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Rebooting my planning career

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Andrew Dunkin
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23 years ago I left the construction industry & became a fire fighter. I’m now a mid level senior officer. I’m considering starting up a one man construction planning consultancy. If it works out I may leave the fire service at some point.

I completed an undergraduate degree in construction management and worked in the industry for around four years in various capacities, including a year in the planning department of a medium sized company. It was a senior planner and myself doing the lot. We used Primavera. I really enjoyed the work. Project values from around $2m - $30m. My last role was PM on a $3m project, I ran the whole show pretty much solo. Then in my late 20s I looked for some adventure in the fire service and I’ve loved every minute.

I also gained graduate diplomas in IT & management from university while in the fire service.

So I plan on buying a planning/ project management/ scheduling application and a big printer to get started. I will also seek training in the application I buy to refresh my skills. There’s a lot of groundwork yet to do. I see myself servicing small to medium contractors initially. Who knows where it may lead.

The big decision is which application do I invest myself in. It seems a two horse race between;

MS Project at AUD$1,700 and
P6 at AUD$3,416

I want to develop deep understanding of an application that will not place limits on where this journey may take me. Is the price difference based on functionality or marketing strategies?

I’m located in Newcastle NSW Australia. Any advice appreciated.

Replies

Santosh Bhat
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Andrew.

Good stuff, LinkedIn is another good source for both information and to develop a network.

 

Santosh

Andrew Dunkin
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Thanks for the comprehensive response Trevor. Contacts in Newcastle would be greatly appreciated. I’m looking at a long game here but getting some feedback from active consultants would be very helpful.

As a side note, today I accompanied one of our fire compliance specialists on a walkthrough of a major shopping centre extension with the project fire engineer. Getting close to occupation and a hive of activity. A real planning challenge. It got the old construction juices flowing a little I must admit.

BTW Santosh, I’ve updated my LinkedIn profile.
Trevor Rabey
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Andrew, it's not just going to be an either/or proposition and it is not just going to come down to price. There are many possibilities. It is hard to see how you can not have MS Project, because it is what just about everyone in construction has got. Then, you probably also need P6 because it is what some clients will expect. Then, the others, in all of their variations might be necessary tools from time to time and depending on the client and the project.

A well as the scheduling software, such as Asta, Synchro, Spider etc, there is also an entire industry of 3rd party tools as add-ins or complementary. For example, there is Barbecana's Schedule Inspector, and Critical Tools WBS Schedule Pro and many others.

You are going to need other software tools such as an image editor (try open source Gimp), PDF writer etc etc, the list is too long. But you get what you need when you need it.

The most valuable thing you can have is acces to good help and advice from people who are prepared to give it, and that is here at planning planet as well as the MS Project community forum, the MSDN developer network, the Primavera groups etc.

If Santosh Bhat is taking the trouble to give advice, you've made a good start.

You don't need a large format printer. Your clients will have those.

You will be getting into a business with plenty of potential, limited only by your motivation to learn as much as you can and do it properly. Good luck. Want some useful contacts in Newcastle NSW?

Santosh Bhat
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I second that ASTA is gaining traction here in Australia (particularly so if the organisation is influenced by British ex-pats).

 

It will boil down to whether your clients will give you autonomy in which softare you use and are more outcomes driven, or whether they themsleves are driven by the contractual/submission guidelines under which they require your services. 

 

Unfortunately too many contracts still specify what software they expect their contractors to use, rather than setting a set of minimum requirements.

Mike Testro
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Hi Andrew

Asta powerproject is indeed a more flexible tool then P6 and intuitive in its use.

This stems from the fact that the graphics on P6 is driven by the database algorythms and when the database is full your software freezes.

Asta Powerproject however converts the graphics on screen onto a limilless algorythm that changes with every mouse click.

It is also about 35% the cost of P6 and the annual support is much better.

As I said you can convert both P6 and MSP into asta for the work and then send it back.

