In the past 10 years, we’ve seen an explosion in EPMO, both as a method and a profession. Now, businesses are gearing up for the next wave of advancement, as experts predict a faster-growing demand for this position than workers in other roles. But what is EPMO and why does your company need it? We’ll explain all this and more by answering some of your most-asked questions about EPMO, project management, and the tools you need to maximize your investment. Keep reading to discover everything from practical definitions to actionable best practices.
What does Enterprise Project Management Office (EPMO) mean?
An Enterprise Project Management Office is a strategic and administrative group that assists project managers with ongoing projects at large organizations. In addition to coming up with tactics to increase productivity, they’ll help ensure that all the technical aspects of each assignment are uniform and organized. Some common roles and responsibilities of an enterprise project management office include:
- Making sure project expenses align with expectations
- Dotting i’s and crossing t’s on all project-related contracts
- Collating status and financial reports
- Comparing forecasting to actual project advancement
- Staying on top of deliverables, feedback, and deadline adjustments
- Generally assisting their project manager
The term EPMO is also used to describe program or portfolio management offices. Program management offices complete many of the same duties as enterprise project management offices, except they also oversee all projects simultaneously. Project management offices also act as a liaison between project managers and project stakeholders, providing useful data, status updates, and reports when needed.
Portfolio management offices, on the other hand, take an even broader view. This team makes sure that each department’s practices align with goals for all projects. They often manage the entire organization’s portfolio of projects (hence the name), but they also provide support for teams along the way.
PMO vs. EPMO: what is the difference?
In the past decade, businesses have been learning about and adopting project management as a standard business practice with great success. But as this fledgling industry continues to blossom, so too must our understanding of where it’s going. While PMO has greatly helped many organizations, EPMO is the way of the future.
Project management offices and enterprise project management offices have one key theme among all their differences: perspective. While PMOs are on the ground taking care of day-to-day activities, EPMOs have a high-level view of the project.
In real life, this can look like a PMO deciding the project needs more funding to succeed, whereas an EPMO may decide that the project spend no longer benefits the business’s main objectives and needs to be readjusted instead. In other words, PMOs look out for their project, and EPMOs look out for the business at large.
Here are some important things EPMOs do that PMOs don’t:
- Create strategy: EPMOs will often work with executives to develop a strategy that aligns each project with quarterly or yearly business goals to maximize the impact of every large team effort.
- Standardize processes: EPMOs develop workflows, rules, and language all teams will use for company projects. They’ll also standardize policies so that they align with business objectives.
- Provide governance: EPMOs take on operational responsibility for the entire organization, including everything from communication plans to project management tools.
Thanks to their unique perspective, EPMOs can see more, do more, and act more to benefit the organization as a whole than traditional PMOs can.
Does your company need an EPMO?
If your company plans to continue using project management or will soon adopt this method and positions, then yes, you need an EPMO. In an article for CIO, Moira Alexander explains that PMO effectiveness is measured by connecting the dots between project and business objectives, which is what EPMOs do. But instead of just proving a particular assignment fits within the parameters, EPMOs go a step further to ensure proper resource usage, goal alignment, and team performance are all working together.
What are the benefits of an EMPO?
- An EPMO creates a throughline between strategy, execution, and impact measurement.
- They actively work to correct many of the now outdated practices of the traditional PMO role.
- They provide strategic alignment for all assignments across the organization, not just a single project at a time.
- EPMOs help create and execute operations so that all projects are uniformly successful.
- They often act as the glue between departments, ensuring that even the most complex projects have great communication and support.
- EPMOs don’t work alone on a single project like traditional PMOs and are instead able to create priority lists for all proposed assignments and forecast demand for future projects.
- They can standardize how all projects, reporting, and data are managed, creating uniform records executives can use to inform their decision-making.
What are the common challenges of an EPMO?
The term "visibility" refers to how easily team members and stakeholders can view project-related data. EPMOs often deal with diverse teams that are spread out all over the country or the world. Battling different time zones, multiple email chains, and updating those left out of the loop of conversations they need to be part of makes it challenging to keep everyone up to speed.
Staying informed on key updates through visible project channels can help decrease duplicate feedback, shine a spotlight on redundant tasks, and ensure more hands on deck to notice issues before they come up.
Proper visibility also saves time by streamlining communication. For example, instead of emailing or pinging your team for reports, stakeholders can access their view of the project materials and get what they need instantly without all the back and forth.
2. Hierarchy and buy-in
Establishing a new chain of command can take some time for teams to adopt. If they’re used to going to the COO directly or have a system in place that promotes siloed work, the shift will be significant. Once an EPMO joins the team, their role is to act as the liaison between teams and C-level executives. The EPMO will often address comments and resolve issues on their own unless approval is needed for the task. To establish the EPMO as the touchpoint for communications, they’ll need to coordinate with the following:
- Portfolio managers
- Program managers
- Information technology specialists
- Hands-on team members
If teams cannot adopt the new process with speed and enthusiasm, there may be some stumbling blocks during the transition.
