Know Your Strengths

Every EPMO Needs Its Own Survival Strategy


By Abid Mustafa

The beginning of the first quarter is the right time for the enterprise project management office (EPMO) to formulate a strategy for the year ahead. This shouldn't be confused with implementation of the corporate strategy—that should be done as a matter of routine. The EPMO requires its own strategy for navigating the hustle and bustle of corporate life. This is contingent on the corporate context.

The corporate context defines the EPMO's standing in the company. In other words, the EPMO's reputation hinges on its ability to get things done compared to other departments. At its core, strategy is about applying one's strengths against opponents' weaknesses. Therefore, to succeed, the EPMO must assess its capabilities relative to other departments. The table below shows what that might look like.

Portfolio management strong weak
management methodology
very strong average
Project delivery weak strong
strong weak

In the table's example, the EPMO's performance is poor in the area of project delivery. This might prove problematic in situations where kudos are given for project delivery. This weakness could trigger pressure on the EPMO to justify its existence. One way of addressing this issue—assuming the EPMO has quality program managers—is to combine the EPMO's program management methodology and cross-functional collaboration strengths to target departments that struggle to deliver programs. If the opportunity is seized correctly, the EPMO could strengthen its reputation by supporting execution and helping to drive results.

The capability assessment process is also an opportunity to change how the EPMO views and capitalizes on its strengths. There might be latent capabilities that can be put to more effective use. For example, the EPMO staff could possess exceptional skills in the areas of IT strategy and organization design that are packaged as part of the office's overall activities but never used alone.

Consider a scenario where the human resources department is unable to provide resources to restructure IT operations. The CIO is forced to consider bringing in an external consultancy. The EPMO could step in and perform the task by combining its strong latent competencies in IT strategy and organization design. Apart from saving time and money, this will boost the EPMO's relative power.

Establishing a robust EPMO strategy comes down to knowing how to apply the right strengths to specific situations. That's only possible if the EPMO is fluent in the intricacies of the corporate context. PM

image Abid Mustafa has worked with project management offices for eight years. His book In the Age of Turbulence: How to Make Executive PMOs Successful is available in paperback and on Kindle.



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