Oracle v Microsoft – Clash of the Titans

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Given the decision by some of the Power/Utility companies to choose Microsoft EPM as their primary project scheduling and portfolio management tool, does this now mark the dawning of a new era and represent Microsoft’s coming of age? Only time will tell, but without doubt, it seems that Microsoft is now encroaching on sectors that were Primavera strongholds.

Planners and Project Managers are often familiar with the MS project desktop version but the launch of Microsoft Project Server 2010 with enhanced portfolio management capabilities may provide a competitive solution in many instances.

As we talk with many Planners and Project / Programme Managers across multiple sectors / industries, we hear criticism levied against both products. For many, when working on very large and complex construction and engineering projects, only Primavera can provide the depth of capability and functionality to be able to effectively manage the projects.

Comparisons in the past between the 2 products have inevitably focussed on Microsoft’s shortcomings including:

• Microsoft project has been a transactional product whilst Primavera allows multi-user & real time information
• Microsoft Project was not taken seriously as a true Enterprise solution
• Greater functionality in Primavera for Work Breakdown Structures, estimates and document templates
• Inadequate scheduling capability in MS Project
• Inadequate cross project functionality, particularly relating to task level information for resources
• Primavera offered more versatile security solutions ensuring the right people had the right access to their elements of the project.

Primavera’s dominance within Engineering and Construction is evident, (although Asta may have something to say about the Construction sector) and the capability of the products is well documented but is there a gap in the market that Microsoft are able to fill? Some planners have commented that Microsoft EPM now has about 90% of the functionality of Primavera and furthermore, it is much easier to learn and perhaps implement. This is undoubtedly, not music to the Oracle ears!

However, this remains an emotive subject where allegiances to a particular product are hard to break but the power of the Microsoft marketing machine can’t be underestimated. They still remain the dominant software provider across the globe and for all the complaints about the Bill Gate’s empire, there is a comforting familiarity which makes ease of use whilst also possibly removing some of the need for in-depth and expensive training, a tempting draw, which is further enhanced by what we understand to be a significant advantage on price. The potential impact of this is interesting!

We understand that the different pieces of software are only the tools to do the job and the real skills lie in the understanding, approach and attitude of the professional planner who is able to add value and adapt regardless of the project or software. But, if the product is easy to implement and requires less formalised training, does this make planning (at a lower level perhaps) less of a black art? If so, will it make it an easier point of entry for individuals wishing to join the planning profession and if that’s the case, what impact does this have on the salaries and rates of contractors where there has traditionally been a skills shortage and as a consequence, a premium paid for the right individuals?

Are the factors of ease of use, ease of implementation and price enough to undermine Primavera’s strength across the Engineering and Construction sectors or will they continue to run parallel path’s with the Microsoft Project suite of products being focussed towards IT and technology organisations and projects?

To continue this discussion and read the expert’s comments at our ‘UK Planning & Project Controls’ group on LinkedIn please click here