The project charter is a critical element of the project management process.  The charter is one of the first steps in initiating a project.  It is the tool 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.

Creating a Project Charter

  1. What Is a Project Charter?
  2. What Are the Benefits of Using a Charter?
  3. What to Include in A Project Charter

What Is a Project Charter?

The project charter is a document created by the project manager (along with the resources available). It is issued by the project’s sponsor and authorizes the project, giving the project manager authority to do their work.

The charter is a high level description of , a target that must be met.The project has to be plans the project to reach that target.

Contained in the charter are the high-level scope and direction for the project, as well as other constraints and objectives that a project must meet in order to build that scope and be  considered a success. The information in the charter is the basis of the more detailed project management plan used to keep everyone focused on what needs to be achieved throughout the life of the project.

What Are the Benefits of Using a Charter?

A project charter provides the basis for the project manager and the team to know what problem they will solve or opportunity they will  take advantage of for their organization. Beyond that, a project charter provides the following benefits:

  • Formally authorizes the project to continue
  • Gives the project manager authority to spend money and commit resources on behalf of the organization
  • Provides the high-level project  requirements
  • Links the project to the ongoing work for the organization

What to Include In a Project Charter

Following are a list of items you should have in your project charter:

  1. A high-level description of the project. It should include the business case with the financial or other basis justifying the project.
  2. Establishment of a clear view of the initiative’s organizational value by addressing the business case and maintaining focus on meeting project objectives.
  3. dentification of  pre-assigned resources that may influence how the project will be planned. Some projects come with constraints on the number, location, or type of resources.
  4. identification of the key stakeholders who will affect or be affected by the project or product, as well as their known requirements.
  5. High level documentation of the major deliverables and the end result of the project as part of the product description.
  6. The intended end results of the project.
  7. Any known project constraints, such as time cost, scope, quality, resources, communications, risk, or stakeholder expectations. These may limit how the project is delivered.
  8. Known organizational, team or stakeholder assumptions.These will be tested , during planning, and updated throughout the project.
  9. Finally, the charter should describe project objectives in measurable terms, along with how the project will be evaluated for success or failure, who will sign off where necessary, and the authority level assigned to the project manager.

A charter including all this allows for the development of a project management plan that thoroughly defines the project, defines “done” and helps ensure a clear picture of what constitutes the end of the project.A

A Charter’s Big Impact on Your Project

Keep in mind that the project charter serves as a definition of how success of the project and the project manager will be measured. Therefore, without a charter, a project’s success, efficiency, and effectiveness are often difficult to measure.

If you are looking for additional resources about a project charter or other project management techniques,  get RMC’s Project Management Fundamentals book.  Our online book breaks down the tools and techniques every successful project manager should know and use in a predictive project environment.  

Given its purpose and original (management) audience, the project charter should have a minimum of jargon, to be easy to read. It is a critical element of the project management process,  and is one of the outputs of project initiating .  It is essential to gaining buy in on the project and its goals.


Cate Curry
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