Reviewing MSP Training for Beginners

So you’re heading in the direction of programme management and maybe you’re not sure where to start when it comes to training. It always seems a daunting task to decide which is the best certification for your career advancement and which certification is the most recognised.

If you’re new to programme management and you’re trying to do research on certifications, it can be difficult. Most of the information out their on programme management use industry specific jargon that can make this task tiresome and sometimes boring.

The good news is that I did all the homework on programme management training for you, and I took all that information and put it into an easy to read version. Here is what I found.

One of the most popular programme management courses out there is MSP.

MSP training is the best place to start for programme management novices and in this article we’ll review MSP training so that you can make an informed decision about your career.

Managing Successful Programmes (MSP) is a best practise guide for programme management. It’s a framework that programme managers use that consists of principles and processes for managing these projects and programs. In this post we’re going to look at the field of programme management, how MSP fits into this field and what MSP training entails so that you will find it easier to choose which is the right course for you.

What is Programme Management?

Programme management is a field that concerns the management of multiple projects and programmes.

A programme is made up of projects that are related to the programme. A program is something that should deliver more than the ‘sum of its parts’ which means that a programme is only as successful as the projects within it.

Programme Management therefore is the management of projects and management activities for the purpose of achieving constructive change. It is the process of managing projects, with the intention of improving an organisations performance.

The projects are managed in a coordinated manner to obtain benefits that would not be possible if they were managed individually. Programme management also ensures that the projects that are undertaken are in-line with the organisation’s strategy and business needs.

What is a Programme Manager?

A Programme Manager is someone who is in charge of the coordination of an organisation’s projects and the management of any risks and issues that could arise from the project’s interdependencies.

A Programme Manager interacts with the different project teams but they don’t manage these teams directly, as this is the Project Manager’s responsibility. They focus on the project outcomes and as a result have a more broad outlook of what is happening.

They are responsible for working with the organisation to align the projects and programs to the strategic goals of the organisation. They are there to ensure the project delivers a return on investment and as such are outcome focused.

Roles and Responsibilities

Some of the roles and responsibilities of a programme manager may include:

  • Planning and designing the programme
  • Monitoring the projects progress
  • Managing the programmes budget
  • Appointing individuals to project teams
  • Managing third party contributions to the programme
  • Managing communication with stakeholders
  • Reporting the progress of the programme to their superior

What is the Difference Between a Programme Manager and a Project Manager?

The link between Programme Management and Project Management is such that the programme is made up of projects, and it is only successful if the projects within the programme are successful too.

Without Programme Management, a project would still be able to deliver a product or service, however it may not be in line with the strategic goals of the organisation.

A Programme Manager is the person responsible for managing multiple projects and sometimes multiple programmes, while a Project Manager is someone who is responsible for a specific project.

A Project Manager is the person who reports to the Programme Manager however he/she has more direct communication with the project team. They are responsible for the project requirements which often includes delivering a project on time and within budget.

Programme ManagerProject Manager
Manages multiple projects and sometimes multiple programmesManages a specific project
Interacts with teamsInteracts with teams
Doesn’t manage project teamsManages project teams
Responsible for outcomesResponsible for project requirements
Responsible for aligning the program to the business strategyResponsible for team members and ensuring the project delivers on time and within budget
Broader perspectiveDeeper focus on what’s happening in every individual project

Table comparing Programme Manager role and Project Manager role

What is MSP?

According to Axelos, “Managing Successful Programmes (MSP) represents proven programme management good practice in the successful delivery of transformational change through the application of programme management.”

MSP therefore is a framework which compromises of a set of principles and processes that programme managers can use when managing a programme.

What is the MSP Framework?

The MSP Framework comprises of 3 elements:

MSP Principles: The MSP framework consists of 7 principles that are considered to be the common factors that contribute to the success of any transformational change. These universal principles apply to all programmes and have been adopted from program experiences. These principles are empowering for program managers as they focus on the power to influence and shape transformational change at a management level.

MSP Governance Themes: These are themes that define the organisations approach to programme management. It is the control framework through which programmes deliver change. They allow for the selection of the appropriate leadership, delivery team, structure and control which will allow for success within the programme. These themes can be seen as the reference manual for programmes.

