MSP® Frequently Asked Questions

What is MSP?

Managing Successful Programmes (MSP) is definitive guidance in managing inter-related projects as a coordinated programme of business change in order to manage risks and realise benefits more effectively. MSP is widely adopted in the public and private sectors, and developed by a consortium of over 100 organisations including from within services industries.

Along with the other Programme and Project Management guidance available from AXELOS Limited, MSP aims to:

  • provide industry referenced standards
  • provide a framework of best practice principles and concepts drawn from latest experiences and proven practice
  • enable practitioners to adapt the guidance to real life situations
  • be accessible by teams and organisations as well as by individual practitioners.
  • help practitioners improve their decision making and to become better at implementing beneficial change
  • enable individuals to demonstrate their level of knowledge and understanding of the each product by obtaining a globally recognised qualification.

What are the benefits of using MSP?

  • There are no fees or charges to use MSP
  • It is an internationally recognised programme management method
  • It is a de facto standard of programme management in many countries and industries
  • It is widely used throughout Europe, Australia, USA and South East Asia
  • It provides a framework for effective control within a programme environment
  • It is a process-based approach to programme management
  • It provides a structured organisational framework
  • It supports control and direction at appropriate levels of authority
  • It provides a consistent, methodical and controlled approach to management of programmes
  • It is a flexible method that can be tailored to suit the scale and complexity of any programme
  • It encapsulates Good Practice in Programme Management, and is refreshed every three or four years.

Do I/we need MSP?

Let us answer this question by asking you?

  • Is your organisation thinking about major transformational change?
  • Would you like a controlled approach to managing major changes to business as usual for your organisation?
  • Does your organisation have a consistent approach to identifying and assessing alternative means of achieving strategic objectives?
  • In your organisation do people always know and understand their role and responsibilities in a transformational change?
  • Do you have difficulty in achieving strategic objectives?
  • Do you have difficulty prioritising projects in a programme?
  • Do you want to use an approach that demonstrates how to involve stakeholders throughout the life of the change, and ensure business ownership of change initiatives, including initiatives heavily dependent on technology?
  • Are stakeholders often confused by the terminology used by parties involved in a programme?
  • Would you like to use consistent terminology, processes and templates across your projects?
  • Would you like to adopt a programme management method that is internationally recognised and supported by tens of thousands of users around the world and independently managed by an international body of experts?

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions then you will benefit from the use of MSP.

Why has MSP been so successful around the world?

MSP is often viewed as ‘de facto’ best practice programme management on an international scale.  There is no equivalent to MSP available.

Programme Managers and organisations around the world have strived to procure or develop their own approach for the management of programmes of projects.  MSP offers sponsors, business managers, programmes, programme management teams and your organisation a consistent set of processes, tools and a language for the management of programmes.

Being a generic and flexible approach for the management of transformational change programmes, MSP can be applied in any business environment. It is not a method that can only be applied to specific types of change initiatives or by staff with significant experience. Anyone, anywhere in the organisation can learn and use it as it is based on a logical approach to manage a transformational change, be it to develop a new service or product, change a business model or change an organisation’s culture. The United Nations Development Programme are training staff worldwide to apply MSP for development aid programmes.

It is also a very effective tool for the engagement of stakeholders and the management of their interests.

Success however depends on how you and your organisation choose to apply MSP.  The method can be easily tailored to align with existing business processes, workflows, tools and language.

How will MSP increase my programme’s chance of success?

In his book “Force for Change: How Leadership Differs from Management“, Kotter lists the following as the main reasons why change fails:

  • Allowing too much complexity
  • Failing to build a substantial coalition
  • Not understanding the need for a clear vision
  • Failing to clearly communicate the vision
  • Permitting roadblocks against the vision
  • Not planning for and getting short-term wins
  • Declaring victory too soon
  • Not anchoring changes in corporate culture.

MSP addresses all of these issues.

How can my organisation benefit from MSP?

MSP can facilitate improved business performance by ensuring everyone knows why the business change is required, what needs to be achieved, how and when events need to occur and who needs to be involved.

MSP:

  • Supports best practice programme governance, including the Gateway Review Process
  • Can be applied on any type or size of programme
  • Provides processes for early warning of problems
  • Facilitates active participation of stakeholders
  • Standardises oversight of the programme’s project portfolio
  • Offers controlled management of resources
  • Provides tools to assess the ‘health’ of the programme at key milestones
  • Is easily tailored to align with existing business processes, workflows, tools and language.
  • Is supported by the UK government and tens of thousands of users around the world
  • Is supported by training for all levels of management, coaching programs and consultancy services designed to support successful application.

What other accreditation bodies recognise MSP?

