Creating a Project Charter

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.

What Is a Project Charter?

The project charter is a document issued by the project’s sponsor. It authorizes the project and gives the project manager authority to do their work.

The charter is, basically, a target that must be met. Therefore, the project has to be planned in a manner that will allow you to reach that target.

What does this charter contain? Well, it covers the high-level scope and direction of a project, as well as the objectives that a project must meet in order to be considered a success. And this document will be used to help keep everyone focused on what needs to be achieved throughout the life of a project.

What Are the Benefits of Using a Charter?

Successful project managers and teams can avoid cost overruns, ensure customer satisfaction, and deliver the scope within schedule constraints. Beyond all of that, a project charter also provides the following benefits:

  • Formally recognizes (authorizes) the existence of a project, and establishes the project
  • Gives the project manager authority to spend money and commit resources
  • Provides the high-level requirements for the project
  • Links the project to the ongoing work for the organization

What to Include

  1. A high-level description of the project. It should also include the business need, and the financial or other basis justifying the project (business case).
  2. Charters for top-performing projects establish a clear view of the initiative’s organizational value by addressing the business case and maintaining focus on meeting the objectives of the project.
  3. As you work on documenting a charter, you need to identify any 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. The charter should identify the key stakeholders who will affect, or be affected by, the project or product, as well as their known requirements.
  5. Major deliverables and the end result of the project should be documented at a high level in the charter as part of the product description and deliverables.
  6. It’s important to know the intended end results of the project, and if there are any project constraints, such as time or cost, as these may limit how the project is delivered. This allows for the development of a project management plan that defines “done” and helps ensure a clear picture of what constitutes the end of the project.
  7. Assumptions are documented in the charter as well. Then, during planning, you can analyze if they’re valid.
  8. Finally, the charter should include measurable project objectives, how the project will be evaluated for success or failure, who will sign off, and the authority level assigned to the project manager.

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 affected.