What Is the Difference Between PMO and EPMO

EPMO vs PMO: The Similarities and Differences

A career in project management can be exciting and fulfilling. You get to gather resources, assemble teams, and support them so they can meet deadlines and goals. Along the way, you’ll have opportunities to boost the company’s bottom line, build capacity in workers, and develop your ability to motivate others. This typically happens in a fast-paced environment that lets you flex your problem-solving skills.

Whether you’re looking to enter the field of project management or are ready to expand your career, it helps to explore the similarities and differences between project management structures. This knowledge will be helpful as you consider the type of environment you want to work in and where you can use and develop your skills.

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Project Management Office (PMO)

PMO stands for project management office, and you will occasionally see the acronym used to denote a portfolio management office or program management office. This department develops and oversees the standards and best practices used to organize and provide focus for projects the company takes on.

PMOs also keep track of project timelines and monitor progress to ensure the project team meets deadlines without going over budget. The degree of control a PMO has over projects in its domain can vary. For example, some may provide guidance to promote consistency as to how projects are delivered, while others provide more a robust centralized management role including allocation of financial and other resources to projects.

What does a PMO do?

A PMO oversees projects for an organization. Its work includes organizing the people and procedures needed to complete a project on time and within budget. To do this, the PMO may establish goals, create timelines, train workers, allocate resources, and monitor the progress of team members.

What are the benefits of a PMO?

A PMO gives an organization structure and guidance that helps it meet goals while using its resources to benefit all stakeholders. By providing guidelines and monitoring performance, it gives project team members the support they need to complete their tasks and solve problems they encounter along the way. Here is a closer look at what they offer organizations:

  • Keep the project within the budget. One of the PMO’s roles is ensuring that a project stays within its budget. The procedures it uses to allocate resources and monitor spending can be useful in other departments.
  • Boost productivity to meet deadlines. PMOs work with deadlines. To meet these deadlines, they establish timelines and tasks for the project team to follow. They then partner with the team to monitor progress toward completing the smaller goals to ensure the team meets the bigger deadlines and makes needed adjustments along the way.
  • Create happier customers. Organizations with PMOs tend to have customers with higher levels of satisfaction. Productive teams who meet customer expectations and deadlines send the message to customers that their time is valuable.
  • Better inter-departmental communication. PMOs can liaise between management, teams, and other departments. In doing so, they can improve communication within the organization and demonstrate the effectiveness of project management strategies to boost performance.
  • Reduce errors. When planning a project, the PMO may make predictions about how long it will take to complete and identify potential barriers that can slow down progress. This helps it decide how to allocate resources, create teams, and choose which strategies to implement.

Enterprise PMO (EPMO)

EPMO stands for enterprise project management office. This centralized office interacts with company executives and senior management to help them choose projects based on the availability of resources and corporate goals and vision. In some companies, the EPMO also acts as a PMO. In other organizations, they may assist the PMO by overseeing complex projects.

What does an EPMO do?

An EPMO plays an important role in an organization’s decision-making process. It takes a high-level view of the current and planned projects to ensure everyone involved has what they need to succeed. This can include an analysis of the budget, resources, and productivity to help leaders decide how to allocate resources. It monitors internal and external factors to assist with forecasting and scheduling projects and develops procedures to simplify tasks.

What are the benefits of an EPMO?

An EPMO makes it possible for an organization to manage many projects simultaneously by creating and implementing procedures and processes that boost productivity. This also can simplify the work of the project management team, so it is better equipped to do its job. It does this by providing the following:

  • Better communication. Since the EPMO interacts directly with executives and senior managers and the PMO, it creates communication channels between project stakeholders. This can increase transparency and enhance collaboration among all departments.
  • Standardized policies and procedures. An EPMO can establish standards to guide all members of the project management team. This includes creating a common language, best practices, and procedures for team members to follow, along with guides for managing resources and working within communication channels.
  • Goal alignment. The EPMO understands the goals and vision set forth by executives. With this knowledge, it can help leadership select projects that align with these goals and support the project team to ensure its work delivers value to the organization.

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What is the difference between PMO and EPMO?

The differences between a PMO and EPMO lie in their responsibilities within the organization. Companies decide which type of project management office they want to implement based on the specific needs of the organization and what they expect from the project management team. You can see this when you examine the scope of their work and how they operate.

Scope of a PMO and EPMO

A PMO typically operates at the departmental level within an organization, similar to accounting or marketing. PMO team members tend to have similar titles, like director, project manager, and administrative assistant. The EPMO exists at the executive level, with a director who manages the team’s people and projects.

Strategies of a PMO and EPMO

A PMO tends to be more in touch with the day-to-day work of the project, so it employs a more tactical approach to management by providing team members with the specific tools and resources they need to complete their tasks. An EPMO is typically more strategic in its work and may spend more time analyzing data and planning long-range projects.

Functions and Duties of a PMO and EPMO

The PMO spends more time working with individual team members than the EPMO, which interacts more frequently with executives. This means the PMO plays a greater role in the different phases of the project. At the same time, the EPMO focuses more on overseeing the entire project and facilitating communication between stakeholders at different levels of the organization.

What are the similarities between EPMO and PMO?

Despite their differences, an EPMO and PMO share several similarities, most notably in their areas of responsibility, objectives, and communication obligations, including:.

  • Using project management methodology to organize and manage people and tasks
  • Monitoring progress toward project completion
  • Supporting team members with the tools and resources they need to complete tasks
  • Ensuring that the work of team members aligns with the organization’s vision and goals
  • Meeting deadlines and staying within the project’s budget
  • Creating and implementing procedures to simplify tasks and streamline the workload
  • Assessing risk
  • Communicating with project team members, organizational leaders, and customers

As you expand your career in project management, it is essential to understand how organizations structure their project management teams. Your success in the field lies in your ability to understand your strengths and identify the skills you want to develop when you’re ready to pursue different roles. The more you know about the functions of a PMO vs. an EPMO, the better prepared you are to identify the organizations that seem like the best fit for your personal and professional goals.

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Erin Aldridge, PMP, PMI-ACP, & CSPO
Director of Product Development at
Erin Aldridge, PMP, PMI-ACP, & CSPO