MSP has gained recognition by all major project management institutes.

Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM)

AIPM have accredited the APMG MSP Practitioner Course for up to 40 continuing professional development (CPD) points.

Project Management Institute (PMI)

PMI have accredited the APMG MSP Practitioner Course for up to 40 professional development units (PDU).

United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS)

UKAS have accredited the MSP Practitioner Qualification and the accreditation process ensuring that the Practitioner Certificate is an internationally recognised qualification.

What is the difference between MSP and the PMI’s Standard for Program Management?

The Project Management Institute’s Standard for Program Management is not an internationally recognised standard, and is not a robust programme management method.  It mentions stakeholder management, governance and benefits as key elements of success, but its level of coverage of these elements is low compared to MSP.

GAPPS has found that in some geographies that the word ‘programme’ is taken to include ‘very large project’.  If the Standard for Programme Management was appended to the PMI’s PMBoK, what results would be a close equivalent of PRINCE2.

MSP is a process-based approach to programme management providing significant advice on stakeholder engagement, benefits definition, organisational change management and transition planning, and benefits realisation.

What are the MSP qualifications and what will they teach me?

There are three MSP qualification levels: MSP Foundation, MSP Practitioner and MSP Advanced Practitioner.

An MSP Foundation qualification will teach you the MSP principles and terminology.  Once qualified you will be able to act as an informed member of a programme management team, using the MSP method within a programme environment supporting MSP.

An MSP Practitioner qualification will teach you to apply MSP to the running and managing of a programme within an environment supporting MSP. Once qualified you will be able to apply and tune MSP to address the needs and problems of a specific business change scenario. You will have a comprehensive knowledge of the relationships between the MSP processes, themes and transformational flow, and will understand the principles underpinning these elements.

An MSP Advanced Practitioner qualification is the highest level of MSP qualification and will ensure that you are prepare to apply MSP in a dynamic and complex business environment.

How do I get a MSP qualification? How do I get MSP certification?

For an MSP Foundation qualification you should complete an accredited MSP training course including the official Foundation exam for the MSP basics and terminology and to gain MSP Foundation certification.

To become a registered MSP Practitioner, you need to complete an accredited MSP Practitioner seminar which will include the MSP Practitioner exams.  You must have passed the Foundation exam before you can attempt the Practitioner exam.

To become a registered MSP Advanced Practitioner, which is the highest level of MSP qualification, you need to complete an accredited MSP Advanced Practitioner course which will include the MSP Advanced Practitioner exams.  You must have passed the Foundation exam before you can attempt the Advanced Practitioner exam.  You must pass the Practitioner exam before a pass at the Advanced Practitioner exam will be recognised.

What will an MSP qualification do for me?

The MSP programme management method is the de-facto standard for programme management in the UK and is practiced worldwide – including Europe, North America, China, India and Australasia. It covers the management, control and organisation of a programme.

A qualification in MSP will not only boost your skills and confidence when managing programmes but will greatly improve your employment prospects.  Many organisations, both private and public, mandate the use of MSP and therefore require their staff to be competent and qualified to practice the method.

How do I buy MSP and how much is it?

You cannot buy MSP as such, it is free to use by any person or company.  All you need to pay for is training and possibly assistance in implementation.

To understand if MSP is right for your company requires an investment of time, or help from an organisation experienced in implementing MSP.

Why do I need an MSP qualification?

The majority of people that consider MSP as a qualification do so for career and personal development reasons. Often this is driven by a change of job or career, where you notice that to get to the top of the CV pile, you need to have an extra qualification like MSP (even if you have been managing programmes successfully for many years without it). In many advertised positions MSP has become a prerequisite, particularly in public sector jobs.

What do MSP qualifications consist of?

This is fairly straightforward! The three levels of qualification are Foundation, Practitioner and Advanced Practitioner. Foundation confirms your understanding of what MSP is, Practitioner shows your knowledge in the application of MSP, and Advanced Practitioner demonstrates that you can apply MSP in a dynamic and changing business environment.

If your role is one of being on the periphery of programmes, perhaps programme support, sponsor or on secondment, then Foundation level may be suffice. It tells people that you can work within an MSP programme effectively.

If you are a contractor or Programme Manager, then chances are Practitioner level is the right certification, as it demonstrates the ability to run MSP programmes.

For individuals, we would say that the majority do eventually go to Practitioner level, some in stages, others in one go.

Most companies generally train everyone involved in their projects to Foundation Level, with a core of Programme Managers to Practitioner Level.  Staff in Centres of Excellence supporting organisational process development and support may need to become Advanced Practitioners.