Anyway good luck with your venture.

Best regards

Mike T.

Andrew Dunkin
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Mike Testro, been asking my contacts in Australian industry and it seems Asta is indeed gaining favour here.
Zoltan Palffy
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sounds like a plan good luck

Andrew Dunkin
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Thank you Santosh for your detailed response. I’ll consider further & pm you if I decide to purchase P6 in some form.

Once I’ve decided on an application, driving training is next. I will do some investigation into the quality of the supporting documentation. Perhaps I can simply read the manual if one exists. However a well structured training course would ensure I cover all important bases. Basic scheduling I could work out myself, it’s the deeper functionality around resourcing, cost planning, document control and correspondence logging I need to explore.

There are also critical path analysis techniques beyond the basics I need to reacquaint myself with. Time for some reading
Santosh Bhat
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Andrew,

I am also based in Australia, You have a few more options for MSP and P6 that you might want to consider.

Microsoft let you purchase MS Project on a subscription basis, it works out to be about AUD$40/month and can avid being a large upfront capital cost. If you're setting up and getting an Office 365 account with Microsoft, it is similar. Search for "Project Online Professional" - despite its name, it does allow you to have MSP installed on a PC also.

Similar with P6 the $3k price you list is the cost of a perpetual licese, you then have to pay Oracle their 22% annnual maintenance fee. Given ORacle are doing bugger all with the core functionality of P6, I prefer to give Oracle the least funding asa possible.

There is an option that you can just buy it for 12 months and the cost is about half that, but then you have to pay every year. It may be a cheaper option to see how things progress in twelve months time rather than again spending a lot upfront. You can also buy this option through vendors rather than directly with Oracle. Private message me if you want the name of whom I use.

I personally wouldn't go with a big printer, you clietns are likely to have the printing resources if you ever need them, and as a consultant you're more likely to be prividng documents in PDF or native format anyhow.

In Australia, small to medium contractors are likely to use MS Project (if they use anything at all,otherwise they'll rely on you and then it'll be your choice), but if you work with the larger contractors, they will tned to need P6 as that is what their clients will expect also.

Hope the above helps

Andrew Dunkin
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Thanks Zoltan & Mike. Great advice. It’s starting to look like P6 as a starting point. The extended time out of the industry is an issue and the point on WH&S is well taken. I still have contacts in the industry I can refer to for assistance. I’m looking at a lead time of around two years before I would consider offereing my services. In the meantime, I may seek some casual work in an established consultancy at a bargain basement rate to assist me getting up to speed. I plan on making a substantial investment in training. Sourcing the most cost effective and useful training solutions will be key. This may include not only application specific training but also training in the current regulatory framework and planning practices. I enjoy a challenge
Zoltan Palffy
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In the USA I would say that the industry standard for construction is P6. Mor ethan not especially on large projects it is a requirement in the specifications that require P6. 

I have several scheduling packages and I have used both P6 and MS Project. I perfer P6 over MS Project 

Mike Testro
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Hi Andrew - welcome to planning planet

Good luck in your new venture.

Since you are setting up in a new consultancy you need to equip yourself with whatever software your clients ask you to use.

So its not a choice of which one but all of them.

This should include asta powerproject which is common in Australia. The benefit of asta is that you can convert MSP and P6 to asta and convert it back again.

You do not need a big printer - an A3 laserjet will be sufficient. Your clients will have the big plotters. But in my experience you cannot track the logic in any programme that cannot be printed on an A3 sheet.

Use summary charts and sub charts.

Also the construction industry has changed in the last 23 years so you will need to bring yourself up to date in new techniques and regulations. The most change is in the health and safety regulations which have to be built in to any programme.

Also join linked in and get a good web designer (I can introduce you to one of the best) and promote your business from that platform.

And a last piece of advice. Look up my PP post of 10 years ago - Ban these planning abominations.

Best regards

Mike Testro