How is an Enterprise PMO (EPMO) different to Technology PMO?

There is often confusion about the primary purpose of a Program Management Office and why it exists within an organisation. Is it there for tools, processes and capability uplift only? Is it there to manage, allocate and mentor the pool of project resources? Or is it there to manage, inform and finalise the investment portfolio for an organisation?

The truth is no PMO is the same and most will have some of the above within their remit of responsibilities.

Typically, the level of service provided by a PMO will more often than not be dictated by two key variables; the project delivery maturity of the organisation and more importantly where the PMO sits within the organisation.

It is the later point that we explore below, in particular, what are the differences between an Enterprise PMO (EPMO) that sits across the entire business versus a PMO that sits exclusively within Technology?

(For the purposes of this discussion, we are excluding any analysis on the Program PMO, which is a PMO set up for an individual, discreet initiative.)

EPMOs Focus on the Strategic Investment Portfolio

The EPMO should have a top-down approach when assessing the portfolio of projects to deliver. Given the organisation-wide remit of an EPMO, the focus will be on the overall strategic investment portfolio and the alignment of the project portfolio to this strategic vision. The EPMO will seek to advance the overall organisation’s goals not just individual silos.

Typically, a Technology PMO will have a bottom-up approach when assessing the project slate, with a focus on the tactical and thus lack the EPMO’s strategic alignment. The focus within a Technology PMO then often becomes more about doing projects ’’right’’ as opposed to doing ‘’the right projects’’ for the overall good of the organisation.

EPMOs are About Transformation

EPMOs have a focus across the whole business and delivery of the overall strategy which leads to EPMO initiatives typically being more transformational than a Technology PMO.

EPMOs have a focus across the whole business and delivery of the overall strategy which leads to EPMO initiatives typically being more transformational than a Technology PMO. The greater focus on transformational projects and programs being managed by an EPMO means the projects often have significant business impacts.

As a result, EPMOs need far greater focus on managing business change within the portfolio of projects. The heightened change requirements for an EPMO portfolio requires that the EPMO be well versed in change management fundamentals, tools and processes to ensure it can support the delivery teams as required and also be a champion of change management with the key stakeholders.

EPMOs Face into the Business Stakeholders

Given their strategic focus, EPMOs will face back into the business, which brings its own unique challenges.

For example, the majority of the stakeholders are usually C-level and often pressed for time (yes – it’s true). They also may not have as sound a grasp of project fundamentals and disciplines as technology stakeholders do, since the latter’s day-to-day focus is more project orientated than their business counterparts.

In the strategic position they hold, EPMO managers need to be very good at managing stakeholders, highly skilled in communication and well versed in managing upwards with a focus on educating the audience on project delivery fundamentals.

An EPMO can Drive Standardisation Across a Business

With its whole-of-business remit, an EPMO has a golden opportunity to drive standardisation of project delivery across the entire organisation, not just within technology.

Their role could include mandating standardisation of templates (reporting, business cases etc.), governance structures, approval processes, influencing selection of methodologies (Agile, Iterative Waterfall etc.), benefits management, scope management, risk and issue management.

An EPMO can also take steps to centralising the resource pools for the overall benefit of portfolio planning and delivery.

Whilst the above list is not exhaustive it does call out some of the more visible differences between an EPMO and the traditional Technology PMO. Both certainly have their place within an organisation but they are nuanced and require different skills sets to establish and manage.

In the perfect world they actually can learn and leverage off each other in the pursuit of better overall project outcomes, which is the reason they are both established in the first place.

As project specialists, we develop fit-for-purpose strategy.  Contact us here to find out more about how we work with your teams or call 02 9098 6300.

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Quay Consulting is a professional services business specialising in the project landscape, transforming strategy into fit-for-purpose delivery. Meet our team ...