One of the most important jobs of an EPMO is to find alignment between every project and business goal. But it’s not just about connecting the dots between two ideas. It also means getting the rest of the employees, processes, and established tools involved in alignment. And don’t forget to have a forecasted ROI that is accurate and worthwhile for the business at large.
At any given time, there may be more than a dozen ongoing and on/off projects that affect company spending and overall productivity. Not only will an EPMO have to perform an audit of existing project systems, but they’ll also have to create a method for either checking alignment or empowering others to do so through detailed guidelines.
EPMO best practices
The best EPMO framework includes a balance of outcome-focused strategy and management. Whether you’re hiring someone or working with an EPMO software, you’ll need to check all the following boxes:
- Create a common touchpoint for all project plans, communication, and resources.
- Accurately schedule phases and tasks. This is best done by taking individual workloads into account, so team members have a reasonable amount of time to complete everything.
- Find ways to eliminate or reduce possible project threats with accurate timelines, budget, and visual tools.
- Properly allocate resources with enough margin for error that unexpected challenges don’t throw off the entire project.
- Automate the collection, organization, and analysis of key data so all members of the organization can learn from projects in real time.
- Draft a comprehensive communication plan that makes it easy for team members to get approvals, update task statuses, and loop other people into ongoing conversations.
- Get in the habit of making templates out of successful recurring projects, phases, and tasks so that they can be used to streamline planning in the future.
- Create a single storage location for all project-related materials, including items such as onboarding forms, meeting minutes, and marketing assets.
- Outline workflows and processes all employees can use to work more efficiently.
What are the roles and responsibilities of an EPMO?
EPMOs are in charge of deciding which projects are approved based on what value they’re predicted to generate and whether or not that value supports big picture goals. As process consulting manager Arvind Rathore puts it, “the emphasis is on doing more with less, and organizations want to review every dollar spent more than they have done in the past.”
They also act as both a mentor and a manager for project managers, keeping the entire team on the same path even if they’re working on different assignments. And when it comes to managing resources and creating standard practices, it’s up to the EPMO to oversee it all.
What does an EPMO project manager do?
Open job listings for EPMO project managers on Google Jobs and ZipRecruiter often include the following requirements for EPMO project managers, which clearly explains what they do:
- Plan and develop scope, goals, deliverables, required resources, work plan, budget, and timing for new initiatives. Ensure new work aligns with company priorities and is appropriately resourced.
- Coordinate with cross-functional team members for optimal ROI and ensure that all parties are on track with project requirements, deadlines, and schedules.
- Conduct quarterly/annual planning sessions for programs, including goals, outcome metrics (KPIs), sequencing/dependencies, and timelines.
- Identify key requirements needed from cross-functional teams and external vendors, as necessary.
- Analyze, evaluate, manage, and overcome program risks, produce program reports, and dashboards for management and stakeholders.
- Establish effective project communication plans and execute them.
- Facilitate change requests to ensure that all parties are informed of the impacts on schedule and budget.
- Enforce discipline with teams and hold them accountable for maintaining focus and executing the plan.”
Why use Wrike as your EPMO?
Wrike is experienced in helping enterprise companies overcome common project management challenges, including all the complex responsibilities EPMO project managers deal with on a daily basis. Here’s how:
- Wrike facilitates communication between team members. With in-platform messaging, full visibility into project data, and @mentions that easily loop people in even mid-conversation, Wrike creates a central hub for everything project-related. Other features such as task dependencies also make it easy for team members to get notifications when it’s their turn to begin the next step.
- Wrike aligns project objectives. Visual project plans and visibility into each assignment’s objectives make it easy to manage the entire ecosystem of your company’s projects all in one place.
- Wrike makes resource allocation successful. Wrike Resource lets you zoom out for a big picture look at what the organization has to use towards the project overall. But you can also use Wrike to zoom in on small but important details such as an individual team member’s upcoming availability, how much they currently have on their plate right now across all projects, and whether or not they have PTO coming up that might affect any project timelines.
- Wrike makes deadlines easy to track and hit. EPMO project managers can create deadlines for entire projects, project phases, and even individual tasks. And with visual tools like Gantt charts, team members can get at-a-glance updates on their assignments.
Ditch old school project management methods
The foundation of project management got us to where we are today, but as we continue to advance our understanding of these practices, it makes sense why new and improved methods like EPMO have emerged. And with more and more businesses expanding their teams and working with people from all over the world, having an EPMO on your side to skillfully align it all is worth the investment.
Just remember: Your EPMO project manager has a lot of balls in the air. Between aligning projects with goals, overseeing project managers, and creating entirely new systems, they’ll need all the support they can get.
That’s where Wrike comes in. Give our two-week free trial a go and see for yourself how advanced project tools can bring your entire project management strategy up to speed.