What is MSP? Everything you Need to Know

What is Managing Successful Programmes (MSP)? We look at how MSP works and why it's becoming a huge name in program management.

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In the modern world of business, the ability to plan, drive, and optimize the value of significant organizational change is essential. Companies worldwide place enormous value on the skills required to steer program management teams towards achieving large and complex business objectives.

Unfortunately, it is extremely risky to attempt such crucial programs without a solid and demonstrable effective framework guiding those involved. Managing Successful Programmes (MSP) is, as the name suggests, a program management methodology. While the name may sound boastful, it is anything but unfounded. MSP has been utilized across numerous industries all over the world, creating a community of practitioners who can all back up just how ‘successful’ it is. It has also recently been updated, with ‘MSP 5th Edition’ offering tools and best practices that perfectly reflect the current business environment.

In essence, MSP breaks large programs down into individual projects, each with clearly defined lines of communication, roles, responsibilities, benefits, and so on. Together, these programs offer greater strategic benefits than the sum of their projects. Better still, the MSP framework can be applied regardless of an organization’s location, size, industry, or sector. In other words, not only is MSP highly ‘successful’, but it is also widely applicable.

So, what exactly is it that makes MSP so ‘successful’? How does it work, and what is the value of an MSP certification?

How Does MSP Work?

MSP offers a best practice methodology for planning, instigating, managing, and concluding successful programs. It breaks them down into multiple projects, each with clear roles, objectives, and benefits. While the framework is comprehensive, it still remains flexible enough to be applicable for programs of different sizes, sectors, and locations. It can even be adapted to suit unique program requirements.

When it comes to achieving crucial organizational objectives, having a vague idea of what you want to achieve isn’t even enough to get started! Those in program management roles must be capable of clarifying their intentions, as well as the costs and benefits of pursuing the objectives, not just at the start of a program but throughout. Then come the matters of creating a roadmap for reaching the intended destination, designating authority to project managers, engaging with stakeholders, and so on.

All of this can quickly mount up to a hugely complex process. In a multinational organization, or even in a startup, attempting to meet major objectives without a clear process in place is highly inefficient. So, how can you progress with optimum efficiency and clarity? How can you ensure that you maximize the benefits of a program without overspending or delaying completion dates?

To fully understand how MSP works, you must become familiar with its Themes, Principles, Processes, and Scenarios.

MSP Themes

  • Organization - This Theme describes how programs are organized in a way that enables effective leadership, scrutiny, sponsorship, and decision making and guarantees clarity regarding roles, responsibilities, and levels of authority. It also outlines how stakeholders are identified and engaged, along with how communication is planned and delivered

  • Design - This Theme describes how programs are designed in a way that creates a clear idea of the end-state, as well as the risks and benefits of the program itself. The Theme also covers how to make a target operating model, along with how to understand the gap between the current model and its future state

  • Justifcation - This Theme describes how programs guarantee that the required capital and resource investment is worthwhile. It shows how to balance achievability with affordability while also making sure that the perceived value of a program will benefit stakeholders. It also helps MSP practitioners with budget and cash-flow management to keep finances healthy over the course of the program

  • Structure - This Theme describes how programs plan to deliver projects, as well as other work, in the most effective way possible. This includes having a suitable pace of delivery for the organization transitioning to, and enjoying the benefits of, the defined ‘future state’. It also describes how resources such as people, equipment, and facilities are selected, allocated, and optimized

  • Knowledge - This Theme describes how programs acquire, curate, and make use of knowledge, as well as how knowledge and experience are used to learn lessons and create cultures of continual improvement. It also describes how to manage knowledge in a way that ensures its integrity, restricts access to the correct versions, and guarantees an acceptable level of data privacy

  • Assurance - This Theme describes assurance roles and responsibilities, which are related to the ‘three lines of defense’. It also outlines the assurance approach and how it supports governance. The Theme also helps with planning assurance activities

  • Decisions - This Theme describes how program managers make decisions at various points in the program lifecycle. These could be related to risk responses, resolving issues, or anything else requiring a choice based on a well-governed approach. This is essential for effective decision-making within a program

MSP Principles

  • Remain aligned with corporate strategy - In program management, you must always keep the strategic aims of your business in mind, even if they change over time. These aims will govern activities relating to business change projects, though they can also be influenced by feedback from program managers. Luckily, MSP programs are flexible enough that they can be changed when necessary

  • Learning from experience - MSP encourages users to record and act on lessons learned when managing programs, especially at major points in program timelines. This can have a positive impact even before a program’s conclusion while also providing excellent wisdom for future initiatives

