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MSP® Practitioner


Alan Ferguson is the Managing Director of AFA. This training company has specialised in change delivery practices for nearly 20 years.

Alan has been in project and programme management for an awfully long time. He was certainly looking after a collection of projects (which would not be called multi-project programme management) in the 1970s.  So that means he’s getting to the end of his fourth decade in this game.

His first career was as an engineering officer in the Royal Air Force. Before he left the RAD, he moved across into IT and in the late 1980s and early 1990s worked on IT projects.

Alan also spent a few years working in an international insurance company on IT projects and programmes. Here, and in the RAF he earned his spurs as a practising project and programmed manager.

With AFA, Alan has worked with a hugely diverse range of clients in the UK, Europe and around the world. Alan is particularly proud of the work he has done with the UN some parts of the world that others wouldn’t dream of travelling to.

Alan’s hobbies focus around aviation in all its many aspects. His other hobbies range from helping St John Ambulance, to renovating the Windmill in Dereham; the East Anglican town where he lives and where AFA is based.

If you ever meet Alan, you won’t forget him. Everyone describes him as enthusiastic and challenging. Alan is originally from Belfast and likes nothing better than a bit of craic.

  1. How does a programme differ from a project – in simple terms?
      A project is a temporary organization created for delivering one or more business outputs according to a specified business case.
    A programme is a temporary, flexible organization structure created to co-ordinate, direct and oversee the implementation of a set of related projects and transformational activities.
    A programme is an implementation of a set of related projects and transformational activities to co-ordinate in business as usual.
  2. Do you have an example of a programme?
      Building a new school may be a straightforward project for the construction company carrying out the work, with the output being the completed building.  However, for the education authority it may be part of a programme, where the building is merely one of the several different independent outputs, which together will ensure the longer-term benefits of providing improved education and recreation in a particular community.
  3. How does programme management add value to the organisation?
      Programme Management aligns three critical organisational elements:
    * Corporate Strategy
    * Delivery mechanisms for change
    * Business-as-usual
    It manages the natural tension that exists between these elements to deliver transformational change that meets the needs of the organisation and its stakeholders.  It also manages the transition of the solutions developed and delivered by projects into the organisation’s operations, whilst maintaining performance and effectiveness.
  4. What is the “project-to-benefits” delivery path?
      The delivery sequence, shown in the adjacent figure is:
    A. You deliver outputs from projects. Output is a term relevant in the world of the project. While it's still relevant in programmes, it isn't the be-all and end-all. After you've got the outputs from the projects, you're about halfway through the heavy lifting.
    B. You produce capabilities, which are one or more outputs from the point of view of your business as usual.
    C. You exploit capabilities so that they become outcomes. (Outcomes are significantly different from outputs).
    D. You measure the achievement of outcomes as something quite specific: benefits.


Where there is a major change there will be complexity and risk, many interdependencies to manage and conflicting priorities to resolve.  Experience shows that organisations are likely to fail to deliver change successfully where:

  • There is insufficient board-level support
  • Leadership is weak
  • There are unrealistic expectations of the organisational capacity and ability to change
  • There is insufficient focus on benefits
  • There is no real picture (blueprint) of the future capability
  • There is a poorly defined or poorly communicated vision
  • The organisation fails to change its culture
  • There is insufficient engagement of stakeholders

Adopting a programme management approach such as MSP® provides a structured framework that can help organisations avoid these pitfalls and achieve their goals.