Your EPMO roadmap: How to set up an effective EPMO

You’ve heard all about EPMOs and now you’re ready to set one up in your own organisation. Amazing! But where do you start? We’ve put together a quick roadmap that will help guide you through the critical steps you need to take to set up an effective EPMO.

What is an EPMO?

Before we get into how to set one up, let’s clearly define what an EPMO first is. Enterprise Project Management Office (EPMO) is a centralized strategic function of an organisation that operates closely with enterprise executives and key decision makers to provide enterprise wide support for all project and process management activities. 

EPMOs handle a wide range of tasks from portfolio management, governance, stakeholder communication and management, risk management, resource management and much more. The main purpose of the EPMO is to ensure all activities within the organisation are strategically aligned to the organisations core objectives and make sure all activities within an organisation’s portfolio are built to achieve the most value.

EPMO vs PMO: What’s the difference?

Though their tasks and responsibilities can often overlap, the key difference between EPMOs and PMOs is the level on which they operate. While PMOs typically focus on doing projects the right way, EPMOs focus on making sure you are choosing the right projects. PMOs will often run on a bottom-up approach, functioning on both a tactical and operational level by working closely with project managers. EPMOs are typically top-down, functioning on a more strategic level by working closely with directors and business stakeholders to implement their strategies.

Here’s a quick table to help you visualize the different roles and activities between a PMO and EPMO:

pmo vs epmo
PMO v EPMO: What’s the difference?

Though the differences between PMOs and EPMOs are not limited to these few tasks, it hopefully helps you understand how they function on fundamentally different levels. To read more in detail about their difference and the unique tasks handled by the EPMO, click here.

Why do you need an EPMO?

Most organisations can benefit from a PMO, but not all of them need an EPMO. Don’t make the mistake in simply following a PMO maturity model and mature purely for maturity sake. Factors such as the organisation’s size, industry, complexity, maturity and much more can influence whether an EPMO is the right choice for them. 

However, you may want to consider establishing an EPMO if:

  • Your PMOs are running on a vague direction and mission
  • PMO resources are being underutilized
  • Project performance rates are low even with increased costs
  • Your projects are lacking alignment with enterprise-wide strategy

The two common EPMO Establishment models

There are two common approaches people have to establish EPMOs: internal staff augmented model and outsourced professional service model.

The first model, internal staff augmentation model, is where the EPMO team is made up of pre-existing employees and built from the ground up from within the organisation itself. This model is effective for organisations that have a pre-existing expertise with PMO activities and want to build their EPMO from their existing pool of talent while introducing new team members to support and augment the existing employees. This approach builds on current practices and processes and can help establish a stronger chain of command and clearer decision making process as the team is built on trusted internal staff members who understand the organisation intimately.

The second model, outsourced professional service model, is where an organisation brings in an external team to build their EPMO. The outsourced team can either train and mentor the organisation’s pre-existing staff or completely manage all the EPMO activities for them. This model is effective for organisations that do not have pre-existing PMO expertise or need specific unique skill sets that are not found within their organisation. This approach is effective for bringing in new perspectives and skills that can overhaul ineffective PMOs and build a stronger EPMO from the ground up.

Both models have their own pros and cons that can vary depending on your organisation’s context and objectives. Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to EPMOs, so make sure to make the choice that suits your organisation’s unique needs.

8 steps to set up an effective EPMO

Though these steps are similar to how you set up a PMO, they run on different levels and have fundamentally different perspectives that change how these steps are implemented. Take note that these steps are not directly sequential so refer to our flowchart below to guide you through the process. 

Step one: Establish management buy-in for the EPMO

As a strategic function, it is important to make sure directors are on-board and preferably leading the charge for establishing an EPMO. As an enterprise PMO can bring potentially massive changes across the entire organisation, it is important to have the backing and leadership of directors and key leaders to ease the change process. Establishing management buy-in will depend largely if the return on investment of the EPMO can be clearly communicated. Gathering and quantifying the beneficial value of an EPMO will not only help convince management, but other employees throughout the organisation, making the EPMO establishment processes smoother.

