What is enterprise project management?

According to Paul C. Dinsmore in Winning in Business with Enterprise Project Management, you can transform a company with an enterprise project management (EPM) mindset and boost overall organizational productivity. 

By systematically implementing projects across the enterprise, you can manage those projects better and thus improve overall business results.

In this blog post, we’ll help you grasp the enterprise project management concept by covering the following EPM topics:

  • The definition of enterprise project management,
  • Differences between EPM and project management,
  • The benefits of enterprise project management and EPM systems,
  • The importance of Enterprise Project Management Offices (EPMOs) within organizations,
  • Enterprise project managers’ roles and responsibilities followed by an example,
  • 7 components of EPM,
  • 5 steps to EPM implementation, and
  • 6 first-hand expert tips on EPM.

So, let’s dive in.

What is enterprise project management - cover

What is enterprise project management?

Enterprise project management is the systematic implementation of project management tools, skills, and techniques to all types of projects across an organization.

As explained in Creating the Project Office: A Manager’s Guide to Leading Organizational Change, the systemic approach to managing “a web of simultaneous projects” adds value to a business and makes company goals more achievable. 

As outlined in this book, an organization-wide project management approach should be used when managing:

  • Corporate strategy projects, 
  • Operations improvement projects, 
  • Organizational transformation projects, and 
  • Traditional development projects.

To move the organization towards the enterprise project management concept, companies should view all ongoing activities as unique projects and carry them out using general project management approaches

Such activities might be:

Enterprise project management vs. traditional project management

As explained in Winning in Business with Enterprise Project Management, traditional project management aims at managing a single project

To be more specific, it is concerned with the tactics of managing a specific project throughout all its project phases

On the other hand, enterprise project management aims at managing a whole enterprise

So, it focuses on how to run an organization following general project management principles, tools, and techniques.

To get insights into what EPM looks like from the expert perspective, we reached out to Carla Smith, MBA, PMP, PHR, an Enterprise Project Manager at Outreach, who has a rich background in working with both small and enterprise clients.

Here’s how Carla explains the term “enterprise project management” as opposed to general project management:

Carla Smith

“[Enterprise project management encompasses] projects that involve delivery of goods or a service to larger companies, i.e., Fortune 500 — companies with a large employee base. The number of employees that determines whether a company is enterprise can vary from company to company. But often 1,000 or 2,500+ employees can be considered an ENT client project.”

Carla emphasizes that the difference between these 2 terms does exist, stating:

Carla Smith

“General project management can apply to a multitude of internal or external projects done for an infinite number of reasons. Although there are different definitions of an ENT project, my experience has been defined and based on the client size for which the project is being delivered.”

What are the benefits of enterprise project management?

The PM Solutions 2022 research, The Power of the Enterprise PMO, shows that companies that use a Project Management Office (PMO) for project management perform better. 

However, in the research, Enterprise PMOs were singled out as the PMOs that bring the most benefits to their organizations.

Based on this research’s findings on EPMOs, we can conclude that the benefits of enterprise project management, in general, are the following:

  • Reducing project costs,
  • Shortening the time it takes to finish projects,
  • Aligning projects with overall business objectives,
  • Improving project team members’ skills, 
  • Increasing stakeholder satisfaction, and
  • Delivering projects on budget.

What are the benefits of EPM systems?

As explained by Mark Upson in Doing the Right Projects vs. Doing Projects Right, using the right EPM tool can greatly contribute to overall project visibility, as it allows:

  • Better coordination and communication across different organizational units, 
  • Access to real-time insights into project status, and
  • Being more agile and responsive to changes.

Here’s what Carla Smith says about the main benefits of enterprise project management systems:

Carla Smith

“[Some of the main benefits of enterprise project management include:]

  • Accumulated SME knowledge around ENT management. 
  • A project methodology that meets the needs and expectations of larger, more structured, and oftentimes more traditional clients (formalized process, comprehensive/robust methodology, program consideration, inclusive approach).”

Carla further adds:

Carla Smith

“ENT PM Sys accounts for the needs and nuances of large clients and should offer the ability to be flexible in solutioning.”

