What is MSP? Everything you Need to Know

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What is MSP?

In modern markets, the ability to plan, drive, and optimize the value of significant business transformation programs 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 implement crucial strategic programs without a solid and demonstrable effective management framework guiding those involved. Program management qualifications have become increasingly popular as a result, particularly with organizations looking for proof of a candidate’s ability to apply framework principles in practice.

‘Managing Successful Programmes (MSP) 5th Edition’ is one of the world’s most popular program management methodologies. While the name may sound boastful, it is anything but unfounded. MSP has been utilized across numerous industries and locations, 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 program management training that perfectly reflects modern business environments, elements, and priorities.

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 the MSP program management framework so successful? How does it work, and how does it help businesses enjoy the full benefits of program management?

Contents List

  • How Does MSP Work?
  • MSP Themes
  • MSP Principles
  • MSP Processes
  • MSP Scenarios
  • What Does MSP Stand For?
  • What is ‘My MSP’?
  • How Can MSP Certification Help My Business?
  • Why Pursue an MSP Certification With Good e-Learning?

How Does MSP Work?

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 extremely risky and 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?

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.

To fully understand how the ‘MSP Programme Lifecycle’ (formerly Transformational Flow) works, you must become familiar with its Themes (formerly Governance Themes), Principles, Processes, and Scenarios. MSP training focuses on how to apply and adapt each of these in practice.

MSP Themes

MSP Themes are described throughout the MSP Foundation course, with the Practitioner syllabus focusing largely on how to apply them in practice.

  • Organization – This Theme describes how programs are organized in a way that enables effective leadership, scrutiny, sponsorship, and decision-making to guarantee 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.
  • Justification – 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 timescale for the organization transitioning to and enjoying the benefits of the defined ‘future state’. MSP organizational structures also cover 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 adapted 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 enjoy major benefits. However, they must be relevant in a strategic context. Reaching these goals 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, transparency, and consistency to be able to engage with stakeholders successfully.

MSP Processes

  • Identify the Programme – This process has MSP professionals analyze the drivers and justifications for the program. They make sure they are consistent with the organization’s strategy and that the program will generate value. Practitioners will then carry out work to justify, structure, and plan out the program. Only taking a few weeks, this process is brief and requires relatively little work. Its primary purpose is to create a tangible business concept on which the worth of the program can be judged.
  • Design the Outcomes – This process establishes the foundations of the program. Practitioners work to understand the vision, benefits, risks, and target operating model, as well as the gaps between the current and future states of the organization. Detailed definition and design work will take place, allowing planning to begin in earnest. This process will also be revisited at the start of each tranche so that practitioners can adapt to new information if necessary.
  • Plan Progressive Delivery – Building on the design phase, this process has practitioners plan the program and structure projects and other works into tangible delivery tranches. This provides a clear structure of how to deliver the capabilities required to realize the program benefits. Practitioners will also use this process to confirm the program’s justification and decide whether to proceed to the delivery process.
  • Deliver the Capabilities – This process focuses on overseeing program delivery. Practitioners make sure projects and other program tasks are carried out properly, taking corrective action when necessary to keep things on track and deliver the capabilities defined in the target operating model.
  • Embed the Outcomes – This process focuses on making sure the investing organization(s) can make the changes required to adopt the new ways of working defined by the program and fully realize the intended benefits. The process is all about transitioning from old to new ways of working and embedding the program outcomes. This must be achieved alongside guaranteeing operational stability and ensuring that daily business processes are not interrupted or jeopardized.
  • Evaluate New Information – This process ensures that the program board and sponsoring group have the support they need. MSP practitioners must provide up-to-date and high-quality information suitable for driving decision-making. By taking new information into account, practitioners can ensure decision-makers give proper consideration to each MSP theme and principle.
  • Close the Program – This final process focuses on ending the program in a controlled way. Practitioners will extract as much value as possible, even if the program was finished prematurely. They will maximize the benefits as part of an ongoing process by continually measuring benefits and following BAU steps to minimize their erosion.

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 Does MSP Stand For?

‘MSP’ stands for ‘Managing Successful Programmes’.

When looking for MSP courses and associated resources, it is recommended to search for the full certification name or ‘MSP 5th Edition’. The reason is that there are also a number of other terms that use the MSP initialism.

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 roles. 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.

With this in mind, it isn’t uncommon for businesses to prioritize MSP qualifications when looking for new program managers. Many also take on MSP course costs for internal candidates, as even Foundation qualifications can equip users to make far more valuable contributions to project and program management teams. And with MSP 5th Edition having just been released, new MSP managers are equipped with fully updated insight and best practices.

How useful is program management as a skill?

From a business perspective, program management is extremely valuable. It helps to ensure projects are completed on time and within budget, with deliverables fully aligned with stakeholder priorities and strategic goals. This is particularly crucial when it comes to major business transformation initiatives, though it can also be applied for cultural changes, product development, and so on.

Candidates can also greatly benefit from developing program management skills. For one, frameworks like MSP are generic enough to be applied not only throughout a company but also in different industries, locations, and sectors. This makes program management highly transferable. Having these skills is also a requirement for reaching many higher-level positions, especially those that involve coordinating multiple people, projects, and deliverables.

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