Step two: Set up the framework and planning for the EPMO

At this stage, the foundational goals, vision and mission of the potential EPMO are set and aligned with the organisation’s greater strategic goals. Typically a EPMO charter document is created that outlines the key goals and objectives of the EPMO so they can be clearly communicated to all relevant stakeholders. This document will help build the framework and process for the EPMO establishment process.

Step three: Conduct an organisation assessment and gap analysis

It is important to assess the organisation’s current capabilities, skills and needs to make sure the EPMO is tackling the right issues and bringing the right strategies to address those issues. Things that need to be assessed include the current project management practices, team readiness for change and organisational environment. Understanding the gap between the organisation’s current position and where they want to be with the EPMO will help identify the amount of effort needed and establish the steps to be taken to achieve the EPMO goals.

Step four: Hire your EPMO team members

As mentioned above, this can be done both internally and externally. Depending on the context and objectives of your EPMO, you need to make sure your organisation is equipped to fulfil their EPMOs function with the right talent and skills.

Some typical roles within the EPMO include:

  • EPMO director
  • EPMO Manager
  • EPMO Analyst and Coordinator
  • EPMO Trainer and Coach

Step five: Training your EPMO team

This step should be taken after the EPMO methodology, process and template (step six) have been selected so the team is being trained with the relevant information their future EPMO will be operating with. EPMOs need to handle a wider range of complex tasks than a typical PMO. As a strategic function, EPMO teams are typically analysing activities on a larger scale and may need to use certain features such as resource management and cost management on a higher level. Teams may need additional training to ensure they are able to use their preferred PMO practices and processes with their PMO software to bring out their full capabilities. 

Step six: Develop EPMO methodologies, processes and templates

EPMOs will often build off a specific project management methodology that will inform how their processes are shaped and built. It’s important to note that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all methodology’ to rule them all. Depending on your organisation’s structure, needs and objectives some methodologies are better suited than others. The typical project management methodologies fall between a spectrum of more iterative or traditional methodologies. You can read more about these methodologies and how to pick the right one for your organisation here.

Once the methodology is chosen, a clear structure and process for how EPMO activities and projects will be carried out will be documented and communicated in an easy to understand manner. This can include flowcharts, step-by-step documents, clear communication frameworks, and much more. A standardized template is then made to be used by all teams and projects within the EPMO and the wider organisation.

Step seven: Deploy your EPMO software and tools

Picking the right project portfolio management tools and software is critical for an effective EPMO. As EPMOs have a wider range of tasks, it is important to establish a clear criteria for specific features your EPMO team needs and not get lost under the mountain of tools and features different services promote. There’s no point in having all these fancy tools if they don’t achieve what your EPMO aims to accomplish. To help make sure you’re picking the right PPM software for your EPMO, we’ve made an introductory guide for PPM software so you find the best fit for your team.

Step eight: Implement organizational change management

Establishing an EPMO often means big change and change isn’t always welcome. Once all the steps, processes and tools are in place to build the EPMO, it is also important to have a clear change management strategy that helps reduce resistance and ease the change process. Some ways this is done is by establishing continuous communication with teams during the change process to make sure their opinions are heard and valued, constantly reinforcing the collective and individual benefits of the EPMO, and providing all necessary support services, training and mentorship. Building investment into the EPMOs activities depends on how well its value is communicated to all stakeholders.

pmo365 helps you start your EPMO

Whether you’ve got fantastic PMO talent and want to elevate your activities with a new PPM system or you need help building your EPMO from scratch, pmo365 is your all-in-one go to service for anything related to PMOs. Our simple packages are made to provide you with the exact services you need for your organisation’s unique context. We’re confident that we can find the perfect solution with no lock-in and no set-up fee. 

But we don’t stop there! We want to equip you with all the tools and services to build your PMO dream team and find your star players. That’s why we’ve put together a free downloadable guide to finding your next PMO star player. We’ve also made a free PMO job platform that connects you with quality PMO talent out in the field. Post your job today!

Maurizio Marmotta

Maurizio Marmotta

Maurizio is a PMO Specialist at EPM Partners and has 25 years of experience in workflow software, data-driven decisioning tools, digital marketing.

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