The EPM: Applying Principles of Entrepreneurship to Higher Ed Project Management

(This was originally published on Optimal Partners’ blog.)

The word entrepreneur is often associated with successful business men and women who take chances on innovative ideas and create business empires, such as Bill Gates and Elon Musk. Despite having different end goals and practices, project managers in Higher Ed IT can learn a lot from the entrepreneurial mindset. Entrepreneurial project managers (EPMs) don’t just follow basic procedures; they take ownership of their projects, stay focused on the “big picture,” and inspire other team members to bring their projects to fruition.


They strive to better allocate resources, manage time, and work to the strengths of their team members.

An average project manager may be content with sticking to standard management practices, but an EPM takes any opportunity to make their teams work more efficiently and to create value for their stakeholders. This sometimes means taking calculated risks when making decisions. Just as business entrepreneurs look for underserved markets, EPMs seek out innovation in their management strategies. They strive to better allocate resources, manage time, and work to the strengths of their team members to make a difference for their organization and to the processes of Higher Ed project management going forward.


Although the basic project management requirements for a Higher Ed institution may stay fairly stable, the field of Higher Ed IT is always evolving. This requires that project managers adapt to changes in technology and procedure to keep up with their organization’s needs. The entrepreneurial philosophy encourages EPMs to mentally walk through each part of their project and to follow that plan through to completion. Planning a project well isn’t necessarily sufficient for a successful project ─ a great project manager is able to proactively prepare for issues that may come up, and change their plans to compensate for those problems. The key is to avoid relying on reactionary management. Make sure that your team and project charter are ready to adapt as your project progresses.


They are self-motivated, and driven to excel, rather than just succeed at their job.

Just as a business entrepreneur puts their life into their work, an EPM feels a sense of ownership for their projects. They are self-motivated and driven to excel, rather than just succeed at their job. A great project manager nurtures a passion and devotion to excellence and instills those qualities in their team members. Try to create a collaborative environment for your team, and work with them, rather than just managing their assignments. Remember that an entrepreneur can’t do everything themselves (even though they might want to). Instead, they compensate by investing themselves in the success of their projects and being responsible for their team members’ success, as well.

Going Forward

Higher Ed is very different from the business world, but project managers in Higher Ed have a lot to gain from adopting the entrepreneurial spirit. To be a great EPM, you need to have a firm grasp on the future of your project, to be able to take chances on innovative ideas and to make important time-sensitive decisions. You need to be proactive, rather than reactive, to guarantee the satisfaction of your customers. The more you are personally invested in your project, the more you’ll motivate your team to succeed past expectations and deliver value to your organization.

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