MSP Managing Successful Programmes

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MSP® - An Introduction

What is a Programme?

Programmes deliver outcomes (the results of change) and benefits. Projects deliver outputs (capabilities). Programme management and project management are complementary approaches. Do not confuse programme management with portfolio management. A portfolio may consist of programmes and projects.

What is Programme Management?

During a programme life-cycle, projects are initiated, executed and closed. Programmes provide an umbrella under which these projects can be co-ordinated. Projects are integrated so that the programme can deliver an outcome greater than the sum of its parts.

What is MSP?

MSP is a best practice Guidance on Programme Management details the following key areas:

  • Principles
  • Governance Themes
  • Transformational Flow

Use the tabs above for more information on these areas

MSP® Principles

MSP® Principles are universal, in that they apply to every programme. They are self-validating in that they have been proven in practice, and they are empowering, because they give practitioners of this framework added ability or power to influence and shape transformational change towards success. 

  • Remaining aligned with corporate strategy
  • Leading change
  • Envisioning and communicating a better future
  • Focusing on the benefits and threats to them
  • Adding value
  • Designing and delivering a coherent capability
  • Learning from experience

Governance Themes

Governance is the control framework through which programmes deliver their change objectives and remain within corporate visibility and control. Governance Themes cover the following areas:-

  • Organisation
  • Vision
  • Leadership and Stakeholder Engagement
  • Benefit Realisation Management
  • Blueprint Design and Delivery
  • Planning and Control
  • Business Case
  • Risk Management and Issue Resolution
  • Quality Management

As it is established, the programme will define a number of strategies and plans. Strategies set out the approach the programme will take to achieve its end goals. Plans explain what activities will take place to deliver the element of governance, as well as where, when and by whom.



The Sponsoring Group - The Sponsoring Group should include those who can provide investment decisions and top-level endorsement for the programme.

The Senior Responsible Owner (SRO) - The SRO is responsible for ensuring that the programme meets its objectives and realises the expected benefits. The individual who fulfils this role should be able to lead the Programme Board with energy and drive, and must be empowered to direct the programme and take decisions. They must have enough seniority and authority to provide leadership to the programme team, and take on accountability for delivery.

The Programme Board -The Programme Board is established by the SRO, and its prime purpose is to drive the programme forward and deliver the outcomes and benefits. Members will provide resource and specific commitment to support the SRO who is accountable for the successful delivery of the programme. Membership includes the Programme Manager and Business Change Managers.

Programme Manager - The Programme Manager is responsible for the planning, set-up, management and delivery of the programme.

Business Change Manager - The Business Change Manager(s) role is responsible for benefit management. This includes implementation and embedding of the new capabilities delivered by the projects.

The Programme Office - The Programme Office has two distinct roles;-

  • Providing support for the programme(s)
  • Providing assurance and governance across the programmes



The vision is a picture of a better future, and is the basis for the outcomes and delivered benefits of the programme.

Leadership and Stakeholder Engagement

A stakeholder is an individual, group or organisation that that has an interest in the programme.

Stakeholder engagement includes the processes of identifying, analysing and communicating with stakeholders in order to maintain commitment and avoid surprises.

Benefit Realisation Management

Benefit Realisation Management drives the other Governance Themes and is central to the programme.

Benefit Maps are developed to show how the benefits relate both to each other and to the projects (which deliver the outputs that allow the realisation of benefits). The Benefits Map is a key element in the Benefits Realisation Plan, showing the realisation sequence through a chain of benefits. 

A Benefit profile is a document describing a single benefit or dis-benefit, including its attributes and dependencies. The set of Benefit Profiles forms the repository of all the benefit-related information for the programme, and as such provides the means for maintaining control over the process of Benefits Realisation Management.

Typically, a Benefit Profile is created with a description and on operational owner as soon as it is identified. Population of many other elements of a Benefit Profile is achieved through Stakeholder Engagement, especially with Business Change Managers and their teams.

Blueprint Design and Delivery

The blueprint is a model of the organisation at various points in time. It must include current and future states, in order that the gap between the two can be understood.

During programme definition, some elements of the blueprint may be vague, or missing, and information will emerge on these areas as the programme progresses. Elements of the blueprint are likely to change throughout the programme, in response to changes in the internal or external environment.   

Planning and Control

The Programme Plan is used to control and track the progress and delivery of the programme and resulting outcomes.

The Projects Dossier provides a list of projects required to deliver the Blueprint, with high-level information and estimates.

A tranche is a group of projects structured around distinct step changes in capability and benefit delivery.

Transition covers the activities involved in planning and implementing transformational changes in the way an organisation conducts its business. 

As soon as the programme is underway, and is being managed tranche by tranche, all of the definition and planning work comes into play so that there is fluent, orderly construction and delivery of the new capability, resulting in the new outcomes being achieved.

Business Case

The Business Case represents the optimum mix of information used to judge whether or not the programme is (and remains) desirable, viable and achievable. It identifies the added value of managing the change as a whole in a programme as well as the added costs of the programme over and above project costs. 

The Programme Brief includes an Outline Business Case, the formal basis for assessing whether such an investment is viable or achievable before committing to the detailed programme definition work.   The full Business Case is developed during ‘Defining a Programme’, and is compiled from other information, including the Blueprint; Benefits Realisation Plan; Risk Register; Resource Management Strategy and Plan; Programme Plan.

Risk Management and Issue Resolution

Successful programme management has, at its core, the need to both manage and tolerate uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. Risk management and issue resolution are the vehicles for achieving this.

Quality Management

Quality management is an activity that runs throughout the life of the programme and beyond, and includes activities such as ‘Audits’ and ‘Reviews’.

MSP® Transformational Flow

MSP® programmes are about delivering transformational change, which is achieved through a series of iterative and interrelated steps. The Transformational Flow shows the main processes and key documents involved in delivering an MSP programme.

Each process may require more than one iteration before the next one begins. This is particularly true of ‘Delivering the Capability’ and ‘Realising the Benefits’ as programmes often deliver their change through more than one tranche.

“Identifying a Programme”

‘Identifying a Programme’ is the first major process shown in the Transformational Flow. It will be triggered by approval of a Programme Mandate, and is normally a short process (typically a few weeks) that turns a concept into a tangible business proposition.  The main output from Identifying a Programme is the Programme Brief.

‘Defining a Programme’

‘Defining a Programme’ will be triggered by approval of the Programme Brief and approval to proceed at the end of ‘Identifying a Programme’. The Programme Brief is used as a start-point for creating the Programme Definition Document, which summarises other documents created during definition (e.g. Blueprint). 

“Managing the Tranches”

The purpose of ‘Managing the Tranche’ is to implement the defined governance for the programme, accepting that, as the programme progresses, this will need to be adapted and refined to ensure the successful delivery of the tranches and the final outcomes. ‘Governance’ means the functions, processes and procedures that define how the programme is set up, managed and controlled. 

“Delivering the Capability”

This process covers the activities for coordinating and managing project delivery. The projects in the Projects Dossier will be started, monitored and, ultimately, closed, in order to deliver new outputs that enable the capabilities described in the Blueprint.

“Realising the Benefits”

The purpose of ‘Realising the Benefits’ is to manage benefits through to their successful realisation. This includes monitoring projects to ensure that their outputs will provide the capabilities required, and thus enable the required business changes, which lead to successful outcomes and benefit realisation.

“Closing the Programme”

Programmes are often closed prior to their original planned end point. Whenever a programme is closed, however, this should be formally recognised, and the related activities are described in ‘Closing a Programme’

Project, Programme and Risk Management Best Practice– Video Bytes | SPOCE

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