Individuals who wish to become Accredited Trainers or Consultants will have to achieve the Advanced Practitioner Level.

Can I just use the MSP manual to study?

You can, as the MSP manual contains pretty much everything you need. However it is hard work, and often your own interpretation of MSP may be different to that required. If you are working on a shoestring budget, then this may be the only option open to you, but with all the extra study involved, your time may be better spent by taking an accredited course.  However, it is unlikely that you will pass the Advanced Practitioner exam with additional support.

Where can I sit the exams and how much are they?

Exams can be taken at any accredited training company or there is an open exam centre in Canberra. These Exams run only on certain days and places are pretty much booked in advance; sometimes there is a 4-6 weeks waiting list. Bear this in mind when planning your training.

Please contact APM Group Australasia directly for more information on public exams.

To confirm pricing and arrange the exam, you can telephone APMG Australasia on (02) 6249 6008, email them at accreditations@apmg-australasia.comor visit their website www.apmg-australasia.com.

Do I get my name on a list to prove I have done the exams?

The APMG run an online Successful Candidates Register to show candidates that have passed Foundation, Practitioner and/or Advanced Practitioner. This can be found at www.apmgroup.co.uk/MSPQuery.asp.

As an employer you can also use this site to check the validity of people’s MSP certification, prior to contract or employment.

I want to go straight to Practitioner training!

In order to be eligible for the Practitioner exam you must have successfully completed the Foundation exam. This is important as the Foundation level covers all of the theory of MSP, which is essential for passing the Practitioner exam.

You can however take a fast track route by combining the two levels. This can be achieved through our five day Combined Foundation+Practitioner course.

How type or size of programme can MSP be used on?

MSP can be applied to all sorts of programmes, from clearly defined specification-led programmes through to ill-defined cultural or societal change programmes.  The key to success with MSP is to remember it is highly configurable, and elements of MSP can be applied to all programme types regardless of industry and marketplace.

Is MSP aimed at any particular type of programme?

MSP as a whole is intended to be used to manage strategic programmes.  Elements of MSP will be useful in large tactical or operational programmes.

Do I need a computer based planning tool to implement MSP?

No! MSP makes no recommendation on which tools you should use to assist you to manage your programmes but it does recognise that such tools are widely used. MSP will sit quite happily alongside a paper-based planning system or any other tool which you find to be effective in your environment.

Is MSP suitable for non-IT programmes?

Yes! The majority of strategic programmes involve considerable business change, which may require associated IT-related change.

Does MSP guarantee a successful outcome to programmes?

No! Does a good car guarantee you’ll never have an accident?  But applied sensibly MSP will increase the chances of your programmes being successful.

Who owns/sells MSP?

MSP is Crown Copyright.  The intellectual property embedded in MSP is administered by AXELOS Limited. The marketing of the manuals is carried out in the UK by The Stationery Office (TSO).  ATOs provide copies of the manual as part of course fees, and many are also able to sell copies of the manual.

How do I become MSP certified and how much does it cost?

Goal Professional Services, as well as providing MSP implementation and consulting support, also offer a range of fully accredited training courses.

These are offered in a classroom format.

To look at the various options and prices visit our MSP Courses or contact one of our training advisors by email at goal@goalgroup.com.au.

Are there any prerequisites before taking the course?

No, but general project management training or senior management experience is ideal.

What countries recognise MSP?

Most organisations around the world recognise MSP as a standard method.

How many exams would I need to take?

This depends on your objectives.  If you work in a programme environment, then MSP Foundation may be all you need.  If you work as a programme manager or as a programme office manager, you should take two exams to become fully qualified, MSP Foundation and MSP Practitioner. If you wish to become an accredited trainer or consultant, then you should take the MSP Advanced Practitioner exam as well.

  • The Foundation examination consists of a simple multiple choice style, closed book examination consisting of 50 questions to be completed within 40 minutes. Candidates need to achieve a mark of 30+ (60%+) to pass the paper.
  • The Practitioner examination is an objective marking style, open book paper (MSP manual only). The paper will consist of 9 questions with a total of 180 marks available to be completed within two and a half hours. Candidates need to achieve a mark of 90+ (50%+) to pass the paper. The Practitioner exam is designed to test the candidate’s knowledge of basic concepts and understanding of MSP. A pre-requisite for this exam is a pass at Foundation level
  • The Advanced Practitioner examination is an essay based, open book paper (Manual and additional notes allowed). The paper will consist of up to 3 questions with a total of 75 marks available to be completed within 2 ½ hours. Candidates need to achieve a mark of 38+ (50%+) to pass the paper.

I’ve done an exam against an earlier edition of MSP.  What’s my next step?