For example, here’s how you can track tasks and projects in real-time with the Plaky project management software:

Managing tasks in project management tool — Plaky
Managing tasks in project management tool — Plaky

The importance of EPMOs within organizations

Nowadays, many large organizations establish Enterprise PMOs, which are responsible for aligning all initiatives with corporate strategies. 

Typically, the highest corporate-level PMOs gradually evolve from lower-level PMOs. 

Recently, there’s been a growing need for companies to align strategic initiatives with corporate business objectives. This has led PMOs to rise to the enterprise level and become the building block for EPM.

The question that naturally arises is whether all organizations need an EPMO.

Carla Smith explains that the answer to this question depends on the following 3 factors:

  • The size of the organization
  • The size of the project, and 
  • Who is delivering the projects.

According to Carla, it is important to think of an EPMO in the following situation:

Carla Smith

“If delivering goods or services to clients of all sizes, and there is a high volume of projects AND pricing, scope, deliverables, etc., vary by client size — then YES, a separate team/ENT PMO focused on these clients usually works best, given the projects will vary (based on client expectations, scope, timeline, complexity, onboarding and more).”

On the other hand, there are certain cases when EPMOs might not be necessary:

Carla Smith

“If projects are mostly internal initiatives, I would think, NO [EMPOs might not be necessary]. If the delivering organization is fairly small or young and PM resources tend to lead a bit of every type of project, I would say NO.”

What is the role of an enterprise project manager?

Generally speaking, an enterprise project manager oversees company-wide project management. 

As the article Project Management Roles and Responsibilities explains, project executives usually come from within the ranks of high-performance project managers and go by many different names, depending on the organization.

Though enterprise project managers’ duties vary from one company to another, they do hold certain roles and responsibilities in common:

  • Maintaining effective communication with senior management,
  • Developing and managing the enterprise project portfolio management process,
  • Facilitating program/project reviews of key enterprise programs and projects,
  • Ensuring that all projects have clear project goals, project objectives, and project timelines, consistent with corporate strategy and goals,
  • Overseeing the preparation of documentation, project status reports, budget reports, etc.
  • Promoting the development of project management culture across an enterprise,
  • Overseeing education and mentoring for staff and management regarding project management,
  • Integrating the corporate project decision-making with corporate strategy, and
  • Identifying needed corporate process improvements to effectively drive change within an organization.

A real-life example of an enterprise project manager’s responsibilities

Now that we’ve covered the theory on enterprise project managers’ responsibilities, let’s examine what it looks like to do this job in real life.

On that matter, again, we’ve turned to Carla Smith as she’s worked with several companies where she’s been managing multiple projects on an enterprise level:

Carla Smith

“I’ve managed new client implementations, expansions, and platform optimization projects for global Enterprise clients onto a Sales Execution Platform. This included onboarding teams of 100 – 3,000 users.”

Here’s what Carla’s typical day and week included:

Carla Smith
  • “New client kickoff meetings,
  • New internal team KO meetings,
  • Stakeholder alignment and management,
  • Client and internal team communications, 
  • Resource management, 
  • Scope/budget management (resource utilization, project weeks, etc), 
  • Weekly reporting, 
  • Facilitating weekly internal and client status meetings, 
  • Drafting and introducing change orders as needed, 
  • Managing timeline, project progression and deliverables based on project scope & schedule, following up where needed, 
  • Working closely with client PM, obtaining milestone sign-offs, supporting team as needed, 
  • Attending my team and PMO meetings. 
  • Contributing to and leading internal PMO initiatives and projects etc.”

What are the 7 components of enterprise project management?

According to The AMA Handbook of Project Management, there are 7 components of EPM: 

  • Strategic alignment,
  • Risk management,
  • Portfolio management,
  • Organization,
  • Stakeholder management,
  • Performance evaluation, and
  • Business transformation.

Let’s analyze these components in more detail.

Component #1: Strategic alignment

One of the primary responsibilities of EPM is to make sure that all projects are consistent with the company’s strategy and goals.

