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Are you working on projects that are important to your organization’s strategy? How do you know? Do you feel you know how to manage enterprise projects? If your answer is anything less than 100% yes to these questions, this article is for you. 

You would think that all projects should be aligned with an organization’s key business goals. Studies find that only about half of organizations report that they have an enterprise-wide project management office (EPMO), but those that align their EPMO to the organization’s strategy report 38% more of their projects meet the project goals (PMI).

This means, while some organizations have invested in enterprise project management, many others are leaving project success on the table by failing to execute enterprise projects as a portfolio. 

I remember the first time I was tasked with managing an enterprise project. It felt like a daunting task, and I wasn’t sure where to start. After doing some research and learning from experienced colleagues, I discovered that there are certain steps you can take to make sure your project is successful. 

Fast-forward to today, I have a decade of experience managing enterprise projects and am excited to share some tips and tricks with you so you can skip some of the painful learning experiences I endured along the way to understanding how to manage an enterprise project. 

Effective enterprise project management requires careful planning and execution in order for projects to be completed on time and within budget, not least of which includes creating detailed plans aligned to top-level organizational goals and tracking key performance indicators.

In this article, we'll discuss how businesses can leverage the right tools and strategies for successful EPM.

What Is Enterprise Project Management?

Enterprise project management (EPM) is the process of managing both multiple projects and complex projects within an organization. EPM often involves coordination among different departments and project teams, ensuring that each project stays on track and meets its objectives. While each project may be different, they all have an impact on the same organization.

Enterprise project management (EPM) is a process that helps organizations plan, execute, and deliver enterprise-level projects. EPM involves the coordination of resources, timelines, and budgets across multiple departments and stakeholders.

The Project Management Institute (PMI) considers most large-scale projects as part of enterprise project management, and they offer multiple courses and tools for learning how to execute enterprise projects using both traditional project management methodologies and more adaptive, agile, or modern approaches.

Benefits of Enterprise Project Management

Enterprise project management is important because it helps organizations to achieve their strategic objectives. EPM can also help organizations to improve communication and collaboration, optimize resources, and reduce costs. ​​

Organizations that implement an effective enterprise project management strategy will be better positioned to succeed in the ever-changing business landscape.

Challenges of Enterprise Project Management

Many organizations recognize its importance but are challenged by implementing EPM successfully. There are several reasons why organizations struggle. This includes the complexity of EPM, the coordination and communication required between multiple departments and stakeholders, and the lack of knowledge of enterprise-level project management tools.

Despite the challenges, enterprise project management is a critical process for businesses of all sizes.

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What Is An Enterprise Project?

An enterprise project is a large-scale endeavor that involves the coordination of multiple departments and teams within an organization. Enterprise projects usually require extensive planning, resources, and time commitments in order to be successful. 

Enterprise projects can vary greatly in size and scope, but they all have one thing in common: they require complex management solutions to ensure that all components are completed on time and within budget and the outcome of the project is aligned with top-level organizational goals and strategy. 

How do you know if you’re working as an enterprise project manager? 

Understandably, it can be difficult to determine if you are managing an enterprise project or serving as an enterprise project manager. If this is the case, consider asking yourself these questions: 

  1. Can you explain how your projects align with the overall business strategy?
  2. Are you working on any projects that span multiple business units? 
  3. Does your organization have a track record of successful project completion?
  4. Do you collaborate across departments or business units to ensure the project outcomes work for everybody? 

If you answered yes to most or all of these questions, chances are you are an enterprise project manager or working on an enterprise project. 

How To Manage An Enterprise Project

In practice, enterprise project management typically follows a systematic process. The first step is to gather information on the desired outcomes of the project, ensure alignment with top-level organization-wide goals and be aware of any constraints or limitations that might exist. 

This includes gathering data on available resources, budget, timeline, and any special requirements or modifications needed for the project. Next, the project manager will work with the identified delivery team to create a enterprise project plan that outlines the tasks and milestones needed to complete the project. 

