Programme management methodologies

Date: 16/05/2023| Category: Program Management| Tags:

To manage programmes, one can refer to different methodologies. An obvious choice could be MSP (Managing Successful Programmes), but also AgilePgM, the Programme Management methodology of APMG. Both should support an Agile approach of managing complex programmes. While they share some similarities, they also have significant differences.

MSP 5th edition

With the latest update of the popular programme management certification MSP 5th edition, the framework became a lot more agile. MSP defines a programme as something temporary, focused on outcomes of benefit and that is concerned with leading multiple projects and other work. MSP is a guide and inspiration to the practice of leading complex change over the years.

The basis of the MSP integrated framework is the overall structure of principles, themes and programme lifecycle. MSP also defines four key elements, which are vision, benefits, risks and target operating model. These four are described in the Design theme in the latest (5th) edition of MSP.


The AgilePgM guidance offers a disciplined but flexible approach to the management of transformational organisational change, allowing for iterative and incremental delivery of outputs and benefits.

The guidance believes that a programme is formed to manage a series of initiatives and ensures the new operational state is successfully reached. It recognizes that a programme will evolve over time and cannot be fully defined upfront. The AgilePgM guidance emphasises concepts of empowerment, active stakeholder involvement, iterative development and incremental delivery of benefits whilst maintaining control.

Choosing a Programme Management approach

MSP and AgilePgM share common goals of managing complex programmes effectively. They however differ in their approach, team structue, methodology, flexibility and focus on documentation. The choice between the two guidances depends completely on the organisational needs, culture and the programme environment.

An organisation that seeks a programme management guidance that is detailed, asks for a lot of documentation and is very extensive would be wise to choose MSP. MSP is much more prescriptive when it comes to ways of working. It requests for a strong hierarchical structure and clearly divides roles and responsibilities. MSP defines seven themes that include different techniques. The guidance advises an extensive list of management products like the mandate, business case and blueprint.

An organisation that feels comfortable with agile ways of working, would be wise to choose AgilePgM as a programme management approach. AgilePgM uses its main philosophy: an agile programme delivers what is needed and when it is needed – no more and no less. AgilePgM is not a very detailed methodology and asks for a lot of tailoring.

MSP vs AgilPgM

The similarities of MSP and AgilePgM can be summarised as follows:


Both frameworks are designed to address programme management and support the organisation with the transformation from a current to a future state.

Governance and control

Both frameworks emphasise the importance of governance and control mechanisms to ensure programme success. They provide guidance on how to establish effective governance structures and processes.

Benefits Management

Both frameworks recognize the importance of benefits management. They support organisations define and track the intended benefits of the programme and ensure their realisation.

Stakeholder engagement

Both MSP and AgilePgM focus on the involvement and engagement of stakeholders throughout the complete lifecycle of the programme. They provide guidance on stakeholder identification, communication and collaboration.

The differences of MSP and AgilePgM can be summarised as follows:


While the 5th edition of MSP includes more Agile aspects, it remains a more traditional and structured approach to programme management. MSP provides a set of principles and processes to guide programme management activities. AgilePgM on the other hand, is tailored to programme management in an Agile environment. It has a strong focus on delivering programme outcomes incrementally and iteratively.


MSP seeks to allow some flexibility but in general provides a more rigid and controlled approach to programme management. AgilePgM is more adaptable to change, as it is built on Agile principles that value responsiveness and continuous improvement.


MSP requires the creation of various management products and emphasises overall documentation. AgilePgM, in contrast, focuses more on delivering working solutions and value that request lighter documentation.


MSP defines the main roles and approach to stakeholder management. However, the guidance is not very specific about team structures and collaboration methods. AgilePgm is more prescriptive when it comes to collaboration and encourages self-organising teams and frequent communication.

Programme Management certification

Managing Successful Programmes (MSP) is a certification that includes both a Foundation and a Practitioner level. QRP International is an ATO (Accredited Training Organisation) for MSP and offers both courses and exams. Our MSP training courses are fully accredited by PeopleCert on behalf of Axelos.

AgilePgM is a certification by APGM.

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