  • Designing and delivering a coherent capability - MSP users will define a program’s capabilities in the ‘Programme Blueprint’. These capabilities will then be delivered according to the ‘Programme Plan’. This, in turn, will control the program’s scope and quality while also keeping users focused on the big picture

  • Adding value - A huge advantage of MSP is that the benefits provided by successful programs will typically exceed the sum of the associated projects. These benefits are identified and achieved by enabling organizational change at a program level

  • Focusing on benefits and threats to them - Change programs can help businesses to enjoy major benefits. However, they must be relevant in a strategic context. Enjoying these benefits also requires effective management of operational, strategic, and tactical risks throughout a program’s lifecycle

  • Envisioning and communicating a better future - A program must have a clearly defined end-point in order to enable organizational change effectively. This will be defined early on and refined over the program’s lifecycle. The program manager will be responsible for communicating this vision to stakeholders and keeping it aligned with the business strategy

  • Leading change - MSP treats program managers as agents of change. They require effective leadership skills, as well as the transparency and consistency to be able to engage with stakeholders successfully

MSP Processes

  • Identify a programme - This is triggered by the approval of a ‘Programme Mandate’. It sets the stage for laying out the tangible business benefits of a proposed change. The main output will be the ‘Programme Brief’’

  • Defining a programme - Once the Programme Brief is approved, it can be used to help create the ‘Programme Definition Document’. This will summarise the documentation created at this stage of the process, helping to succinctly define the upcoming program

  • Managing the tranche - This process implements the governance for the program, while also acknowledging that it may need to be changed over time. This ‘governance’ is made up of the processes, procedures, and functions that define how the program is set up, managed, and controlled

  • Delivering the capability - This is the process of coordinating and managing project delivery. It includes starting, monitoring, and concluding projects listed in the ‘Project Dossier’ in order to deliver outputs that will enable the capabilities described in the Blueprint

  • Realizing the benefits - This process controls the benefits and ensures their successful realization. It provides the capabilities for enabling business change and, in turn, creating successful outcomes and benefits

  • Closing the program - Part of managing a successful program is knowing when to conclude it. In some cases, this may mean ending a program prematurely if it can no longer be justified

MSP Scenarios

Each chapter in MSP 5th Edition contains four fictional scenarios. These are designed to demonstrate how MSP can be adapted according to the unique ‘reasons’ or ‘drivers’ of an individual program. These include:

  • Innovation and growth

  • Organizational realignment

  • Effective delivery

  • Efficient delivery

What Is 'My MSP'?

‘My MSP’ is a subscription service offered by AXELOS.

Practitioners can register online to enjoy content designed to help them prepare for MSP certification exams, as well as active MSP jobs. Candidates are supported beyond their certification and can even enjoy advice on how to advance their careers.

How Can MSP Certification Help My Business?

The MSP framework offers a proven roadmap for bringing about organizational change. It helps practitioners to define and pursue changes, all while managing risks, unforeseen issues, stakeholders, and other aspects with complete clarity and control.

Program management has become an essential skill for driving transformational change in organizations. With a clear process in place, businesses can realize the benefits of major changes as quickly and efficiently as possible without having to sacrifice quality or disappoint stakeholders.

The comprehensive yet flexible approach has seen MSP applied to programs across dozens of industries and tens of thousands of companies. This has made MSP Foundation and Practitioner certifications highly desirable. And with MSP 5th Edition having just been released, the framework offers far more up-to-date insight and best practices.

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Why Gain an MSP Certification with Good e-Learning?

Good e-Learning is an award-winning e-course provider. Our portfolio covers many of the world’s most popular corporate standards and frameworks, including ITIL, TOGAF, Lean and Six Sigma. What makes us unique is our focus on delivering engaging content; rather than endless slides or documents, we spice up our courses with assets like interactive videos, motion graphics, gamified quizzes and more.

To become fully certified in MSP, students must pass both the MSP Foundation and MSP Practitioner exams. Good e-Learning provides certification courses for each stage, along with FREE vouchers for when students are ready to sit their exams.

Good e-Learning offer a number of accredited Project Management courses:

Key features of our MSP courses:

  • Accredited by PeopleCert

  • FREE exam vouchers included

  • 94+% first time pass rate

  • Quizzes and revision modules

  • Instant 6 & 12 months access

  • Practice exam simulators

  • Mobile app for offline learning

  • 24/7 Tutor support

While we work hard to keep students interested, we also realize how difficult it can be for those in full-time jobs to manage their studies. As such, not only do we provide course access for several months, but we also make our courses accessible even on mobile devices, ensuring students can stagger their training and access materials whenever they have the time.

Best of all, our courses can be accessed via multiple devices. Whether you are traveling, killing time or just sat at your desk, you can continue your studies whenever it is convenient for you.

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