Chandra Akinapalli, CGI

Chandra Akinapalli

Director Consulting Delivery

An enterprise project management office (EPMO) differs from a traditional project management office (PMO) in that it operates at the strategic level of an organization. Working on an organization-wide basis, an EPMO provides guidance, governance and best practices, while also standardizing processes.  EPMOs work closely with executives to ensure that project activity aligns with the overall strategic goals, while providing benefit to the organization as a whole.  

Misalignment between project goals and business strategy is one of the most common reasons for project failure. Organizations that establish an EPMO with the goal of aligning projects and strategy experience 11.5 percent fewer project failures, according to the Project Management Institute’s “Pulse of the Profession 2020.”

PMO and EPMO: What's the difference? 

A PMO is usually aligned with a business unit, often one within the IT department that reports to the CIO or CTO. The PMO’s impact on the organization’s overall success serves as the key measure of effectiveness within federal agencies and many businesses. This has led to the rising popularity of EPMOs, as their broad reach at the strategic level has the potential to exert greater influence.
A typical PMO determines the best ways to meet specific project needs and delivers solutions, while the EPMO’s strategic role involves choosing which projects an organization should pursue. 

So how does the EPMO differ from the traditional PMO, and how does an organization decide whether to establish an EPMO, PMO or both?

An EPMO oversees all enterprise-wide projects. The responsibilities of an EPMO include:

  • Aligning strategic business objectives with various enterprise programs;
  • Overseeing projects of high strategic value, high value proposition and  high complexity, and;
  • Coordinating individual PMOs, and aligning project, program and portfolio activities

The EPMO takes responsibility for multiple projects and multiple teams, managing a growing portfolio and aiding project managers in individual PMOs. 

Several areas of responsibility may fall under either the EPMO or a PMO, depending on the agency culture and organizational structure, goals and other factors. Often, groups share responsibilities-- the EPMO typically defines methodology, tools, metrics and other strategic choices, while the PMO is responsible for implementation. Areas of responsibility that may overlap include:

  • Project Management Methodology (PMM)
  • Portfolio and Project Management (PPM) tools
  • Project performance metrics
  • Best practices
  • Resource Management

Advantages of an EPMO

While many agencies find that an EPMO and one or more PMOs work together well, the EPMO provides senior leadership with an enterprise view of programs and projects that a stand-alone PMO cannot deliver.  The bird’s-eye view of the EPMO can prevent duplication, lead to fewer failed projects and provide a more efficient use of resources. 

For example, an effective EPMO includes accounting and analysis skills to help evaluate the return on investments (ROI) for proposed projects. It establishes high-level project management best practices that help in streamlining projects.

An EPMO provides many benefits and serves well as a strategic coordinator of individual project PMOs. However, you must choose whether to develop an EPMO based on how it fits into your agency’s structure and culture. Analyze the structure, cultural barriers, internal operational factors and external influences that might impact the success of the office.

If you take the time to understand the agency culture and agency structure before beginning to plan the EPMO, the ultimate outcome will be worth the effort. 

CGI Federal provides support for multiple federal clients on PMO contracts/IDIQs. We provide support for both EPMOs and PMOs, financial management, procurement, quality control and HR activities. Learn more here



About this author

Chandra Akinapalli, CGI

Chandra Akinapalli

Director Consulting Delivery

Chandra Akinapalli is a director in CGI Federal’s Enterprise Solutions Group.