Managing Successful Programmes

Since its launch in 1999, Managing Successful Programmes (MSP) has provided best practice in structuring and delivering strategic organisational change across all business sectors. In light of experience, lessons learned, and changes in the business environment, best practice evolves. MSP has been revised several times throughout the first decade of the new century, with the fourth edition published in 2011. Since then, the digital revolution, the speed of change, the rise of agile ways of working, alongside the increased volatility and uncertainty of all markets, means that programme management must evolve to meet demands. The fifth edition reflects this changing world, published this year with the new examinations available from early 2021.

MSP fifth edition emphasises more flexibility, adaptability, and responsiveness by adopting an incremental approach to the programme lifecycle and thus enabling organisational agility. A single programme or project may combine different delivery approaches, with projects using iterative (Agile), linear (Waterfall), or hybrid lifecycles or continual improvement activities.

The new manual is structured using a similar design template as PRINCE2 2017 with 7 Principles, 7 Themes (previously 9) and 7 Processes (previously 6 Transformational Flow processes).

The seven principles are the driving requirements continually required to achieve value from programme management and underpin all of the themes.

The seven themes identify key programme organisational roles, responsibilities and information needed to:

  • Design a Vision and Target Operating Model to communicate the organisation’s desired future operational state to all stakeholders;
  • Justify and fund the programme through robust business cases and effective benefits management and realisation;
  • Structure programme strategy and plans to deliver capability that can embed outcomes of benefit into the evolving operational services of the organisation; and
  • Provide timely decisions to facilitate project and business change delivery based on relevant and accurate information, knowledge and a robust assurance regime.

The seven processes provide a route through the programme lifecycle with an emphasis on the incremental nature of a programme enabling a cyclical progression towards the desired future state. The methods still provide a controlled start and endpoint for the programme. Within the delivery processes, however, desired business outcomes are designed, planned, and embedded through cyclical tranches of benefit-enabling capabilities. The ends of tranches are “landing points” where progress towards strategic objectives, and new information in the emerging external context, can be assessed and decisions to continue with, or close, the programme made.

Exam Changes

MSP fifth edition now supports only two levels of qualification, Foundation and Practitioner.

Again, the PRINCE2 design influence has resulted in the one-hour, closed-book, Foundation exam becoming 60 questions, needing 33 correct answers to pass the exam and demonstrate a broad knowledge of the MSP method.

The scenario-based Practitioner exam tests candidates’ ability to analyse and justify the application of MSP in different circumstances. 2 hours and 30 minutes is allowed in the open book exam to attempt 70 questions, of which 38 questions answered correctly results in a pass. There are now only two types of exam question but they still probe deep knowledge of the MSP method and demonstrate candidates’ readiness to apply the new concepts and skills in the workplace.

Further Reading


Next up

APM Body of Knowledge Version 7 – What’s New?

Since the Association for Project Management first published its Body of Knowledge in 1992, frequent updates have reflected new developments in project management thinking and practice. The seventh edition, published in 2019, incorporates several changes which affect the syllabus of the APM Fundamentals (PFQ) and Project Management Qualification (PMQ) examinations that come into effect from the start of 2021.

The most significant difference since version six (2012) has been to recognise that organisations have to deliver change in an increasingly volatile, complex and ambiguous world. New project management approaches are required. Agile principles and techniques have been added alongside the existing linear lifecycle, that the APM now describes as Concept, Definition, Deployment and Transition. The goal is to increase the velocity of relevant business changes being adopted into operational use. Thus delivering business outcomes sooner and resulting in faster benefits realisation.

The Linear (Waterfall), Iterative (Agile) and even Hybrid (of the two) lifecycles are now embedded within the rest of the APM BOK7. All projects, regardless of lifecycle chosen, are planned and resourced appropriately, delivered effectively with active leadership and stakeholder engagement resulting in successful outcomes for the organisation.

As such the roles and responsibilities now include the role of Product Owner – an Agile role responsible for prioritising business value and leading empowered Agile / Scrum teams to deliver the solutions the business needs in a timeboxed and dynamic way.

Increasingly, even before the COVID19 pandemic, project teams are not always co-located but working from remote locations as “virtual teams”. The syllabus looks at the different management needs and the typical challenges leaders face when trying to manage project teams in a virtual environment.

It also develops the role of the Project Management Office (or more accurately P3O – Portfolio, Programme and Project Office) that provides support and assurance services to the three levels of strategic, transformational and step-change within the organisation. The three PMO/P3O design options of embedded (within the change initiative), central (across all areas of change) and hub and spoke (a hybrid of the two) allows for appropriate and cost-effective PMO services to be provided at the point of delivery.

Examination changes

The PFQ and PMQ examinations have not changed in duration or style, although the option to complete the exam on-line is a welcome innovation! The examination language has been tightened in both to make the questions clearer. No longer is there a requirement to complete any calculations, the emphasis is to move away from doing a technique (e.g. earned value management) to its interpretation and use to help manage change in a complex and uncertain world.

Further Reading

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