Enterprise project management: What it is and how to apply it

July 5th, 20218 min read
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Projects are like building blocks for a company’s success. To help them run smoothly and efficiently, companies rely on project management. 

For large organizations that have multiple projects running at once, project management can be scaled up to the level of enterprise project management (EPM).

An enterprise project manager oversees the various projects occurring simultaneously across different departments to ensure that they’re meeting company expectations and goals. 

From a strategic standpoint, applying this practice can bring returns in terms of profit, productivity, and improved project management practices. 

Transitioning to EPM can be a significant undertaking, so to help you better understand the process, this guide explains how EPM works, its benefits, how it affects different project management phases, and ways to implement EPM to improve team collaboration. 

What is enterprise project management?

Enterprise project management is the practice of managing multiple projects on a companywide scale. It requires developing standard processes to streamline project management across the company.  

The purpose of EPM is to link the company’s goals and objectives with ongoing projects to ensure the company is directing its resources to the right places at the right time. 

What is enterprise project management?

It also means managing the interdependent elements between projects and making sure that projects reach the finish line on time, and on budget. 

Company hierarchies and structure vary, but the enterprise project management office (EPMO) should sit at the strategic planning level. EPM may be overseen by enterprise project managers or delivery managers. The EPMO reports to C-suite leaders, such as the chief operating officer or chief project officer. 

In addition to project portfolio management, the EPMO may also:

In essence, the purpose of EPM is to improve the quality and effectiveness of project management on a large scale and make sure projects are delivering value to the company.

Read: New to strategic planning? Start here.

Elements of enterprise project management

There are seven elements that make up the EPM model, according to the PMI. Some processes are derived from traditional project management but applied on a larger scale, and others are unique to the EPMO. 

Elements of enterprise project management

1. Risk analysis

Risk analysis pertains to identifying and assessing the qualitative and quantitative impact of the risks to a project so that appropriate measures can be taken to mitigate them. 

Risk analysis can be complex since it requires experience and thorough knowledge of the project portfolio and company. To make risk analysis more manageable, you can apply EPM standards, such as:

  • Getting the enterprise product manager to hold project managers accountable for their mitigation plans.

  • Establishing a metric to measure projected risks, current risks, and contingency reserves.

  • Using a project estimation technique that allows for risk mitigation through contingency plans.

Integrating risk analysis with EPM processes can give the management team more control when deciding how much risk to accept when weighing against the returns of the project. 

Read: What is a risk register: a project manager’s guide (and example)

2. Structured estimating

Project estimating is a key component of project management, which includes estimating project costs, resources, or duration. EPM sets the standards for structured estimating for project managers. For example, the EPMO would define the standard lifecycle for project delivery and provide examples of previous projects for project managers to reference. 

The EPMO would also provide training to PMOs on estimating strategies, such as three-point estimation and the Delphi technique

3. Project reviews

Periodic project reviews look at the progress of current projects as well as potential risks. The EPMO might conduct four types of reviews: project commitment, startup, progress, and close-out. The purpose of these reviews is to check on project standards, status, and issues, and whether updates are needed for the risk mitigation plan.

One approach to doing project reviews is to assign colors indicating the level of importance (red/yellow/green) to different aspects of the project, such as delivery, client, team, and budget. That way, the most urgent issues can be brought up and addressed at management meetings. 

Read: How to write an effective project status report

4. Project management coaching

Project management can be a stressful job without adequate training and resources. EPMOs invest in PMOs by providing training to help project managers develop the technical and management skills required for the job. Training can be provided by  in-house or externally sourced project management experts.

Additionally, EPMOs provide mentors to project managers to support them during project planning, project execution, decision-making, and problem-solving.  

5. Escalated issue management

Escalation in project management moves an issue to a higher level of priority. These issues might require intervention from the executive team. To improve the issue management system, the EPMO is responsible for developing common rules and processes for escalation that are applied across departments. 

The EPMO reviews the list of open escalated issues at management meetings to identify common causes for these issues and propose any necessary departmental, systemic, or organizational changes. 

Read: Incident management: How to create a plan (plus 7 best practices)

6. Time accounting

Time can be of the essence in the project lifecycle. Having a sound time tracking system allows for precise measurements of where time is spent on a project. The EPMO can use data from each team's timesheets to develop guidelines for future project planning and estimating.

7. Information system

The information system is the backbone of EPM. Using robust enterprise project management software can be a huge time-saver when it comes to planning, reporting, and tracking projects. 

For example, Asana’s reporting tool is convenient for tracking the progress of projects in real time and provides flexibility in allowing you to gather and share insights across project teams and departments. 

The project data gathered may be used in these four types of reports:

  1. Resource utilization

  2. Resource usage

  3. Project progress

  4. Project activity

With insights from these reports, you are better equipped to empower your team to do better work along the way.  

Read: How to choose project management software for your team

How to implement enterprise project management

If your teams are having difficulty keeping track of current projects and effectively monitoring progress and results, EPM is a potential solution. 

First, the structure of the company should be set up to support the EPM system, which might bring about changes to the company. Before transitioning to EPM, the management team needs to analyze the current company structure, identify potential barriers from an operational standpoint, and decide whether it’s a good strategy long term.

Once your company is ready to implement EPM, follow these steps to get started:

1. Define how EPM will be used

The initial step involves determining how EPM will be used through reviewing current processes and identifying problems. Consider questions such as:

  • What are the responsibilities of the EPMO?

