Enterprise This: The Benefits of Establishing an Enterprise Program Management Office

Organizations and agencies in the private and public sectors differ in their information technology (IT) organizational and delivery structures to develop IT products and solutions to end-users and customers. One type of structure includes the enterprise project or program management office (EPMO). A research paper conducted by the Project Management Institute (PMI) evaluated the different types of PMO structures through the input of PMO subject matter experts (SMEs) and conducted a survey of leaders across different PMO structures. As defined in the paper, “The Enterprise PMO is the highest-level PMO entity in an organization, often responsible for:

  • Alignment of project and program work to corporate strategy
  • Establishing and ensuring appropriate enterprise project, program, and portfolio governance
  • Performing portfolio management functions to ensure strategy alignment and benefits realization
  • Related functions responsible for alignment of initiatives to corporate strategy”

Additionally, the PMI research paper found through its survey that schedule/cost/scope management, portfolio reporting, and methodology definition were the primary functions of an EPMO ((http://www.pmi.org/-/media/pmi/documents/public/pdf/learning/thought-leadership/pulse/pmo-frameworks.pdf) Overall, organizations that seek to consolidate and execute their IT programs and projects under an enterprise strategic vision may benefit from the establishment of an EPMO. Citing the newly established EPMO under the Office of Information & Technology (OI&T) at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the article provides the high-level features and benefits of an EPMO, which includes the following:

  • Description a generic EPMO organizational structure and business functions
  • Discussion about EPMO delivery frameworks
  • Measuring the success of an EPMO through metrics at different levels of an EPMO structure

EPMO Organizational Structure

Organizations that deliver IT products may currently have projects or initiatives that are localized or isolated from the organizational strategic vision. As a result, concurrent projects or initiatives can lead to redundancy in processes and tools due to lack of communication, standardization, and organizational learning. To resolve these issues, an establishment of an EPMO structure can deliver a centralized approach to IT development. Figure 1 provides a generic EPMO structure that demonstrates this approach.

 

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Figure 1: Generic EPMO Structure

Under this structure, EPMO leadership oversees all EPMO functions and objectives. EPMO leadership monitors progress of all sub-offices and IT portfolios in order to meet organizational needs and objectives. The sub-offices within the EPMO help to support EPMO leadership and foster IT delivery for each IT portfolio. Functions of the sub-offices in the EPMO may include are not limited to:

  • Conducting business cases analyses for new internal or external IT development opportunities
  • Providing resources, training, and dashboard products to support the delivery of the IT portfolios
  • Communicating with external stakeholders and offices

Lastly, the IT Portfolios oversee the programs and projects that deliver IT solutions and products to end-users or customers. Each portfolio may align to a major initiative within the organization and may vary in size. Additionally, managers within the portfolio, program and project levels ensure the successful delivery of IT solutions or products.

Established in 2015, the EPMO under OI&T at the VA uses a similar organizational model. Led by the Deputy Assistance Secretary (DAS), the VA OI&T EPMO oversees the execution of major IT portfolios to deliver IT products to VA business units and Veterans. By using this model, the VA OI&T EPMO has allowed programs and projects under this IT portfolio structure to communicate with leadership and sub-offices to ensure they are meeting the technological needs of Veterans.

EPMO Delivery Framework

A key component of implementing an EPMO structure is establishing one or more multiple delivery frameworks to execute all functions of the EPMO. One example of a delivery framework includes the Scale Agile Framework (SAFe), which is a Lean-Agile framework implemented at an enterprise scale (http://www.scaledagileframework.com/about/). Using this type of framework can allow members of an EPMO structure to communicate more effectively and improve the quality of IT products or solutions. Additionally, it can ensure that the objectives of IT portfolios within the EPMO structure are aligned to an enterprise business strategy, such as strategic themes as described under SAFe (http://www.scaledagileframework.com/strategic-themes/).

The VA OI&T EPMO incorporates multiple delivery framework models to execute the functions of the office, including SAFe and the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) Service Management (ITSM). Additionally, the VA OI&T EPMO established an internal delivery framework named the Veteran-focused Integration Process (VIP), which applies Lean-Agile principles at the portfolio, program, and project levels to deliver IT solutions to Veterans (VIP Guide). By using multiple delivery frameworks, the VA OI&T EPMO embraces frequent communication and standard business processes at all levels to mitigate impediments in IT delivery to VA business units and Veterans. This demonstrates the benefit of using a standardized framework for an EPMO structure.

Measuring EPMO Success

A major benefit of standing up an EPMO structure is that it allows leadership to monitor and quantify the successful delivery of IT products through a consolidated approach. Metrics may provide EPMO leadership with qualitative and quantitative insights into the outcomes of the IT portfolios, programs, and projects. For example, the VA OI&T EPMO IT portfolio structure uses metrics across each level to communicate more effectively and to share trends and patterns of success. Examples include SAFe and Agile-based metrics at the portfolio, program and project levels, such as time to market, customer satisfaction, and Program and Sprint velocity (http://www.scaledagileframework.com/metrics). Overall, the use of metrics can provide useful information to EPMO leadership to ensure the EPMO is meeting its key objectives and initiatives while gaining visibility and transparency into each level of the organizational structure. Additionally, outcomes of these metrics can allow EPMO leadership to provide continuous updates to organizational leadership and stakeholders on the progress of EPMO functions.

Summary

Organizations that seek to consolidate their programs and projects to meet their enterprise strategic visions and objectives should consider establishing an EPMO structure. As demonstrated by the VA OI&T EPMO, organizations can use the EPMO structure to consolidate their programs and projects that were previously isolated into a unified portfolio structure to meet enterprise objectives.

For further consideration, executives within an organization and agency who wish to establish an EPMO structure should consider multiple factors to determine the best implementation strategy and approach, including but not limited to:

  • Establishing goals and objectives of the EPMO
  • Developing a plan for stakeholder engagement and communications with other offices within the organization or agency
  • Adhering to EPMO delivery framework models
  • Establishing governance policies of major IT initiatives

Ultimately, the establishment of EPMO can allow an organization and agency to foster effective communication, reduce redundancies in business processes and tools, and improve the quality and delivery of IT products and solutions.

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