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Leadership & Team Management
Enterprise Project Portfolio Management: Definition & Best Tools

Growing pains aren’t only for teenagers. The larger an organization becomes, the greater the risk that it will lose sight of what is needed to continue to cultivate a healthy business. What strategic goals should you set? How do you know they are the right goals? Are teams working on projects that execute against those goals? How are they measuring progress?

Enterprise project portfolio management could be a solution for your organization to maintain a healthy perspective as it scales. In this article, you’ll learn:

What Is Enterprise Project Portfolio Management?

Enterprise project portfolio management involves translating an organization’s business strategy into a portfolio of projects and associated tactical actions. Successful delivery of these projects enables an organization to achieve its strategic objectives.

What Makes PPM At The Enterprise Level Different?

Similar to enterprise PPM, project portfolio management involves managing a group of interrelated projects in a centralized fashion, with the goal of unlocking an organization’s strategic objectives.

The major difference is that, in enterprise PPM, the projects you are selecting, prioritizing, and managing reside at the executive, rather than the business unit, level. These are C-suite projects that span multiple lines of business—endeavors like organizational transformation, market readiness, or financial modernization.

What Is An Enterprise Project Management Office?

An enterprise project management office (or EPMO) can help you manage a portfolio of enterprise-level projects in a coordinated way. 

Rather than juggle a portfolio of business-critical projects across a team of executives too busy to deal with them, only to miss targets quarter after quarter, an EPMO can act as a single-threaded owner to drive project alignment, accountability, and execution across multiple business functions.

An EPMO offers several benefits:

  • Identifies potential areas of redundancy across business units
  • Creates a clear mechanism for project selection and prioritization
  • Improves resource allocation
  • Uses performance data to collect lessons learned and improve project execution.

Signs Your Organization Is Ready For EPPM

Adopting EPPM sounds good in theory. But, how do you know if your organization is ready to implement EPPM and/or an EPMO? Ask yourself the following questions:

Project Selection

  • Can team members consistently articulate the business strategy, no matter where they fall within the organization? 
  • Can team members explain how their daily work aligns to the big picture strategy?

Project Prioritization

  • Do you spend 50% of your time or more making progress against previously articulated goals, or is most of your time spent “fighting fires”?
  • Does your organization have a track record of successful project completion?

Project Execution

  • Are you working on any projects that span multiple business units?
  • As a leader, do you have real-time visibility into project execution?
  • Are you able to effectively make progress against business-critical projects to prepare you for the next stage of growth?

If you answered “no” to two or more of the above questions, your organization may be ready for EPPM.

How To Set Up EPPM?

explanation of the 5 steps in setting up EPPM with an icon for each step

Below is a five-step plan for successfully implementing EPPM at your organization:

  1. Inventory ongoing projects at the business unit level to understand the current state.
  2. Create and set OKRs or KPIs at the enterprise level.
    1. What do you want to achieve in the next year? How will you get there?
  1. Compare the list of ongoing projects with your company OKRs or KPIs.
    1. Make any required updates to align your list of projects with your list of OKRs. This may involve making some tough choices to cancel or postpone projects that do not match your top organizational priorities.
    2. Rightsize the project list. It’s unrealistic to accomplish 15 projects in a quarter, even if they perfectly align with your OKRs. Even if you had the staffing capacity, no one is going to pay attention to that many goals. Ruthlessly prioritize to optimize performance on your most critical engagements.
  2. Create a reporting system for teams to record project progress that feeds into portfolio and OKR tracking at the leadership level. Although it may take some time to build, this system needs to be user-friendly and easy to maintain to encourage continued usage.
  3. Monitor and control.
    1. Come up with a process to reset OKRs on a specified cadence (quarterly or annually) that is relatively light touch and simple to maintain (e.g., it should not take more than one month to craft OKRs for the next quarter).
    2. In addition to tracking project progress, document lessons learned along with some type of decision log about why the organization deprioritized certain projects. That way, you won’t waste time rehashing prior conversations.

Enterprise Project Portfolio Management Software

PPM software is your friend when it comes to doing EPPM well. 

As a project manager, your goal is to:

  • Minimize the amount of time team members spend on reporting (or work about work)
  • Maximize the amount of time and energy team members spend on project execution
  • Give leadership the information they need to see, at a glance, without forcing them to weed through extraneous details.

Start simple. You can always supplement with customized reports later in the project lifecycle

To get you started, check out DPM’s guide to enterprise project portfolio management software. If you need more inspiration, DPM also has resources on project portfolio management software and enterprise project management software.

Related read: What is an enterprise project management tool?

What’s Next?

The Digital Project Manager newsletter is a one-stop-shop for project management insights. Subscribe here for more information about enterprise project portfolio management and lots of other interesting topics.

Learn more about what enterprise project management is here.

By Sarah Hoban

Sarah is a project manager and former strategy consultant with 10+ years of experience leading cross-functional teams to execute high-risk multi-million dollar projects. She excels at diagnosing and prioritizing project problems and building and maintaining strong relationships to improve how teams do business. Sarah is passionate about productivity, leadership, building community, and her home state of New Jersey.

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