Get Started with an EPMO Framework and Structure
Large organizations leverage an Enterprise Project Management Office (EPMO) organizational model to enable a consistent and reliable alignment of project management office execution, portfolio management governance, and corporate strategy. An EPMO structure creates standardized key performance indicators and metrics, more accurate project reporting at all levels, and efficient resource utilization across teams, all in support of executing the company strategy.
On this page:
- What is an EPMO?
- EPMO vs PMO
- Benefits of an EPMO
- Roles and Responsibilities of an EPMO
- EPMO Framework and Structure
- Enterprise Project Management Office Takeaways
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What is an EPMO?
For project managers joining an organization with an EPMO or seeking to enhance their overall business acumen, it is essential to know the value and purpose of an EPMO. The Enterprise Project Management Office (EPMO) serves a critical business function by connecting decision makers for consistent governance across all project, program, and portfolio management activities. Though it does not serve the same purpose as a Project Management Office (PMO), in terms of business strategy execution, both bring value to the organization in their own way.
An EPMO is the critical connection point between the organizational objectives and project work with a focus on executing the enterprise strategy.
Enterprise Project Management includes company-wide stakeholder communication, risk management, resource management, vendor management, project tools, project metrics, portfolio management best practices, and more. The portfolio management function and project management work are enhanced in the EPMO model with work at all levels directed at shared enterprise goals. An EPMO enables more effective collaboration and consistent communication in large organizations, from the top-level officers (the Chief Officer level or “C-Suite”) to the people working within each project team.
EPMO vs PMO
At first glance, the EPMO replicates the Project Management Office (PMO) model as a means to build and maintain project standards. The EPMO is more than standards, just as the PMO is more than project management tools.
The key differentiators between the EPMO and PMO are scale, focus, and reporting structure. Organizations that create an EPMO should define and communicate the role and reporting of each PMO team to prevent confusion. The EPMO drives decisions, changes, and resources in pursuit of realizing the organization’s strategy, whereas a PMO enables efficiencies at the project, work, and task levels.
EPMO Scale, Focus, and Reporting Structure
The EPMO prioritizes overall project work to align with and activate the enterprise strategy. Information is collated from across the organization and monitored to assess progress against enterprise goals.
- project selection is driven by strategic alignment to organizational goals
- meeting the enterprise’s financial and strategic goals
- Reporting Structure:
- report to top decision-makers (e.g., C-suite, Vice Presidents, Directors)
PMO Scale, Focus, and Reporting Structure
A PMO prioritizes project, program, and portfolio management regarding standard tools and techniques for project use. The PMO drives the day-to-day work towards project, program, and portfolio level goals.
- project management operations
- consistency of project management best practices, tactics, and tools
- Reporting Structure:
- report to mid-level decision-makers (e.g., Portfolio Management and Project Management leadership)
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Another way to define the difference between EPMO and PMO is to look at what the EPMO does that a PMO cannot:
Enterprise Governance, Reporting, and Decision Making: An EPMO maintains the “big picture,” enabling top executives to see across the business and balance decision-making accordingly. For example, an Information Technology project team is looking at a solution that, unbeknownst to them, contradicts a company vendor arrangement. The EPMO can make that connection to prevent a problem while also ensuring the final solution remains consistent with the enterprise goals.
Create and Activate Strategy Enabling Enterprise Goals: The EPMO works with company executives to create and activate an enterprise strategy for which each project in every PMO must align. The enterprise goals can only be reached when the work at the project level is coordinated across the organization.
The EPMO by no means replaces the role of a departmental Project Management Office or the value of strong portfolio management. A high-performing (or low-performing!) PMO directly impacts the ability of the EPMO to activate and manage the enterprise strategy.
Benefits of an EPMO
The EPMO aligns project and program work to corporate strategy by creating and maintaining an appropriate enterprise governance structure. The EPMO may also perform portfolio management functions to maximize benefits realization across the enterprise. The 2017 Project Management Institute’s (PMI)® Pulse of the Profession reported that for companies with an EPMO that actively connects strategy to execution, 38% more projects meet goals with 33% fewer projects marked as failures.
