

The image above is a Cost Worksheet by Cost Categories. Cost sheet columns can be customized to view only required information.

Budget Changes

A Budget Change request to increase the Direct Labor Budget by $50,000.00 has been created (above). This budget change is then submitted for approval.

Recalculation of the Cost Sheet shows our Budget Change submission in the column Pending Budget Changes as it has not yet been approved.

As projects progress, changes in scope, resource reallocation, funding additions and withdrawals, or other factors can affect original budgeted amounts. Oracle Prime tracks budget changes and budget transfers.

The Budget Changes page enables you to track modifications that affect the budget. Use this page to view all approved, pending, and rejected change requests including who approved or rejected the change request, what the change entails, and any additional comments about why the change request was necessary. Pending change request amounts are also visible on the project Cost Sheet page if pending budget fields are displayed.

A second Budget Change has been created/submitted and approved (BC10 above).

The Cost Sheet (recalculated above) shows the approved budget change and the budget change that has not yet been approved. The approved budget change also appears in the Budget Window, both as part of the current cost for direct labor and in the details for that budget line item.

Note: Please keep in mind that you must have the required security access to create/make changes to the Cost Sheet and Budget sheets.

14 August 2018

Are You Tracking Ideas? Are Approved Ideas Easily Translated into Project Proposals?

Written by Mary Lynn Backstrom, PMP, PMI-SP, PMI-BA – Implementation Specialist

Ideas in Oracle Prime:

Use Oracle Prime to create ideas: capture, evaluate, and process the ideas for new initiatives and business endeavors.

Ideas are processed using a submission and approval workflow. Prime Projects provides a default workflow for processing ideas, or you can create a customized workflow. First the idea creator creates an idea and specifies the idea's business case. When an idea contains sufficient information, the creator can submit the idea for further processing by routers and owners.

 

02 August 2018

Oracle Prime Lean Scheduling

Written by Mary Lynn Backstrom, PMP, PMI-SP, PMI-BA – Implementation Specialist

What is the Tasks App in Oracle Prime about?

 

With the Lean Scheduling functionality in Oracle Prime you have access to the Planning Board (below). This enables the user to create customized views for their information in the Work Plan screen in the Tasks App.

27 July 2018

DOT's and Emerald Associates - We Can Make Your Job Easier

Written by Sue Hopkins - Implementation Specialist

Emerald Associates is well known in the US and Canada for our homegrown add-on tools for Primavera P6. We have assisted numerous companies in many diverse areas to get the most out of their P6 software. You may wonder how our tools can assist in the Departments of Transportation (DOT) field to get more done in P6, with less time, while still providing useful data to your stakeholders, and remaining good stewards of the public's funds. Our tools will help you do more work in less time, so that your project management group has more time to analyze and perfect their schedules.

09 May 2018

P6-QA and the Project Scheduler

Written by Sue Hopkins - Implementation Specialist

Manually wading through a schedule and looking for errors is time consuming and prone to human error. Not only that, it's boring. No one wants to do it, but you need to check your schedule for errors!

Even worse then working through your own schedule for errors, is slogging through a contractor's. When you don't know how they have built the schedule, it can take days to make sure things hold together. Some of our clients have several layouts, reports and even special access databases and outside tools to do this which is very time consuming, error prone and boring.

02 May 2018

Finding Setting Up or Changing Resource Availability in P6 a Struggle?

Written by Mary Lynn Backstrom, PMP, PMI-SP, PMI-BA – Implementation Specialist

We have all experienced at one point or another how tedious (and time consuming) setting or changing resource availability can be in the P6 resource dictionary. Particularly for an example like the one we will walk through where you are setting up or adjusting turnaround resources and the weekend rule happens to be ½ crews.

 

The P6-Loader can ease the pain of these types of tasks.

24 April 2018

Global Calendars – Exactly Which Projects Are Using Each Calendar?

Written by Mary Lynn Backstrom, PMP, PMI-SP, PMI-BA – Implementation Specialist

In P6, identifying each specific project using each of the Global Calendars in a concise, fast, easy to use manner is challenging. Some may think this is not necessary very often, but in my experience, it has been quite the opposite!

Is this functionality already handled in Primavera P6, Client or Web? A very good question - let’s have a look.

01 March 2018

Do You Need EV Calculated at the Resource Level?

Written by Mary Lynn Backstrom, PMP, PMI-SP, PMI-BA – Implementation Specialist

You are correct; out-of-the-box P6 does not calculate Earned Value (EV) at the resource assignment level. It only runs EV at the activity level which is fine for a start, but what to do when you need to ‘dig deeper’ and analyze crew performance? You can't use Global Change to calculate the resource assignment EV because the activity percent complete isn't available in the Global Change list of fields.

A very simple option is to use TAPS to input your schedule updates. TAPS is barcode updating (with additional functionality). By using TAPS, updates are faster and more accurate giving you (and your team) more time for schedule analysis. Yes, TAPS runs EV calculations at the resource level.

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