Component #2: Risk management

Risk management is necessary to identify and analyze possible project risks and protect the company against them. 

Managing risks includes various actions that prevent undesired consequences, such as:

  • Managing finances, 
  • Effectively responding to changes,
  • Reacting to natural disasters, or
  • Reacting to political instabilities.

Component #3: Portfolio management

Portfolio management allows a clear overview of all individual projects within the portfolio. 

With the big-picture view, portfolio management facilitates a detailed understanding of all ongoing and proposed projects within an organization.

Component #4: Organization

According to The AMA Handbook of Project Management, there are 3 main organizational components to enterprise project management:

  • Executive leadership, 
  • The portfolio management team, and 
  • Program and project managers.

Effective enterprise project management includes clear collaboration at all 3 levels, as well as clear oversight of all governance activities that take place. 

Component #5: Stakeholder management

Stakeholder management implies communicating with all stakeholders to understand their expectations and eventually reach a shared result. 

According to Creating the Project Office, principal stakeholders for enterprise project management implementation include:

  • Top management, 
  • Project managers and project team members
  • Functional managers, 
  • Internal change agents, and 
  • Consulting support personnel.

Component #6: Performance evaluation

Effective enterprise project management includes analyzing how EPM contributes to benefits realization by periodically measuring and monitoring overall performance.

Component #7: Business transformation

The ability to achieve business transformation and remain agile is another key component of enterprise project management. 

It determines whether an organization will be able to respond and adapt to changing conditions.

How to implement enterprise project management

As explained in The AMA Handbook of Project Management, how you will implement EPM depends on several factors, such as:

  • The actual need, 
  • The existing culture, 
  • The presence of a champion, and a 
  • The presence of a feasible plan for making the implementation. 

As explained in Creating the Project Office — “the move toward enterprise project management normally begins with a group of advocates, a group of dedicated people in the organization who want to improve project management.” 

Now and then, “the [enterprise project management] movement is initiated by an upper management sponsor”.

The AMA Handbook offers several steps on how to implement enterprise project management in cases where there is:

  • A lack of awareness about how project management is beneficial to an organization,
  • A lack of a project management culture, 
  • A lack of expertise in change management, or
  • Insufficient sponsorship.

Now, here are the 5 steps to EPM implementation: 

  1. Increase training programs in project management basics,
  2. Encourage the use of project management techniques,
  3. Create awareness at the executive level,
  4. Identify potential sponsors, and
  5. Stimulate implementation and development of PMOs.

Step #1: Increase training programs in project management basics

Paul C. Dinsmore and Terence J. Cooke-Davies — the authors of Right Project Done Right! — explain that “As the number of professionals who go through training programs increases, the overall capacity of companies to manage projects effectively grows”.

What’s more, The State of the PMO 2022 report by PM Solutions found that 76% of top PMOs provide Project Management Basics training

Evidently, training programs are an important step on the road to successful enterprise project management implementation.

Step #2: Encourage the use of project management techniques

The AMA Handbook highlights that all types of projects across an enterprise should use project management techniques, including the following projects: 

  • Engineering, 
  • IT, 
  • Research and development,
  • New product development, 
  • Marketing, and
  • Human resources.

Step #3: Create awareness at the executive level 

Creating the Project Office explains that “Awareness of need is the first step in any change.” 

However, to develop that kind of awareness, it’s necessary to grab people’s attention first.

The AMA Handbook advises raising awareness about the need for a company-wide project management approach through:

  • Literature, 
  • Benchmarking, and 
  • Conferences.

Step #4: Identify potential sponsors

According to Right Projects Done Right!, it’s the senior executives who normally take on the sponsor’s role, as they possess the necessary knowledge, credibility, and project management skills

Identifying sponsors is a crucial step in implementing EPM while their role is critical to the success of projects in general. 

Sponsors can play several essential roles, such as:

  • The owner of the business case — the one to identify the corporate value of a project,
  • The “harvester” of benefits — the one who is accountable for benefits realization,
  • The governor of the project — the one who makes sure that the project delivers the required product or service,
  • A “friend in high places” — the one who carries out stakeholder management with other senior executives.
  • The champion of the project — the one whose leadership skills will influence the way people see the project across an entire enterprise.