Enterprise benefits of EPMO
The EPMO is a centralized governance body that enables higher project success rates because of:
- standardized delivery across all Project Management Offices
- identification of business risks in time to address them
- checkpoints providing timely information to inform business and financial decisions
- changes made to ensure all project work fits into the overall strategy
In short, the EPMO framework enables the best practices of each PMO to be aligned, amplified, and strengthened to further realize enterprise goals.
Project Team benefits of EPMO
A Project Management Office (PMO) model centralizes project management work to realize efficiencies. Within an EPMO structure, each PMO team benefits from:
- shared proven efficiencies and processes
- less ambiguity around how project work connects to business goals
- maximized project resources
- built-in flexibility to adapt to needed business changes
The PMO model is a powerful organizational tool that can be right-sized for almost any organization. Further, in large organizations with multiple Project Management Offices and branches of portfolio management on top of program and project management activities, the EPMO structure brings clarity of purpose and strategic alignment of work for each team.
Project Manager benefits of EPMO
Project Managers working at a company with an EPMO can have more professional development resources and career roadmap options. When there is an EPMO, Project Managers may enjoy:
- more opportunities to grow program and portfolio experience
- refinement of in-demand project management skills in a complex environment
- job options for manager and leadership roles
- expansion of their professional network across the company
In an organization with an EMPO, the Project Manager’s job will have more responsibilities, but with the payoff of more management career opportunities.
Roles and Responsibilities of an EPMO
The EPMO is commonly led by a C-Suite level executive or someone reporting directly to the organization’s senior leadership team. That hierarchal placement reflects the purpose of the EPMO in creating and maintaining an enterprise view of all project work that can be monitored and reported. Typical EPMO roles and responsibilities include but are not limited to:
- analysis of collated project budgetary and spending reports
- forecasting project success and failure rates across the organization
- maximizing vendor contracts
- championing business agility to enhance organizational culture
- providing project management career opportunities
- setting performance standards for key performance indicators
- developing enterprise-level action plans driven by lessons learned and best practices
- adjusting resources to meet market or customer changes
The EPMO, like a PMO, can either foster or hamper a productive team culture that fuels project success. Careful planning of the EPMO is required to realize the potential benefits.
EPMO Framework and Structure
A framework is a set of foundational processes and ideas upon which something can be built. An organizational structure shapes how activities are prioritized, how roles are defined, and how information moves within the body. The creation of an EPMO requires careful consideration of both framework (what are the processes and ideas fueling the organization) and structure (how will information move to inform business decisions and the entire organization).
The EPMO’s power comes from the connectedness across multiple business areas enabling full activation of the enterprise strategy. It is important to have an accurate understanding of the inner workings of each business element to inform the EPMO framework. To gather that information, a business analyst can evaluate historical and current process data to inform how the EPMO framework should be set up for a specific organization.
In general, the EPMO framework will address the organizational collaboration with these areas:
- strategy office and leadership
- information technology department
- human resources processes and resources
- program and project management office/s
- portfolio management office and/or leadership
- organizational culture
- corporate policy and governance team
- senior enterprise leadership
An EPMO that fails to build a framework incorporating mission-critical people and process components will not achieve higher rates of project success or the realization of enterprise goals.
Variances in EPMO structures are expected as each should be tightly aligned not only to the specific enterprise strategy but also to the unique organizational culture. The EPMO framework informs how the EPMO structure, including the flow of information and the process for decision-making, is carried out to reach business goals.
In all EPMO structures, there must be a direct tie to the organization’s senior leadership. Whether the EPMO leader is in a C-suite role or the EPMO leader reports directly to the C-suite, there must be enterprise-level ties between organizational strategy and project work.
In both examples, there is a direct line from project management to enterprise project management to Chief Officer (C-suite). Team roles and responsibilities, job titles, and management roles will be customized for the needs of each organization. However, the connection points among and across functions must always be present for the EPMO to be effective.
Enterprise Project Management Office Takeaways
An EPMO aims to align project and program work to corporate strategy through creating and maintaining an enterprise governance structure and executing portfolio management functions to maximize benefits realization. However, not every organization is large enough to merit the creation of an EPMO. When there are multiple PMO teams within one organization, an EPMO can help ensure tight alignment of project work to enterprise strategy. Finally, any EPMO should have a clear roadmap of goals, priorities, and milestones against which progress to enterprise goals is tracked.
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