  • What resources are required to make this move?

  • How will EPM contribute to the company’s strategic objectives?  

  • Who will take on the new role(s)?

Each of these questions will help you to implement a successful EPM process.  

2. Stakeholder involvement

The next phase involves conveying your plan to stakeholders or board members. Explain the benefits of the move to EPM and how it will be executed. 

3. Rollout EPM processes

To get EPM up and running, you need to create a list of requirements and phases for implementation. This list would detail the changes to current teams, technologies, and training that stakeholders agreed upon. The rollout can be phased over time or have a set date.

Read: What is change management? 6 steps to build a successful change management process

4. Check in on EPM implementation

Conduct periodic reviews on the progress of the EPM rollout. Check in on how the new EPMO is doing, how well they mesh with other PMOs, and identify potential challenges as the transition continues. This is also the time to bring up any issues to the management team and make adjustments to the rollout plan as needed. 

As teams shift around, the human resources department may also need to modify processes to support the new EPM model. EPMO team members may also require additional resources such as equipment, EPM software, and relevant training. 

Enterprise project management methodologies

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to EPM since it depends on your company’s resources, processes, and goals. Here are some ways that EPM can be integrated with current project management processes.

Project selection

This is the process of assessing project ideas and prioritizing ideas that support the overall organizational goal. Projects must be approved and contribute to organizational success, otherwise, they may waste the company’s resources. 

Project planning

Before jumping into a project, it’s important to start with a clear project plan with the stages mapped out. This is especially crucial for complex projects that have longer timelines or interact with multiple departments. When planning, it may be helpful to use Gantt charts or Kanban boards to break down and schedule tasks. The EPMO should set the standards for creating project plans and budget forecasting. 

Read: How to create a project plan that works to keep you on track

Project termination

Not all selected projects will be successful or deliver expected results. Enterprise project managers should be able to recognize projects that have the potential to deliver promised returns and underperforming projects that should be terminated early. The EPMO should also design termination plans for both successful and unsuccessful projects.

Project controls

Project controls are processes for gathering project data and tracking progress. Activities may include monitoring costs, creating a work breakdown structure to visualize deliverables, and coming up with strategies to improve project performance.

Standardizing project management processes with the help of EPM will streamline future project lifecycles, which benefits both the PMOs and the company itself. 

EPMO vs PMO

Enterprise project management and traditional project management have overlapping responsibilities, but they differ in purpose and scope. Below is a more detailed comparison of the two systems.

EPMO vs PMO

Traditional project management

Project management centers around the question of how to get a project done "effectively and efficiently," according to Paul Dinsmore from the Project Management Institute (PMI). 

  • How it operates: A project management office (PMO) is responsible for planning, managing, and executing projects to meet requirements without necessarily focusing on the company’s high-level goals. PMOs operate on a tactical and operational level, and report to EPMOs. 

  • What the role requires: Project managers should be proficient at leading, communicating, and problem-solving. Project managers should be well-versed in project roadmapping, planning, and task management. Additionally, they should be familiar with different management styles such as Agile, Scrum, and waterfall.  

Read: Everything you need to know to become a project manager

Enterprise project management (EPM)

EPM is more focused on the question of how to make the business “more adaptive, responsive, and thus more profitable in a rapidly changing, multi-project environment,” according to Dinsmore.

  • How it operates: EPMOs have similar responsibilities as PMOs, with the added task of aligning project portfolios with company-wide goals. EPMOs also operate on a strategic level. 

  • What the role requires: Enterprise project managers need to be attentive to detail, be able to balance the dependencies of different projects, and have a deep understanding of the company and the industry. The job may require specialized training for additional technical skills. 

Regardless of their differences, PMOs and EPMOs can work in tandem to bring visibility to projects running across the entire company. 

Benefits of enterprise project management

The biggest merit of bringing EPM to a company is that it can significantly improve current project management practices to better align with the company’s strategic objectives. 

Here’s a breakdown of how EPM can help you and your team. 

Equips you with the resources you need

The EPMO takes charge of resource allocation to make sure that you’re getting the resources you need for your projects. The EPMO can also recognize and bring attention to underfunded projects that have potential. Conversely, they can identify underperforming projects and recommend necessary changes to cut losses.  

Provides additional support for your team

If you ever encounter issues that exceed the scope of your role, you can request assistance from the EPMO. They’ll be able to provide guidance on how to resolve issues or ask the leadership team to step in if need be. The EPMO can also provide mentorship and training to support your professional growth.   

Read: 25 essential project management skills you need to succeed

Improves project success rates

Teams are spending 30% more time on duplicate work every week. EPM helps tackle that issue and improve efficiency by analyzing your team’s timekeeping data and identifying ways to streamline the project workflow to make sure your time is well spent.

Improves overall project management standards

EPM involves establishing a consistent framework for reporting, processes for risk management, and centralizing project and task management. Following these guidelines help you stay organized as you’re coordinating projects and reporting to the EPMO. 

Bring your project management to the enterprise level

Moving to EPM is a big move for a company since it might involve some restructuring, but it’ll improve project management across the board in the long run. 

When defining new project management processes, take advantage of EPM tools like project management software for more convenient project planning and reporting. 

Managing projects on a company-wide level can be a lot of work. Read our guide to 9 strategies to successfully manage multiple projects.

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