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MSP Managing Successful Programmes

MSP managing successful programmes.

What is MSP?

MSP Managing Successful Programmes is a best-practice program management framework. When an organization undertakes a large, complex transformational change programme, MSP enables it to break down the overall change into smaller, more manageable inter-related projects.

MSP consists of a set of best practice principles and processes. The MSP framework is flexible and can be tailored to meet different organizations’ needs. It is used in both public and private sector organizations.

MSP is composed of:

MSP is owned by AXELOS – the joint venture between the UK government and Capita plc. MSP certifications are administered by the MSP exam institute (PeopleCert).

Well-known in the UK

In the UK, MSP is the best-known programme management approach.

Managing Successful Programmes was developed by the UK Government in 1999 and has been used successfully ever since, both within the public and private sectors.

It gained much prominence when it was used to successfully direct and coordinate the London 2012 Olympic programme.

Why use MSP?

There are many and varied drivers of organizational change. Technology, competition, legislation, and the environment are common factors which are driving organizations to change. Maintaining the status quo is no longer an option. Businesses which do not change will go out of business. Governments which fail to meet the expectations of their citizens will face their wrath.

Organizational change

MSP programme management provides a best practice structured framework to implementing organizational change. MSP is complimentary to change management approaches which focus on ensuring staff within an organization engage whilst undergoing a change programme.

MSP is particularly well-suited to programmes which involve political and societal change.

For example, a programme to provide free pre-school education to children is likely to have low predictability in terms of its outcome. The benefits of such a programme might be that these people will make a more meaningful contribution to society after they turn adults. However, this is a long time into the future, and such outcomes are risky and hard to predict.

Specification-led programmes

There are also programmes which are more specification-led.

For example, large-scale engineering programme such as a city’s Olympic programme for the construction of stadiums and related infrastructure. These programmes are led by the specifications of the outputs.

Often on such programmes there is relatively little ambiguity about what the programme will deliver. However, this does not mean such programmes will be risk-free. They are often both risky and complex. On such programmes, MSP programme management can still be used but may need to be scaled down.

When to use MSP?

MSP has been designed to accommodate high levels of complexity, ambiguity and risk. MSP is therefore highly suitable as a framework for transformational change. MSP programme management can be used to coordinate and plan across multiple projects.

If an organization is simply delivering something new into its existing business as usual operational environment (e.g. developing a new product to bring to market) then a programme management approach is not required. Instead a project management approach such as PRINCE2 will suffice.

If an organization only wants to efficiently allocate resources to its different projects and to coordinate them, then a programme management framework such as MSP is also not required. Instead, the organisation would benefit from a project management office.

MSP framework

MSP programme management is based on three core program management concepts:


These are derived from lessons (both positive and negative) learned from previous programme experiences. They underpin the success of any transformational change.

Governance themes

Every organization has different governance requirements. Governance themes allow the organization to ensure the right leadership, delivery team, organization structures and controls are put in place, thereby giving the best chance for success.

Transformational flow

This describes the programme management lifecycle which provides a route through the programme from conception through to the delivery of the new capability, outcomes and benefits.

MSP certification

The demand for professionals with programme management skills and MSP qualifications is growing. As more and more organizations utilize program management frameworks to enable them to accomplish transformational changes, demand for people holding an MSP qualification will continue to grow.

If you are seeking to move into a programme management role, or are currently working in such a role, then having training in MSP’s principles and best practices is vital to equip you with the skills and knowledge to help you to become effective in your role.

There are 3 levels of MSP certification – Foundation, Practitioner, Advanced Practitioner.

MSP Foundation certification

MSP Foundation certification confirms you understand the MSP guidance sufficiently to work effectively with those involved in the management of a programme or to act as an informed member of a programme office, business change team or project delivery team working within an environment supporting MSP.

The Foundation certification is a prerequisite for the MSP Practitioner certification.

MSP Foundation training

You can gain the MSP Foundation certification by attending an MSP Foundation training course.

Who is it for?

Attend this training if you are:

  • A member of a Programme Office (PO); or,
  • A business change team member; or,
  • A project delivery team member; or,
  • Anyone needing to understand the terminology and concepts underpinning MSP; or,
  • Anyone wishing to pursue higher level certifications (e.g. programme managers, business change managers (BCMs) and senior responsible owners (SROs).

MSP Foundation exam

The MSP Foundation exam is a 1-hour multiple-choice, closed-book examination.

MSP Practitioner certification

MSP Practitioner certification confirms you understand the MSP guidance sufficiently to apply it to your own work and can act as an informed member of a programme management team. This certification shows you can apply the MSP guidance in a relatively uncomplicated programme within an environment that uses MSP.

The Practitioner certification is a prerequisite of the MSP Advanced Practitioner certification.

MSP Practitioner training

You can gain the MSP Practitioner certification by attending an MSP Practitioner training course.

Who is it for?

Attend this training if you are:

  • A project manager; or,
  • A business change manager (BCM); or,
  • A member of a Programme Office (PO); or,
  • An expert or advisor working in a specialist/governance role involved in supporting programmes following the MSP guidance; or,
  • Anyone wishing to pursue higher level certifications (e.g. programme managers and senior responsible owners (SROs); or,
  • Anyone wanting to perform one of the above roles in future.

MSP Practitioner exam

The MSP Practitioner exam is a 2.5-hour multiple-choice, open-book examination.

MSP Advanced Practitioner certification

MSP Practitioner certification confirms you can lead and manage a programme of transformational change. In particular, it shows whether you can apply the MSP guidance in a complex programme within an environment that uses MSP.

MSP Advanced Practitioner training

This training is not available.

Who is it for?

Attend this training if you are:

  • A senior responsible owner (SRO); or,
  • A business change manager (BCM); or,
  • A programme manager; or,
  • Leaders or members of a Portfolio or Programme Office.

MSP Advanced Practitioner Exam

The MSP Advanced Practitioner exam is a 3-hour essay-style, open-book examination.

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