Projects are most successful when there is written authority for the project manager to plan and organize work. A project charter should be created by the project manager from input he/she gathers from the sponsor(s) and the key stakeholders. The project charter includes documentation of the projects goals and an understanding of what the high level problems and requirements are. The project manager uses the project charter throughout the project to make certain the business case and the project objectives can be met. Therefore, the charter becomes the mandate allowing you to gain “buy in” on the project and its goals. Given its purpose, the charter should have minimum jargon and be easy to read. Download the FREE project charter template to use with your next project!
How to Create a Project Charter
Project Title and Description What is the project?
Project Manager Assigned and Authority Level Includes the name and title of the project manager, and answers the question, “To what extent can the assigned PM make decisions?” For example, can he/she approve budget changes, change the schedule, and approve staffing assignments? Keep in mind that when the project is underway is not a good time to find answers and make such decisions!
Business Case Why was this particular project selected? How does it fit into the organization’s strategic plan? How will the project bring value to the business? Understanding the business case will impact the way the project is managed.
Resources Preassigned Have team members or other resources been assigned by management? These preassigned resources must be taken into account when estimating and planning.
Stakeholders Who will affect or be affected by this project? Identifying all stakeholders early in planning may avoid costly changes later in the project.
Stakeholder Requirements as Known What high-level requirements were used to justify the project? Further work to clarify and finalize requirements will come later.
Product Description/Deliverables What specific product deliverables are wanted, and what will be the end result of the project? A measure of project success is that all the deliverables are met.
Assumptions What do stakeholders believe to be true and reliable for the project, which may not be true? Assumptions need to be reviewed throughout the project, since an assumption that is proven not to be true may cause changes in scope and other parts of the project management plan.
Constraints What factors may limit the team’s ability to deliver the needed result of the project? What boundaries or parameters will the project have to function within?
Measurable Project Objective(s) How does the project tie into the organization’s strategic goals? Objectives must be measurable to prove project success.
High-Level Project Risks What opportunities and threats could impact the project? Additional risks, as well as strategies to deal with them, will be documented later in planning.
Project Approval Requirements What items need to be approved for the project, and who will have sign-off authority? What designates success?
Project Sponsor Authorizing This Project The charter requires a signature in order to give authority and make the project official. Depending on the environment in which your project will be completed, there could be more than one signature on the project charter.
The project charter should contain all the elements described above. They can be abbreviated or elaborated upon depending on the organization’s culture, environment, level of planning, project management maturity, and best practices. It can also depend on the size of the project. Overall, a successful project begins with a well written project charter that can be used to measure progress, is a reference point for avoiding and settling disputes and a guide to keep the projects end solution as the focal point.
If you have successfully used other elements in a charter, let us know why it worked.