Complicated, confusing and complex; those are just some of the words that often spring to mind when discussing the topic of Primavera. But is this really the case? Is Primavera as scary as it sounds and should people be afraid of using it? And if so, how will a total planning novice fair when trying to learn the system from scratch? I was given the opportunity to find out.

Welcome to the world of Primavera

As Head of Marketing at Underscore, I am not and nor have I ever been a planner, project manager or scheduler, and I know virtually nothing about Primavera beyond its name and the fact it has something to do with project management and planning. But with my insatiable appetite for learning, no matter what the subject, being offered the opportunity to learn all about the tool was something I jumped at.

I am relieved to say that even after a relatively brief session I have already come to love the program. Although I wouldn’t say I would feel confident planning a whole project or programme using the system, I definitely wouldn’t say it’s scary, complicated, confusing or complex. In fact it’s the very opposite; due to being a project management tool, Primavera is founded on a firm basis of logic, everything follows a logical process and it really is just a case of learning your way around to get the hang of it. Once you’ve mastered what all the buttons mean and how different aspects of the software work, it suddenly transforms from an imposing and intimidating prospect, to something that can very easily make life as a planner/PM/scheduler much simpler.

But as with most things in life, to reach this stage practice is needed, but that really is all. If I’d never been offered the chance to attend the training, I would almost certainly spend the rest of my days believing Primavera is something far beyond my comprehension, just as I had in the past. Even if colleagues tried to convince me otherwise, I would retort along the lines of ‘I’m sure it makes sense if you’re a project manager or software expert, but it is way too complex for me’. Now I know that’s not true, it’s just that I didn’t know what I was doing (and I’m still far from being a master), but having had that brief glimpse into the world of Primavera, I am converted. I now know that’s it’s not as scary as it sounds, and that all you need is a little training and time to practise.

The only caveat I would say is that Primavera on its own isn’t enough; while I was able to follow the exercises in the session and felt comfortable using the tool by the end, there is no way I would be able to plan a project on my own, simply because I don’t know enough about planning. I don’t understand the steps that are required, the terminology, or the process of planning. This is obviously fine in my role as I am not expected to plan projects, but were I a planner or PM, having experienced the software, I recognise that it’s useless without the foundations of knowledge to support it. Primavera is just a tool; it’s not a substitute for solid planning skills – these are required in order to use the tool to its full potential. Anyone using Primavera for planning needs to understand the essential elements of project planning before they start learning the software; not doing so is a wasted investment.

Once you have that knowledge and understanding of the theory behind planning, Primavera is there to help take the manual labour out of the process. It’s an effective way of collating the mass amounts of information that often accrues when planning a project, allowing everyone to access it and view it in a more uniform format. Of course it’s not the answer to every company’s planning needs, depending on the size and complexity of a project(s) it may not always be the best fit. However, Primavera is an extremely powerful program and it can be as complex or simple as needed, this depends entirely on the user and their objective. With more and more organisations coming to recognise the benefits of the tool and choosing to employ it in their business, taking time to get the training and feeling confident in its use has never been more important, and if you’re a novice like me, fear not because it’s really not as scary as it sounds.

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