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How to Effectively set up an IT EPMO

IT is the major component of most company-wide initiatives. The changes made to the IT structure directly affect other information systems like marketing and sales due to their dependence on innovative technology. Global project management leaders are starting to regroup their IT strategy in order to successfully deliver on their business strategy. Consequently, several organisations have set up PMOs at departmental levels in response to a rapidly evolving, dynamic environment.

With an Enterprise Project Management Office [EPMO], however, enterprise-wide projects can be summed into a  portfolio which aligns efficiently with the overarching objectives.  The EPMO is a business function which advises senior leaders on the best ways to help shape project investments with strategic directions. It is the bridge between executive strategy and actionable steps taken to control the project scope tightly.

Here are 5 components that help you set up your very own IT EPMO.

  1. The EPMO Charter

You can use the EPMO charter to formally introduce EPMO to your  organisation. It contains the mission statement making the case for effective portfolio management. The EPMO  reports directly to the C-suite, thus being in an authoritative position to directly manage distributed Project Management Offices.  It assimilates information from different departments and aligns them with the strategic implementation of overall initiatives. It allows those projects that mesh fit the strategic objectives to progress quickly, leading to faster delivery of direct-to-market IT solutions.

enterprise project management office

The elements sitting within this charter are:

Vision: An environment that manages the enterprise-wide portfolio, programs and projects.

Mission: The leadership required to empower the enterprise with the right tools, templates and processes.

Strategy: An environment that intrinsically enables business objectives.

Goals: Objectives that establish the EPMO as a core competency to be used in future planning. It renders clear support to strategic execution by selecting and measuring programs that offer business value.

Methodology: Standardised approach followed internally to distribute project management practices uniformly across the enterprise.


While traditional PMOs operate at the tactical level, an EPMO  works at the executive level to help you take the right approach to deliver value. The environment provided by the EPMO enables agile business transformations, thus leading change. The charter’s elements invite buy-in from respective stakeholders. It collectively makes the business case for effective portfolio and project management and improves the chances of successful project delivery across the enterprise.


  1. Introducing Tools & Processes

An EPMO plans the  projects by identifying and prioritising them according to their feasibility. The process you eventually adopt has to be a unified one that authorises work packages, thereby clearly defining team roles and responsibilities from the very beginning.

To begin with, all processes must have an EPMO process owner, a roadmap and an agreed approach to change management. The EPMO process owner verifies the success rate of different tools and processes and oversees its execution with a view to increasing team efficiency and productivity. New Mexico’s DOIT department, for example, has a dedicated EPMO that standardises processes within the IT Management lifecycle. As a result, their EPMO Project portfolio has been know to successfully close 73% of their projects.

The purpose of an EPMO is to create a project portfolio. The method adopted, therefore, should add value to the business without disrupting current project delivery. PRINCE2, Scrum and DSDM are favoured approaches due to their ability to conform to the initiation, planning, execution, monitoring and closing stages of the standard project lifecycle.

In the IT domain, Extreme Programming(XP), Kanban and Scrum adhere to the Agile Manifesto and concentrate strictly on getting the technical features right.  For example, a combination of PRINCE2 and an agile framework, provides comprehensive documentation yet remains flexible enough to accommodate changes introduced at a later stage.

With people behind the wheels of the method eventually adopted, smart resource and demand management is a worthy investment.  A centralised resource overview helps you match appropriate skills to current and forecasted demand. Your EPMO can then collate information centrally to prioritise projects and deploy the workforce on them accordingly.


  1. The Functions of EPMO

An EPMO has team and enterprise-oriented functions. While the former targets low maturity organisations and is transient in nature, the latter is symbolic of high maturity. It falls on the EPMO to continually engage stakeholders and feed input back to projects. Communication brings useful information to the forefront, enabling effective knowledge transfers during the project review phase.

Team-oriented function: This is a tactical, fire-fighting technique that essentially guides teams by mentoring and providing counsel often. It is meant to be a transient option to perform daily tasks and is therefore reactive.

Enterprise-oriented function: It is a sophisticated and long-range solution that promotes the project management culture. It enables teams to carry out work on agreed terms and gives full power to them to make decisions that are strategically beneficial.

Team-oriented EPMOs are advised and guided on what needs to be done. Enterprise-oriented functions, on the other hand, equip teams with the confidence and prior knowledge to independently take project-centric decisions. Both EPMO functions should review team initiatives periodically to monitor whether processes are running as agreed. Alternative courses of action can then be sanctioned to ensure people related issues don’t adversely affect the overall functioning of the enterprise.

team engagement - an EPMO process

  1. Stakeholder and Team Engagement

When appointing your EPMO leader, you should ensure that he/she is experienced in communicating with stakeholders and gathering feedback from them. The more detailed the feedback, the stronger the message put across on setting up the EPMO. From the company board through to the project managers and team members, everyone needs to understand the EPM strategy. Receptiveness to change influences individual concerns and interest.

Similar to a marketing strategy that grabs attention immediately, ‘positioning’ i.e. how you present your points fuels the success of an EPMO set-up. The focus should be on the best interests of the whole enterprise in the long run. Since multiple projects can run at the same time, the strongest argument would be to have an overview of departmental objectives. The proposals and recommendations submitted by project managers should describe project attributes. Consequently, project execution should demonstrate alignment with the enterprise’s objectives.

Projects that maximise profitability would distinguish itself from unfeasible initiatives and engage your resource pool in productive efforts. With the right preparation and training, your team’s interest and commitment will naturally grow, reducing the likelihood of sudden employee turnover and attrition rates.


  1. Reporting Mechanisms

And finally, the reporting mechanisms you use should reflect updates that every member is informed of. By standardising your logs, you not only rid your organisation of irrelevant and outdated reporting tools but also ensure every department follows the same pattern when generating actionable insights. Project risks, assumptions, issues and dependencies (RAID) should be evaluated as you compile other aspects of your report, such as the milestones achieved and an executive summary of the project deliverables.

A reporting calendar is a useful function that educates your project managers on expected outcomes and their due dates. Diary management is a key component of a handy reporting tool. It helps your departmental PMOs collate tasks and schedules, putting an end to the disparities arising across an enterprise. The reports produced are simplified for brevity and stick to information most relevant in making strategic decisions.

Introducing a new set-up to your organisation requires arguments that strengthen and support the business case. Being mindful of how new processes affect your people will help you pitch an EPMO that guides your organisation into gaining high maturity, gradually.

Has this post gotten you itching to bring EPMO in full force? Feel free to share your stories in the comments below!


About the Author

As the subject-matter expert for Saviom’s resource management tool, Aakash Gupta champions for best management practices through various publications and webinars. You can reach him here.


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