This plan should also include strategies for risk management, communication, and quality control.

Once the plan is in place, it's important to monitor progress throughout the lifetime of the project. Regularly checking in with team members and ensuring deadlines are met is vital for successful EPM in addition to looking across-projects to ensure lessons learned are being shared and the organization is learning together to avoid sunk costs, wasted time, and work on projects that are not longer valuable. 

When changes in the project are needed, it's important to adjust processes and plans accordingly, as informed by the top-level organization-wide goals and the context of the challenge and objective at-hand. 

Ultimately, effective enterprise project management requires consistent tracking of tasks, resources, and progress to ensure that projects remain on track and meet their objectives in the context of the organization's top-level goals and strategy. With the right set of tools and practices in place, organizations can manage any type of project successfully. 

One key element of EPM is leveraging consistent key performance indicators (KPIs) across projects. KPIs provide metrics that can be used to measure the success of projects and keep teams on track. These KPIs might include milestones achieved, budget spent, deliverables completed, customer satisfaction ratings, and more. 

Tracking KPIs on a regular basis will help ensure that the project is meeting its desired outcomes, and tracking consistently across projects will identify where more attention or investment is needed across the enterprise project portfolio

Proper communication between all parties involved in the project should be maintained throughout the lifetime of the project. This includes communicating changes and progress, as well as any issues or problems that arise during development. 

Clear and consistent communication among team members and stakeholders can help ensure that the project is completed on time and within budget.

By following effective enterprise project management practices, organizations can successfully manage even the most complex projects. Utilizing a systematic process, tracking key performance indicators, and maintaining open communication across the organization, as informed by the top-level organization-wide goals are all essential components of successful EPM. 

Let’s break this down in a step-by-step guide across the life cycle of an enterprise project:

1. Decide What To Do

Gather information about the desired outcomes of the project and ensure the project is a top priority for the organization overall and the objectives are aligned with top-level organizational goals. Identify any known dependencies or limitations, including those within existing management processes. 

2. Build A Plan

Enterprise project managers should work with the identified delivery team to build a plan for the project based on known requirements and task estimates. Pay attention to resource allocation, including across different projects.

Often in cross-functional teams, people are assigned to multiple individual projects, which can pose a challenge in the project execution phase. Consider resource management challenges and determine if detailed time tracking is required. 

3. Start Executing

Get going! Start the team in executing the project. As the enterprise project manager, facilitate the team in beginning to deliver value. Task management, forecasting, and continued planning is key to execution and ensuring project risks are identified and analyzed along the way. Team collaboration and communication is critical to ensuring continued project progress. 

4. Deal With What Comes Up Along The Way

In my experience, no project goes exactly as planned at the outset. As the project manager, work with the team to adapt to change and encourage active learning. It is possible the change needs will come from within or outside the team. 

Your superpower as a project manager will shine through if you are able to adapt to change rapidly and help others learn and adapt throughout the process. Adaptation to change should be considered to be adopted to your organization’s enterprise project management methodology

5. Finish Strong

As the team nears the end of the project and is delivering the desired outcomes, be sure to manage (sometimes this means cleaning up) all associated information systems, project management tools, plans, and EPM systems. 

As the team delivers value, celebrate success along the way, and be sure to solicit feedback from the team or conduct retrospectives to capture lessons learned, and then share the lessons widely! Helping other team members avoid challenges they faced in the past is one key element of successful enterprise project management. 

10 Tips For Managing Enterprise Projects

Enterprise project management is not a one-size-fits-all solution. There is no single enterprise project management approach that will work for all organizations. When considering enterprise project management, it is important to assess your organization's needs and objectives. 

