How can a strategically aligned EPMO serve as an effective conduit to deliver sustainable, on-going successful projects?

Statistics suggested that the typical lifespan of a PMO is eighteen months, a sobering statistic by anyone’s standards when considering the dollars at stake in delivering successful projects and change.

Given that the role of an Enterprise Program Management Office is to strategically align an organisation’s goals and provide multiple programme management offices (PMOs), why is it that so many PMOs and EPMOs fail to deliver and what is the value add that a strategically aligned EPMO can provide?

The purpose of an EPMO

The role of an EPMO is multifaceted: its capability exists to collect, analyse and display program data in a way that enables executives to see at a glance how well their programs are running and consequently how overall project delivery is progressing. In short, an EPMO can be a powerful strategic partner to the executive by providing vital information on business-critical programs.

Why do PMOs and EPMOs fail?

The barrier to successfully setting up and running an effective EPMO are largely driven by two things:

  1. Is the organisation ready for it (maturity)?
  2. Does the EPMO provide value?

When the answer to these to questions is yes then an EPMO can grow and flourish, providing value to the organisation. If the answer to either question is no, then the challenge is to demonstrate the value of what an EPMO can deliver.

As mentioned above, the average lifespan of a PMO is approximately eighteen months. Research has identified seven core reasons for this:

  1. The PMO did not define its value proposition.
  2. The PMO is not perceived as impacting project delivery capabilities.
  3. The PMO is seen as a threat (often because it is too authoritative).
  4. The PMO is too low in the management reporting structure.
  5. The PMO does not have buy-in from senior functional managers.
  6. The PMO is seen as micro managing and attempting to directly control every project.
  7. The PMO acronym becomes Project Management Overhead.

Considering the causes above for failure, how can EPMOs succeed and deliver value to an organisation?

Setting up a sustainable EPMO

There are four key drivers for success in setting up an EPMO:

  1. Pitch the EPMO at the level the Organisation is ready for not what you think it needs.
  2. Ensure you align the EPMO with the organisations business needs
  3. Bring energy, knowledge and persistence to setting up an EPMO. It is a marathon not a sprint.
  4. Executive sponsorship is key. Prepare to education and win over the key sponsors to ensure success.

If you can achieve the above, the value a strategically savvy EPMO can provide includes:

  • Visibility and clarity to the organisation and its management teams
  • Acting as an early warning system for risk and resource bottlenecks
  • Measurement and reporting on benefits realisation
  • Providing fit for purpose project delivery frameworks

Visibility & Clarity

The purpose of an EPMO is to align strategically with the organisation and provide holistic management and oversight over multiple program streams.

As a conduit between those streams and the executive, the EPMO should provide visibility for corporate executives for in-flight projects and projects. The EPMO is more likely to receive continuous support from the executive team if it provides clear and accurate visibility on the status of projects and programs.

The benefits to Project Managers on the ground is that the challenges and issue they face can get executive airtime and thus top-down decision making can occur through EPMO support.

The EPMO as an early warning system to prevent centralised shared service bottlenecks
EPMO reporting can provide clarity on program and group-wide risks, resource constraints, and potential conflicts on the demands on people and infrastructure.

Centralised shared services on the other hand often do not have visibility of what the resource requirements will be and when they will be required by projects. By the time they know it, it’s already too late and they have to play catch up to meet the demands causing delays.

Early visibility of schedules and requirements enables a group-wide view and a deeper understanding of what resources and infrastructure will be needed in the short, medium and longer-term. Not having this view leads to project delays and eventually project failure.

Benefits realisation

EPMOs can add significant value by regular and constant monitoring of the benefits realisation of programs and projects. Tracking benefits (based on good business cases) ensures that projects actually do deliver on their promises.

Fit for purpose project delivery frameworks

EPMOs can provide significant value to project delivery by providing fit for purpose delivery frameworks (templates, processes, governance structures etc) that complement an organisation’s delivery DNA.

The successful EPMO should be a capability centre for the project managers that help them set up their projects for success and support the project through all the phases to delivery.

Working across the entire organisation

Ensuring that portfolio, program and project execution remains aligned with business needs and drivers require a holistic viewpoint that strategically aligned EPMOs can provide.

In its conduit role, an EPMO can provide real value to project managers and the business when it links individual streams of work to insightful, crisp reporting and fit for purpose delivery frameworks. This helps set up projects for success and provides clear visibility to the executive of what is being achieved, identifies risks and enables effective resource management.

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 ...