Step #5: Stimulate implementation and development of PMOs

As Paul C. Dinsmore explains in the article, Winning in Business with Enterprise Project Management, project management needs to “reside somewhere”

Some form of a project office has to exist as it:

  • Provides necessary support regarding project management, and
  • Ensures that project management is efficiently applied across the organization.

6 Expert tips on how to improve enterprise project management 

If you’re looking for expert advice on how to improve EPM — you’re at the right place.

We’ve asked Carla Smith to share some valuable tips with us, and here are her 6 tips:

  • Start the project as a partnership,
  • Understand the client’s expectations,
  • Learn about the client’s internal processes,
  • Align before planning, 
  • Find opportunities to say “yes”, and
  • Remain flexible.

Now, let’s cover the tips in more detail.

Tip #1: Start the project as a partnership

According to Carla, it’s good if the client is directly involved in the project:

Carla Smith

“Initiate the project as a partnership, allow the client to have some skin in the game starting day one.”

Tip #2: Understand the client’s expectations

Another important EPM tip is to have a clear understanding of the client’s expectations:

Carla Smith

“Understand how the client envisions the project. It may be your methodology but it’s their money, service, and company that the project is for. Understand their expectations so that you can align or realign as necessary.”

Tip #3: Learn about the client’s internal processes

Carla advises that it’s best to learn about the client’s internal processes by answering some of the following questions:

Carla Smith

“Get insight into how the client operates and runs projects internally. 

  • Are they done with essential resources only or is it a free for all and everyone likes to be involved and included in decision making? 
  • What type of organizational structure do they have? 
  • Do they have a long and lengthy approval process on things? 
  • Are there multiple people or teams that decisions have to go through before finalizing? 
  • What are their expectations for the project, etc.?”

Tip #4: Align before planning

Carla explains that with enterprise clients upfront alignment is essential for the planning process:

Carla Smith

“The more you know, the more you can account for in your planning. And then in your alignment discussion so that everything known can either be incorporated into the plan or if it cannot be or is outside of the contracted scope, available options can be presented.”

Carla further emphasizes the importance of understanding the client’s needs:

Carla Smith

“UPFRONT ALIGNMENT is the key, but not just your alignment, it’s important to allow an ENT client the opportunity to present their priorities and needs to ensure that you understand and are aligned with them as well.”

Tip #5: Find opportunities to say ”yes”

Carla also advises that, throughout the enterprise project, it’s good to do the following:

Carla Smith

“Seek opportunities to say ”yes” and to meet the client’s needs.”

Tip #6: Remain flexible

Another EPM expert tip from Carla is to nurture flexibility:

Carla Smith

“Stay flexible! In your methodology, approach, processes etc. The more they understand their areas of ownership and impact to the project scope, governance and timeline, the more they will stay aligned and partner for a successful completion or at least be informed and ready, should changes and/or additions to the scope be needed or desired.”

Conclusion: Understanding enterprise project management requires understanding project management concepts in general.

After extensive research, we’ve come to the conclusion that enterprise project management is a complex concept that can be seen from various angles. 

However, these are the 2 most common viewpoints on enterprise project management: 

  • Enterprise project management as an approach to managing an enterprise, and
  • Enterprise project management as a way of managing large enterprise projects.

How you choose to understand this term is rather individual, but in both cases, being acquainted with general project management concepts will facilitate the understanding of enterprise project management in general.

✉️ Do you have any other interesting insights about enterprise project management? If yes, feel free to contact us at blogfeedback@plaky.com, and we may include your ideas in this or any other future blog posts. Also, if you liked this blog post and found it useful, share it with someone you think would also benefit from it. 

IsidoraDjekic Isidora  Djekic

Isidora is a project management author and researcher at Plaky. She graduated from the Faculty of Philology, University of Belgrade where she got her MA degree in English. Isidora’s guiding principle as a writer is to create reliable content enriched with both textbook and real-life examples.