What is an Enterprise Project Management Office (EPMO)?
An enterprise project management office (EPMO) is a department within an organization responsible for setting priorities, standards, and goals for the organization’s project portfolio.
The main responsibility of an EPMO is to define the strategy for managing a company’s project portfolio from start to finish, including planning, prioritization and value realization – and in doing so, to ensure that the company’s projects are aligned with its strategic objectives. . His work includes defining project governance rules, implementing process controls, creating key performance indicators for projects, and monitoring project technology.
EPMO vs. PMO: what’s the difference?
EPMO and project management office, or PMO, are not interchangeable terms, according to the Project Management Institute (PMI). The difference between the two is that PMOs traditionally do not take a lead role in aligning strategic goals, unlike EPMOs. The traditional PMO tends to take a more tactical approach than an enterprise project management office. To add to the mix (and confusion), companies will sometimes have a project portfolio management office. Ultimately, they all exist to ensure that an organization’s projects align with strategy and are completed on time and within budget.
Organizations will determine how each entity is structured. Who a company’s project managers report to will, in some cases, depend on the size of the company. For example, it is not uncommon to have a PMO within the corporate IT department, with the IT project manager providing lateral guidance on IT projects and reporting to the EPMO.
EPMOs sit outside of a business unit and help management decide what programs and projects to undertake. For this reason, an EPMO typically reports to the C-Suite and strategically guides all projects within an organization.
Another difference between PMOs and EPMOs: Although EPMOs can manage small projects, they are generally used to manage complex large-scale projects and they usually manage several projects at a time.
Why is an EPMO important?
An EPMO has visibility across the entire organization and can coordinate efforts across business units to ensure projects are aligned and do not conflict. This visibility gives the EPMO the ability to assist with demand forecasting and resource planning, which the office sometimes assists.
EPMOs can also improve communication within an organization because they work directly with a company’s management teams. Indeed, an important responsibility of the EPMO is to create the communication plans for the projects they oversee. Plans clearly define communication channels, assign specific roles, create reporting procedures and guidelines, and designate the types of collaboration that will be used.
By monitoring the organization’s portfolio of project progress, an EPMO also helps the various business units stay on track to achieve their goals. According to PMI, employees rely on the EPMO for intake, discovery, planning, prioritization, performance tracking and work methods. As Kara Austin, Director of EPMO at PMI, describes it, EPMO “is a unique gateway to [project] execution and success with C-Suite support.”
Benefits of an EPMO
Having an EPMO is helpful in setting standards, establishing processes, improving communications and increasing productivity. Perhaps the greatest benefit of an EPMO is that it allows the company to simplify the management and delivery of large, complex projects, as it works at a strategic level in conjunction with senior executives.
It makes it easier to manage multiple projects at once, especially if they have similar goals or require similar resources. The office often acts as a link between departments and provides support, resources and advice for even the most complex projects. It provides consistency and the ability to leverage best practices to ensure operational efficiency, PMI said.
The challenges of an EPMO
The challenges of an EPMO relate to the perception that it adds “bureaucracy” or unnecessary processes, according to PMI. But PMI’s Austin said EPMOs can mitigate that risk by playing an advocacy role and building trust through project success.
An EPMO can be a service organization that aligns business, operations, technology, finance, legal and marketing teams, for example, Austin explained. Having a neutral enterprise-level resource like the EPMO leads to partnerships across teams that get things done, she said. Teams are more powerful when the EPMO acts as a common advocate who hears all points of view and focuses on finding the best way forward.
An EPMO can also face challenges when the organization does not follow an agile methodology. When this is the case, there is also often poor resource planning, reduced team efficiency, fragmented production, lack of project visibility, and budget overruns.
EPMO good practices
Within its own EPMO, the PMI adopts an agile approach that responds to feedback from internal stakeholders and fosters cross-functional collaboration. Tailoring work methods to specific individuals is critical to success, as is using retrospective feedback to facilitate change and continuous improvement, the institute said.
An EPMO should have clearly defined business responsibilities and a structure. It should also standardize processes to improve efficiency and productivity with frameworks that define project responsibilities, accountability, and oversight. An EPMO should also coach team members on how to work together effectively and conduct lessons learned sessions or retrospectives to continuously improve project management.
Here are some other best practices:
- Develop a risk management and scope evolution plan.
- Establish good relationships with stakeholders.
- Define relevant KPIs.
- Focus on team engagement.
- Measure the value of the project.
- Use software that offers dashboards, analytics, automation, and ease of use.
Roles and responsibilities of the EPMO
An EPMO is responsible for facilitating the strategic alignment, planning, prioritization and valuation of enterprise-wide projects, product portfolios and activities. To do this, he relies on a team of program and project managers, business analysts and agile experts.
The composition of an EPMO varies according to the size of the company and the sector. Some of the roles commonly found in an EPMO include the following:
- Managing Director or Director of Operations. Depending on the organizational structure, the CEO or COO of the company leads the EPMO.
- EP Manager. An EPM director is a board member who sponsors and oversees important projects, portfolios, and programs to achieve strategic business goals. One of their key roles is to drive efficiency and synergies between projects, ensuring that resources are used efficiently and that all projects have an effective leader. The EPM Director is also in charge of project management methodology implementation, project scope control and risk management.
- Project Manager. A project manager is a board-level leader who has primary responsibility for driving efficiencies across all projects and ensuring that each has an effective leader. The CPO also applies the chosen project management methodology and controls the scope of the project.
- Business project manager. A corporate project manager is responsible for ensuring that all projects meet high-level expectations set by the CEO and CPO. Enterprise project managers do not necessarily involve themselves in the finer details of all projects.
- Executive Owner. All projects require a leader to serve as spokesperson and champion for the project. The executive owner is responsible for setting the direction of a project and acting as an advocate for achieving the vision set by management.
- Sponsor. The sponsor acts as a liaison between the company’s executives and project managers responsible for the day-to-day planning and execution work.
- Technical director of the project. The Technical Project Manager serves as the technical point of contact and oversees the EPMO software used to manage the operational and financial aspects of EPMO projects.