Once you have a clear understanding of your organization's needs, you can begin to develop an enterprise project management strategy that will work for your organization. As you consider how to create this strategy and manage one or multiple enterprise projects, consider these tips:

  1. Look across the enterprise to ensure the work you are doing (or leading) is unique, valuable, and aligned to the top-level goals and strategy of the company. If you have an enterprise project management office (EPMO) or project management office (PMO) in place, leverage this group to ensure the correct prioritization of key initiatives in alignment with company-wide goals. 
  2. Talk with business unit or department team leaders to build relationships and ease communication down the road. Relationships, especially those with senior management and the extended management team, are critical to developing a strong enterprise project management capability in any organization.
  3. Work with your organization’s leadership to create and set OKRs or KPIs at the enterprise level, these will help guide your project work across teams. Measure project success against these OKRs and KPIs, in real-time if you can. 
  4. Compare the list of ongoing projects with your company’s OKRs or KPIs. Be sure what you are doing continues to be valuable and aligned with top-level goals. If a project you are working on becomes no longer relevant or valuable, stop doing it.
  5. Consistently report progress across projects and teams. Make progress visible to all stakeholders. Share as transparently as you can across the organization and connect to existing OKRs or KPIs at the leadership level.
  6. Ensure decision-making occurs in the context of all other ongoing enterprise projects and strategic initiatives. Avoid building for today or the past, and prioritize building for the future of your organization. Align to the key business objectives of the future to avoid unnecessary re-work or sunk costs due to a short-sighted decision. 
  7. Pay attention to the change management needs of people. Sure, it can be fun to drive widespread change at high-speed, but people need time to adapt. Change is learning, and change requires behavior change, not just knowledge. When leading change, especially in large organizations, be aware of typical responses to change and work to ease the transition for those impacted—the investment will pay dividends if done well. 
  8. Learn, Rinse, Repeat. Document and share lessons learned so that others can learn from your experiences and streamline their work. Continue the process of setting KPIs and OKRs aligned with your strategy and your project initiatives. Make this process part of your organizational culture.
  9. Consider the project management software that is in use in your organization. Software should be additive, not distracting, and not a burden. Work with your organization’s PMO if possible to select enterprise project management software that is aligned with the key priorities of your organization. Bonus points if the EPM software includes workflow automation, integrations with other tools, and templates!
  10. Try not to get too hung up on the specific project artifacts. Sure, Gantt charts, kanban boards, risk registers, and burndown charts might be great to look at, but unless they are directly reflective of the value created, they are not in themselves valuable. Spend most of your time on delivering the outcomes, not the artifacts. 

Get Started with Enterprise Project Management

Enterprise project management is a complex but necessary process for organizations to ensure the success of their projects and alignment with organizational strategy. By leveraging the right tools and strategies, such as systematic processes, performance indicators, and communication plans, businesses can manage even large-scale endeavors with confidence. 

I have managed many enterprise projects successfully, and a few are not so successful that have contributed great value through lessons learned. Those lessons make me a better project manager and have helped me be successful in future endeavors. Learn how to get our lessons learned template here.

How has your experience with EPM been? I’d love to learn from you! Let me know what you’ve experienced in the comments, and don’t forget to subscribe to The Digital Project Manager newsletter to stay up-to-date on all things digital project management and enterprise project management.

Also, don't miss our podcast episode on purpose-driven PMOs and digital transformation.

Dr. Liz Lockhart Lance
By Dr. Liz Lockhart Lance

Liz is an agilist and digital project manager with a passion for people, process, and technology and more than 15 years of experience leading people and teams across education, consulting, and technology firms. In her day-to-day, Liz works as the Chief of Staff at Performica, an HR software company revolutionizing how people give and receive feedback at work. Liz holds a Doctorate in Organizational Change and Leadership from The University of Southern California and teaches Leadership and Operations courses in the MBA program at the University of Portland. Liz holds numerous project management-related certifications including: PMP, PMI-ACP, CSP-SM, and a SPHR from HRCI to round out the people-focused side of her work.