Managing Successful Programmes (MSP)®
(Reproduced by kind permission of the APM Group Ltd)
Advanced Practitioner Examination
Managing Successful Programme Overview
Change is a way of life for all organisations. New types of business processes are being introduced, supplier relationships are changing, organisations merge and divide in response to political or market forces. Organisations are also striving to achieve benefits from improving existing practices, to achieve business excellence, to be better prepared for the future, to enable innovation and to encourage new ways of thinking about doing business.
Where there is major change there will be complexity and risk. There will be many inter-dependencies and conflicting priorities to resolve. Programme Management provides a framework for managing this challenging environment.
Managing Successful Programmes is a best-practice guide from The Cabinet Office describing a structured approach for managing programmes. This Overview summarises the key features of the guide.
What is Programme Management?
Programme management is the co-ordinated management of a portfolio of projects which change organisations to achieve benefits that are of strategic importance.
Many organisations have adopted projects and project management as the vehicle for delivering new or changed business capability. Harnessing these projects into a coherent improvement process is a constant challenge. The objective for a programme is to co-ordinate the delivery from a specific set of projects such that the programme can achieve more than just the outcomes from its projects, it can deliver measurable benefits that can be realised within the timescales of the programme as well as afterwards.
Managing Successful Programmes describes how to identify the vision (the Vision Statement) for the programme, which may be to deliver a new service, or to perform the same service but in a more efficient way, or simply to be better than the competition. The way the organisation will achieve the Vision Statement is defined by the programme’s Blueprint and the Project Portfolio. The Blueprint is a detailed description of the business processes, people, data, information systems and facilities that will deliver the capability expressed in the Vision Statement. The Project Portfolio is the collection of projects set up to deliver the new capabilities that, when implemented, will enable the organisation to achieve the Vision Statement.
Why use Programme Management?
Managing Successful Programmes provides organisations with an approach to programme management that will:
- Enable more effective delivery of change
- Keep the focus on the business change objectives
- Provide a framework for senior management to direct the change process
- Encourage more efficient use of resources through project prioritisation and integration
- Provide better management of risk because the wider context is understood
- Achieve business benefits during and after the programme through a formal process
- Improve control of costs, standards and quality
- Enable more effective management of the Business Case
- Provide more efficient control of a complex range of activities
- Provide clear definition of roles and responsibilities
- Deliver a smooth transition from current to future business operation
Managing Successful Programmes comprises a set of principles and processes for use when managing a programme. It is founded on best practice although it is not prescriptive. It is very flexible and designed to be adapted to meet the needs of local circumstances.
The Principles of Programme Management
The Principles in Managing Successful Programmes advise how to:
- Organise people to ensure responsibilities and lines of communication are clear
- Plan the work in a way which achieves results
- Ensure that the organisation does benefit from undertaking the programme
- Ensure that all interested parties (the stakeholders) are involved
- Resolve issues which arise
- Identify and manage risks
- Ensure quality
- Keep up to date information which tracks the continually changing environment
- Audit a programme to ensure standards are being followed
The Processes in Managing Successful Programmes describe how to:
- Identify the aim of the programme and envisaged benefits to the organisation
- Define the programme, and specify how the organisation will be different afterwards
- Establish the programme
- Monitor and co-ordinate the projects within a programme to a successful conclusion
- Manage the transition between the 'old' and 'new' ways of working, ensuring benefit
- Close the programme and ensure the 'end goal' has been achieved.
The Transformational Flows of Programme Management
The first Transformational Flow, Identifying a Programme is triggered by a need for change in the form of some sort of Programme Mandate which provides the high level requirements of the programme. A Programme Brief is prepared which defines the aim and envisaged benefits to the organisation.
If the programme appears to be justified and senior management agrees to proceed to the Transformational Flow: Defining a Programme then the initial vision is refined into the Vision Statement and the Blueprint prepared. At the same time strategies and procedures are developed for managing people, progress, costs, benefits, risks, issues, quality and communications. The programme is thereby clearly defined and the Sponsoring Group decide whether to formally commit to the programme or not.
If they give approval to proceed, then the next Transformational Flow, Managing the Tranches, is used to appoint individuals to programme management and support roles and to set procedures and infrastructure.
The programme then runs. The purpose of the Transformational Flow, Delivering the Capability, is to provide an effective monitoring and management regime for the projects within the programme such that they deliver according to plan. There are links to PRINCE2®, The Cabinet Office's management method.
The programme will deliver new capabilities, services or business operations. The purpose of the Transformational Flow, Realising the Benefits, is to track the specific benefits which were identified at the start of the programme and drive through the process of realising these benefits throughout the programme and at the end. This process also manages the transition between old and new ways of working.
The activities in Closing a Programme ensure that the programme does not ‘drift on’ and there is a clear focus on achieving the ‘end-goal’.
The Foundation Examination tests the general understanding of the fundamental principles of MSP®. This is intended for those who intent to work within a programme environment and who need to know the terminology used and some of the theory behind the practice. It is also a preamble to achieving the Intermediate and Practitioner qualifications.
The Foundation Examination is closed book with short answer and multi-choice questions. There are 75 questions. However, 5 questions are trial questions. Therefore a delegate will only be marked out of 70 questions. Total time available is 60 minutes. Pass mark is 50%. For a candidate to proceed to take the Practitioner/Advanced Practitioner level qualification, they will need to pass their Foundation Examination
Practitioner Examination (previously known as Intermediate)
The Practitioner Examination requires a comprehensive understanding of the principles and theory of the MSP® book. This is intended for someone coming into programme management perhaps (although not necessarily) from project management and as a stepping stone from the concepts to the higher level of understanding. It is also anticipated that anyone wishing to move into other roles within programmes would be able to achieve this qualification therby helping them to gain the relevant theory and understanding.
The Practitioner Examination is an open book with objective style questions. The paper consists of 8 questions, each worth 10 marks, giving a total of 80 marks. The examination must to be completed within 2 and a half hours. Candidates need to achieve a 50% (score of 40) to pass the paper.
Advanced Practitioner Examination (previously known as Practitioner Examination)
The Advanced Practitioner Examination is intended for programme managers demonstrating an excellent understanding of the principles and theory of the MSP® book supported by practical application and a good general level understanding that comes from having worked within large programmes.
The Advanced Practitioner Examination is open book with three questons each worth 25 marks. The examination is based on a complex scenario which is issued prior to the examination and used during the training course. Additional material in the form of course notes can be used during the examination. No electronic material will be permitted. The pass mark is 50 % (38 marks our of a possible 75)
When booking on one of our MSP® courses, delegates need to be aware, that they are expected to do between six and ten hours (depending on the learning style) of pre-course reading. This will include: review of the MSP® guide and of a case study. Additionally, during the course, delegates are expected to do two to three hours of evening work. This will include: review of day's training, practice of examination questions and an overview of the subsequent day's training.