Primavera Systems: Engineering a New Direction

By Joshua Weinberger Print this article Print

After more than 20 years spent cornering the project-management needs of the architecture, engineering and construction market, Primavera is looking to broaden its scope.

After more than 20 years spent cornering the project-management needs of the architecture, engineering and construction market, Primavera is looking to broaden its scope. Part of that leap means stitching together formerly disparate technologies, including the software now embedded in TeamPlay, and Evolve (which was acquired in March).

Bechtel's Bruce Hubal says Primavera "has the capability to handle resources in a more sophisticated way—but in many cases, the user isn't sophisticated enough to take advantage of it." One area in perpetual need of improvement, though, is the presentation of information. "We always ask for better and better graphics—but it has improved over time."

Hubal acknowledges that asking for software changes is easier when you're a customer the size of Bechtel. As the market leader, Primavera runs the risk of neglecting smaller customers or clients in industries with which it has less experience. "When you're a supplier to a broad group of clients, you can't please everybody. You have to make choices," says Frank van Meel, of pharmaceutical company Organon. "It would be nice if our industry could have a stronger voice." To that end, Organon is working with Primavera to build a users' community within the drug industry.

"Primavera has a good, strong scheduling engine," says Banknorth project office manager Dave Houghton, who briefly worked for PlanView. It's also "pretty flexible—you can slice and dice it and report on it any way you want—which really enables you to get to project management sooner rather than later." Van Meel adds that Primavera "can handle really large databases in quite some detail."

But as tools grow more and more powerful, it's not always about functionality. At Banknorth, for example, where Primavera beat out a number of competitors, including PlanView, the fact that "the salesperson was more attuned to [our] needs" made the difference, Houghton says. That attention continued after the sale as well. "Primavera's support has been much better. They're interested in where you're going with the product, and interested in making sure you get the biggest bang for the buck."

The bang better be there, too. "If you look at the pricing of various plans, Primavera is on the expensive end of things," Hubal says. As Primavera branches out, some customers may not be as eager to pay.

Primavera Systems
3 Bala Plaza West, #700
Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004
(610) 667-8600

Ticker: Private; founded 1983
Employees: 450 worldwide

Joel M. Koppelman
CEO, Co-founder
A professional engineer by training, he started Primavera after 13 years at conglomerate Day & Zimmermann. He also co-authored Earned Value Project Management and spends his free time sculpting in stone.

Richard K. Faris
President, Co-founder
Has led new-product development for more than 17 years. Was also VP at engineering consultancy Transportation & Distribution Associates, and a consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton.

TeamPlay (project-management tool for software development); Enterprise (companywide project management); Expedition (multiproject controls and contract management); Evolve (portfolio and resource management); SureTrak (for small-to-midsize projects); P3e/c (for the construction industry).


Reference Checks

Lockwood Greene
Jerry McDowell
Project Control Mgr.
(864) 599-4312
Project: Engineering and construction firm uses P3e/c for scheduling projects of any complexity.

Bruce Hubal
Project Manager, PM Development Program
(415) 768-2353
Project: The construction and engineering giant has been using Primavera since the early 1990s, but not on a companywide level. (Individual Bechtel projects, however, are often the size of small companies.)

Banknorth Group
Dave Houghton
Manager, Project Office
(207) 795-5402
Project: Chain of New England-based community banks is looking to manage all its technology projects within Primavera, and hopes to expand to portfolio management this year.

Conoco Philips
Bob Mathur
Staff Engineer
(908) 523-6219
Project: The petrochemical company uses Microsoft Project for small needs, and P3 (as part of Aspen Technology's Icarus software) for projects larger than $10 million.

Frank van Meel
Director, Portfolio Management & Planning
+31 412-661685
Project: The largest of Dutch giant Akzo Nobel's three pharmaceutical units uses P3 for the development of planning tools and is considering upgrading to Primavera Enterprise.

Eastman Chemical
Paul Mitchell
Process Excellence Manager
(423) 229-8772
Project: The manufacturer of plastics, fibers and polymers uses Primavera in its engineering division, but has PlanView and Niku elsewhere.

Executives listed here are all users of Primavera software. Their willingness to talk has been confirmed by Baseline.

This article was originally published on 2003-08-01
Assistant Editor
After being on staff at The New Yorker for five years, Josh later traveled the world, hitting all seven continents in a single year. At Yale University, he majored in American Studies, English, and Theatre Studies.

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