Category Archives: Aspire Academy

The great programme management debate – MSP v PMI


In the world, there are two main programme management frameworks, the MSP® framework which we have been so heavily involved in, and the PMI Programme Management framework from the US based community.

We were commissioned to write a paper comparing the two approaches and we thought this article would be an interesting reference point if you are looking to develop programme management understanding.

The overwhelming conclusion of this article is that organisations delivering programmes need to exploit the strengths of both approaches and once understood, they are surprisingly compatible and build on the strengths and weaknesses of each other rather than proposing opposing approaches.

The article has been written by Rod Sowden, lead author for MSP® 2007 and 2011.

MSP® is a [registered] trade mark of AXELOS Limited, used under permission of AXELOS Limited. All rights reserved

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Filed under Aspire Academy, Aspire Accelerate, MSP®, Programme and Project framework, Programme Management

Portfolio offices play a key role in strategy delivery – Forrester research

In this article by Forrester Consulting, they have written an excellent paper on how strategic PMOs play a key role in increasing an organisations ability to deliver the right projects in the right way, thus improving organisational performance and agility.

It includes an interesting section about the triggers for PMOs taking on this strategic relevance, not surprisingly, most are linked to a corporate calamity of some sort or a new CEO who is a believer.

Their findings illustrate that the critical success factors include:

  • They have a seat at the executive table
  • They are a critical part of the strategic planning process
  • They embrace core competencies
  • They use consistent objectives across industries and regions

For those of you that are familiar with Eileen Roden’s P3O®, some of this will be old news but it is still a very interesting article with current examples.

P3O® is a [registered] trade mark of AXELOS Limited, used under permission of AXELOS Limited. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Learning, p3o, Portfolio Management, Programme & Portfolio Office

Fresh Look – Benefits Management

We thought it would be a good idea to revisit some of the guiding principles that underpin the world of portfolio, programme and project management. In a world of information overload, it is very easy to lose sight of what matters, so this is the first in a series of posts that we revisit to remind about some core concepts.


In this article, we revisit benefits management, which is still one of the most mysterious disciplines in the world of transformation. Benefits appear like magic when the business case is being written. With earnest consideration and challenge, even more mysteriously, they seem to disappear as soon as the business is signed off and people get down to the real business of delivering stuff, probably never returning to the sticky subject of benefits and why the change was initiated in the first place.

We’ve pulled together some of what we have found to be guiding principles which may increase your chances of achieving your benefits delivery.

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Filed under Benefits Management, Knowledge Nugget

Wasting money on training – what can we do to help?

Strange but true

  1. In 2011 the UK National Audit Office (NAO) reported that a lack of programme and project management skills was one of the major concerns for senior managers. In 2017 there is an estimate that the UK public sector is 4,000 short of the number needed to deliver Brexit.
  2. Our skills and capability assessments have also highlighted some other alarming statistics, one of which is that 23% of people involved in transformation programmes and projects have no formal qualifications.
  3. Over 250,000 people worldwide are qualified in PRINCE2® and over 50,000 in Managing Successful Programmes (MSP®), but when we undertake maturity assessments and assurance reviews, we find organisations do not actually use the fundamental concepts or processes. So basically people are gaining qualifications on subject areas they do not use.

If you are interested in finding out more about why organisations fail to extract better value from the training market, why not read our article – delivering better value from training

In the meantime, here are the things that the Aspire Academy award winning team can help you with.


If you want targeted development to improve organisational and individual performance in both the processes and leadership of change, we can help with the  following:

  1. Competency Framework – that can be adapted for your organisation to help target your training and is aligned to the APM Body of Knowledge.
  2. Competency and Capability Assessment – the process and survey that can profile the current organisation to target your training more effectively.
  3. Short Courses – a range of  ‘off the shelf’, customisable topic and role related courses specifically targeted at improving performance. A number have associated vocational qualifications from C4CM.
  4. eLearning Courses – we have all the main APM Group and AXELOS Limited qualification courses and a range of topic specific courses that focus on application of the concepts, e.g. planning.
  5. Accredited Qualifications – we can offer the full range of APM, APM Group, AXELOS Limited and C4CM qualifications in face-to-face events. Result statistics from the APMG exam institute show our average pass rate across all our products and qualification levels is a 97% success rate over the past year!
  6. Align Framework – A portfolio, programme and project framework which provides a self-help knowledge base and just-in-time guidance for teams. For more information on the Align Framework, click here.
  7. Community of Practice – will enable personal development and networking and organisational learning and improvement.
MSP® and PRINCE2® are [registered] trade marks of AXELOS Limited, used under permission of AXELOS Limited. All rights reserved.

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10% discount on our Planning guide!

Is it time your organisation improved its planning?

Anyone can claim to be at the leading edge of the industry or a thought leader, but how many people put themselves ‘out there’ and go into print as authors, securing the backing of one of the world’s leading publishing companies like the TSO?

This book was written by Rod Sowden (Aspire Europe’s MD). It started life as a guidance for one of his customers, but later developed into a course and finally evolved into a book. It evolved as a result of P3M3® assessments, spotting a systemic problem with planning in most organisations which we found to be a global issue. The book helps to pull all the threads and concepts together into one practical guide that extracts the best from many bodies of knowledge around the world.

Why not have a look at the British Computer Society review

We are confident this book will make a difference to the success of your projects so why not take a look inside! Contact us to find out more and how to obtain a 10% discount when purchasing through us.

P3M3® is a [registered] trade mark of AXELOS Limited, used under permission of AXELOS Limited. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Aspire Academy, P3M3®, Planning, Programme Management, Project Management

Why is learning from failure so difficult?


One of the great mysteries is why do we keep making the same mistakes or doing blindingly stupid things. The P3M industry is just a reflection of a wider society, as programmes and projects fail repeatedly for the same reasons, yet each time it seems to come as a complete surprise.

TSO asked Aspire Europe to write the guest article for their website, so we decided to focus on this topic and share our insights. We hope you find the article useful.

If just one word from this article triggers a thought or an idea that improves your performance at any time in the future, then it will have been worthwhile.


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Filed under Change Management, Knowledge Nugget

Programmes without blueprints are like ships without keels

Clipper Around The World Race, Hawaii start, April 5th 2008Is your programme exhibiting any of these characteristics

  1. Project issues dominate the programme board
  2. Unidentified risks start to materialise a bit too quickly
  3. Benefits are rarely discussed
  4. The BCM lacks authority or purpose
  5. Many uncontrolled or unclear dependencies between projects and other initiatives start to manifest themselves
  6. Decision making is ad-hoc, reactionary or just slow
  7. Stakeholder resistance begins to increase and programme loses support
  8. Programmes either lack momentum or feel like a roller coaster

If that is the case, your programme probably does not have a blueprint, and is probably out of control.

In this article, we liken a programme a yacht and explain how it is not what you see on the surface that is providing the control, it is what happens below the waterline that is important.

If your programme is exhibiting any of these characteristics then this article is for you.


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Filed under Aspire Academy, Aspire Accelerate, MSP®, Programme Management