MSP Transformational Flow: MSP requires that certain steps be taken in order to deliver transformational change. Transformational flow are the steps which show the main processes and key documents involved in delivering an MSP programme. It can also be described as the programmes time based to-do list.

What are the Benefits of Being MSP Certified?

For The Individual The Benefits Include:

  • Being able to understand and implement one of the most well-known programme management frameworks
  • You will be able to use best practice management methods to deliver transformational change
  • You will be able to direct and manage multiple projects and programmes
  • Be able to maintain performance and effectiveness of strategies
  • Be able to manage solutions developed and delivered by projects
  • You will be able to encourage the ability of the organisation to change
  • You will be able to lead business transformation

For The Organisation The Benefits Include:

  • Having employees that align corporate strategy with mechanisms for positive change
  • Employees that continually monitor progress within the organisation
  • As MSP certified employees can see the overall picture of the program, they will be able to add value by focusing on benefits
  • These employees will encourage feedback, which can help with developing future strategies based on evidence
  • Employees will be more aware of upcoming pitfalls and therefore be more prepared
  • Other employees who are not MSP certified, will be able to learn from the MSP certified employees and as such will add value to the organisation

What MSP Certifications are Available?

The MSP certifications that are available include 1)MSP Foundation and 2)MSP Practitioner.

MSP Foundation

The MSP Foundation certification serves the purpose of determining whether a student has sufficient knowledge and understanding of MSP.

After completing this certification students should be able to interact efficiently with those involved in the management of a programme office or project delivery team who work within an MSP supporting environment.

Who is this for?: MSP Foundation is the starting point for any individual who is working towards Programme Manager status. This is an entry level course for those who need to understand and apply the MSP framework. It is also for those who are looking for a certification that will validate their knowledge and skills if they are already in this industry.

What are the pre-requisites? : There are no pre-requisites for the MSP Foundation.

Where can I receive training? : There are various training providers however it’s important to select an accredited training provider whether it be in a classroom setting or an online training provider. At ITonlinelearning we have an accredited and internationally recognised MSP Foundation course suited for entry level programme managers.

What is the exam format? :

  • Multiple choice
  • 75 questions per paper with 1 mark available per question
  • 5 questions to be trial and not counted in scores
  • 35 marks required to pass (out of 70 available) – 50%
  • 60 minutes duration
  • Closed book

Where can I take the exam? : You may take the exam with an accredited training provider or at a public sitting.

What is the next step? : Once you have passed your MSP Foundation you may move onto the next step of certification which is MSP Practitioner.

MSP Practitioner

MSP Practitioner serves the purpose of determining whether a candidate has the apt amount of knowledge and understanding of MSP guidance.

The candidate should be able to apply the guidance to their work and as such act as a member of a programme management team. Once they have completed this certification they will be able to manage, lead, support and advise on work with an MSP supporting environment.

Who is this for?: This course is for Project Managers, experts and advisers working within a programme office and other specialist roles. This is also for those who wish to progress to the next level of MSP certification which is MSP Advanced Practitioner.
What are the pre-requisites?: You need to have completed the MSP Foundation certification in order to qualify for MSP Practitioner.

Where can I receive training?: There are various training providers however it’s important to select an accredited training provider whether it be in a classroom setting or an online training provider. At ITonlinelearning we have an accredited and internationally recognised MSP Practitioner course suited for those who have completed their MSP Foundation course.

What is the exam format?:

  • Objective testing
  • 8 questions per paper
  • 40 marks required to pass (out of 80 available) – 50%
  • Two-and-a-half hour duration
  • Open-book (only the MSP Guide is allowed)

Where can I take the exam?: You may take the exam with an accredited training provider or at a public sitting.

What is the next step?: Once you have passed your MSP Practitioner you may move onto the next step of certification which is MSP Advanced Practitioner.


In this review of MSP training for beginners, we’ve outlined programme management and how Managing Successful Programmes (MSP) is a great starting point for those who are beginners in programme management.

These two levels of MSP certification, namely Foundation and Practitioner, are the stepping stones for a successful career in programme management.

As we can see, a good understanding of how to apply MSP is key, for transformational change within an organisation and for your programme management career too!

Whether you are looking into the next stage of your career, or you are looking for a way to validate your knowledge and skill set, MSP is the certification for those who are striving for a fruitful programme management career.

Start your Project Management Career today!

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