Prince2 delivers outputs or products — MSP delivers capabilities. Neither approach delivers clear, measurable ‘business outcomes’. MSP refers to ‘outcomes’ but these are, in TOP terms, benefit statements.

Project or value delivery based?

Prince2 and MSP (Managing Successful Projects) are both designed to isolate the project manager from accountability for benefits. The project manager merely delivers the specified outputs, products or capabilities.

The danger with this approach is that it allows decisions to be made on the project that inadvertently destroy the business value. All parties need to have their ‘eyes on the prize’ – ie the full delivery of the desired business outcomes, benefits and value.

Prince2 delivers outputs or products — MSP delivers capabilities. Neither approach delivers clear, measurable ‘business outcomes’.  MSP refers to ‘outcomes’ but these are, in TOP terms, benefit statements.

There is, therefore, a significant gap between what the program delivers (capabilities) and the realization of the benefits and value – a gap that much of the value can fall through.

Business Change Managers

Primary responsibility for the delivery of benefits (value) within MSP is with the “Business Change Manager”. This manager needs to be senior enough to make it happen within the business. This role also has full change management and benefits realization accountabilities. MSP does not appear to support the BCM role effectively.
TOP can be seen as the means by which the Business Change Manager can do their job effectively.

MSP has a major focus on benefits – their realization and measurement. However, MSP takes an ‘outputs’ measurement approach, only measuring the eventual realization of the final value. As the financial value is often the least stable component of a ‘value’ equation this is an unreliable basis for benefits measurement.

TOP measures progress towards the delivery of each and every benefit – an inputs approach.

TOP progressively measures the completion of project activities, project outcome delivery, business activities, business outcomes delivery and then benefits delivery and value realization. TOP also tracks the value of these benefits along the way, measuring variances as they occur so that the total available value is known throughout the project and at the time of realization.

  • Prince2 equips project teams to deliver project outputs/products.
  • MSP equips program teams to deliver programs of work with a parallel benefits stream.
  • TOP equips business management and staff to deliver business outcomes, benefits and value that improve business performance.

You can see the different in focus and emphasis.

The MSP Blueprint 

MSP revolves around the “Blueprint”. The Blueprint is a model of the business, its working practices and processes, the information it requires and the technology that will be needed to deliver the capabilities described in the program’s “Vision” statement. It defines what is wanted, but not how the organization will operate or make money in the future. It is used to maintain the focus on delivery of the new capabilities.

The Blueprint is an Enterprise Business Architecture view/specification of the program and is developed by the Business Change Managers in conjunction with business analysts (not the Program Manager).

MSP is not proscriptive as to what the Blueprint needs to contain, but it is generally defined in terms of ‘POTI’:

P policies, processes, procedures

O organization, people, structures, role, responsibilities, work practices, stakeholder relationships, culture

T tools, techniques and technologies

I management information and KPIs.

The Blueprint appears to be a somewhat functional definition of what the solution is to be. It would state, for example,

  • this is the future structure

  • this is the future information required

  • this is the future role of the XYZ position

  • this is the number of staff we want in the call center, etc.

The Blueprint also defines the current and future states with the delta being the (quantifiable) benefits.

The need for additional specificity

The Blueprint is defined progressively in more and more detail as the project progresses and needs to be able to allow its achievement to be verified.

A typical Blueprint statement example is –

The program will deliver the capability for…
“Objective staff assessment and tailored personal development plans, supported by easy to access local training facilities.”

While this statement can be assessed as met or not, a wide variety of solutions could be equally assessed as meeting the same statement. In TOP terms it is not specific enough.

TOP would, in this situation, define a desired business outcome like…

“Each staff member is assessed at least annually against a set of pre-agreed performance criteria and is supported by a tailored personal development plan. Training courses are available locally to meet common and organization-specific development needs so as to make it easy for staff to meet their development and performance goals.” Measure: Are they or aren’t they assessed/available?

The range of solutions that will meet this ‘desired business outcome’ definition is now much narrower and each element has some level of qualification on its delivery. This level of outcome specificity also makes it easier to define the changes required to achieve the outcome as it is far clearer and the options are much narrower.


In TOP terms, the Blueprint is somewhere between an Outcomes roadmap and a requirements definition and lacks the specificity of the Outcome definitions and roadmap and the detail of the requirements definition — leaving a lot of room for ambiguity, misunderstandings and variable results.

TOP brings a much higher level of specificity, trackability and measurability to program delivery that project and program managers find clarifies what they are delivering and why, and also makes easier how they communicate what their project is all about to all parties.

Learn more about the power of Outcome Statements


Topics: TOP compared to orthodox approaches

Further Reading



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Revision History

First published: Simms, J. (Aug 2010) as "TOP & MSP - The Blueprint"

Updated: Chapman, A. (March 2020), Revisions and Corrections