You need to sit an upgrade course – this is available as an intensive Seminar.

Look at our MSP Courses or contact one of our training advisors by email at goal@goalgroup.com.au.

If their MSP Practitioner Registration has lapsed, can a candidate still take an Advanced Practitioner exam?

Yes you may go straight on to sit the Advanced Practitioner paper if your registration to the Practitioner exam has lapsed.

Result Turn Around for MSP Examinations

The result turn around period for the Foundation examination is roughly 3-5 working days.

The result turn around period for the Practitioner examination is roughly 2 weeks from receipt of the examination papers back into the APM Group Office.

The result turn around period for the Advanced Practitioner examination is roughly 4 – 6 weeks from receipt of the examination papers back into the APMG Office.

If you have taken your exam via an ATO, results are sent by APMG to that particular ATO. Your ATO should notify you of your results so please contact them for further details regarding this. If you sat the Foundation and Practitioner exam in the same week, your results will not show on the Successful Candidate Register until two weeks after the results for the practitioner exam have been released. Certificate turn-around is usually two weeks after you have been notified of your result.

When will I receive my MSP Certificate?

A Foundation Certificate will be dispatched to you approximately 2 weeks after we have received your exam paper back into our offices if you only took the Foundation exam.

A Practitioner Certificate will be dispatched 2 weeks after the Practitioner results have been released.

An Advanced Practitioner Certificate will be dispatched 2 weeks after the Practitioner results have been released.

Please note that if you have taken your examinations via an ATO; the certificates will be dispatched to the ATO. Therefore if you have not received your certificate in the above time frames please contact the ATO directly who can contact the APM Group on your behalf for a replacement.

How can I sit the exams if I am overseas?

Please contact APMG Australasia to arrange this on (02) 6249 6008, email them at accreditations@apmg-australasia.com or visit their website www.apmg-australasia.com.

What is Re-accreditation?

All MSP Practitioners and/or MSP Advanced Practitioners should be re-registered within 3-5 years of their original certification.

All Registered Practitioners/Advanced Practitioners have the opportunity to take a Re-registration examination in order to demonstrate to Employers and prospective Employers the recency of their knowledge and commitment to Continuing Professional Development. This is particularly important following upgrades to the MSP Manual.

Re-registration exams are available for both Practitioner and Advanced Practitioner. A candidate will only be required to sit the Re-registration exam for the highest level of qualification they have achieved. For example, a candidate who holds the Advanced Practitioner certificate would only be required to take the Re-registration exam for this level only.

The format of the Practitioner Re-registration exam is 3 questions, with a scenario background and appendices:

  • Each of the 3 questions is worth 20 marks
  • An overall score of 30 out of a possible 60 is required to pass
  • One hour duration
  • Open-book examination.

The format of the Advanced Practitioner Re-registration is:

A 2000 – 4000 word “dissertation” (suggested target 2500 words) on a specific subject (selected from a range of topics) demonstrating application of MSP. It would ideally be based on a “real life” programme that the candidate has worked within. If this is not possible (if a candidate has not recently worked within a programme or their programme contains classified information), it would be acceptable to base it on the Advanced Practitioner Case Study “MSP Care”. There are no time restrictions imposed on this dissertation. The dissertation will be marked out of a possible 75 marks with the candidate needing 38 marks to achieve a pass.

What is an Accredited Training Organisation (ATO)

Only ATOs can offer accredited training in MSP.

Organisations

All MSP Accredited Training Organisations are required to undergo a rigorous accreditation process to ensure that the quality of training materials and trainers is in keeping with MSP requirements as defined by APM Group. Course materials are regularly reviewed and re-assessed by APMG approved assessors.

Trainers

All Goal trainers have undergone the MSP Trainer accreditation procedure. This involved successfully passing the Advanced Practitioner Examination at Trainer level, and undergoing an assessment by an MSP Assessor appointed by the international accreditation body for MSP, the Association for Project Management Group (APM Group). All MSP trainers are assessed every year and re-accredited every three years.

Where do I go if I still require further information?

Also here are some other key contacts on the Web:

APMG Australasia

Please contact APMG Australasia to arrange this on (02) 6249 6008, email them at accreditations@apmg-australasia.com or visit their website www.apmg-australasia.com.

APM Group

The governing body for MSP worldwide, they look after accreditation, exams and licensing of MSP. Telephone: +44 (0)1494 452 450 or visit their Web site at www.apmgroup.co.uk.

TSO

The Stationery Office own the copyright to the MSP Manual and other supporting documents. They can be contacted at www.tso.co.uk.

MSP® is a Registered Trade Mark of AXELOS Limited, used under permission of AXELOS Limited. All rights reserved.