Project Charter: An Ultimate Guide to Showcase Your Project
A project needs descriptive assistance through which others can understand the technicalities of it. Many would ask what this is? Who does it? Who signs it? Can a project manager write it? Is it a simple project document? Why is it important? The list goes on.
Project Charter is a versatile document that formally authorizes a project or a phase. It defines the reason of establishing the project and assigns it to whoever is worthy of doing it.
Why is Project Charter needed?
Similar to how a movie without a script can be a disaster, a project without its charter can end up like a flop movie. The sole purpose of a project charter is to document and acknowledge the existence of the project. This document will be proof to commit organizational resources to the project. Project managers need to create a project charter in order to analyse the following aspects:
- Reasons for undertaking the project
- Objectives and constraints
- Directions concerning the solution
- Identities of the main stakeholders
- In-scope and out-of-scope items
- Risks identified early on
- Target benefits
- High-level budget and spending authority
Certainly, the success of the project can never be measured if a charter is not present to do so.
Uses of Project Charter
Projects are usually initiated by sponsors, project managers or chairperson of an organization. A charter is needed to establish a roles and responsibilities among the members. If the project is a shared collaboration between two organisation, it creates a smooth partnership between them. Project Management Office (PMO) deals with formal contracts to ensure if the external organization is trustworthy or not.
A clear and concise charter can be used to:
- To initiate the project
- Serves as the primary sales document for the project
- Serves as a focal point throughout the project
- Serves as a source to understand how the project will work.
- To align with other organizational strategies
- To show stakeholders and executives the business value of the project
- For comparing Project Performance and Progress during Phase gate.
This high-level document demands attention and strategic changes which shall be given under much needed circumstances. For better project management planning, a periodic review is essential.
Project Charter for Client Company
Project charter acts as a central document that works as a key component to client companies. This document contains short explanations or detailed specifications about the scope of work. A general project charter is incomplete without the authorized signature at the end. It is usually a signature of the customer at the bottom that conveys authority to bind the agreement. The counter signature is from an officer from the consultancy.
Who is Responsible for Project Charter?
Clearly a project manager. He is assigned to initiate the project as soon as possible. To make it more feasible, the charter is the first thing to be developed. It is done even prior to the planning and development stage.
Although, sponsor are eligible to sign the project charter, the one who is additionally responsible for the document is the project manager. Until the end of the project, it is the duty of a project manager to provide recommendations and oversight.
Is Project Charter the Only Important Business Document?
The clear answer is no. The Project Charter is an important business document but it is not the only one. Business Case and Benefits Management Plan are Project Phase documents, which act as an input to the Project. Chartering a project validates alignment of the project to the strategy and ongoing work of the organization.
Project Charter VS Contract
- It’s a procurement document which defines the legal relationship between supplier and customer
- Contract may include SOW, where all deliverable need by customers, are listed
- Contracts are approved by the customer and given to executing organizations to get the things done.
- It’s an internal document, which the organization is giving to the internal team to communicate what is expected from them
- For a given contract, the executing organization may execute more than one project and divide the deliverable; the sponsor of executing organization may also add some goals or deliverable which are not mentioned in Contract like sponsor may ask to build a capability of doing such projects as part of this project.
- The executing organization (sponsor) approves the project charter and sends across to project manager to get things done.
Project Charter VS Business Case
- The business case is a sales pitch or a funding request for the project to the management or investment board.
- It is developed after confirming the opportunity and evaluating the options open to the entrepreneurs.
- A project charter, on the other hand, is formal documentation of how a project will be managed, list of initial assumptions, risk, issues, scope, high-level timeline etc.
- Developing a project charter involves assessing the project feasibility basis the given constraints and planning the project at a high level.
Who Signs the Project Charter?
You are mistaken if you thought that a project manager can sign the Project Charter. Project Manager DOES NOT sign it but Project Sponsor does.
The sponsor must authorize it, not write it. Project Manager is the one who develops the document. The authorization may be delivered by a formal signature by the sponsor, a formal chartering ceremony, or simply a reply e-mail saying, “I agree. Proceed.”
Essential Contents of Project Charter
A Project Charter depends upon the project type and the organization but a general outline comprises of:
- Project Objectives
Purpose and Justification
- Project description
- Project Limits
- Key Ingredients
- Key stakeholders
- High-level requirements and high level Project Scope
- Project Risk
- Measurable success criteria
- Summary of Milestone schedules
- Financial Resources
- Project exit criteria
- Duties of project manager including responsibility, and authority level
- Name and authority of the sponsor or other people (s) authorizing the document
5 Step Process for Publishing ad Effective Project Charter
- Identify Stakeholders
- Identify the Project Scope
- Work on the identification of Risk
- Understand the assumptions and Constraints
- Identify the high level of Requirements and Scope
- Most importantly what is project Success Criteria
- Business Case
3. Get Agreement
- Sending Agreement to Sponsors and Stakeholders
- Confidentiality agreement from team members
4. Sign off by the Authority
- Signature of proceeding by Sponsors
5. Publish the project Charter
- Project Charter is ready to Publish
I have witnessed that many project managers initiate a project without having a clear Project Charter and it doesn’t end well. The document is an integral part of Project Management as it gives a purpose to planning, meetings, discussion and objectives of the project. Personal Advice? Always initiate a project with a Project Charter, whether its 1 pager or 15, but make it and get it approved before proceeding further.
A Visual Project Charter
Usually, a project charter spans for 5-6 pages. This is one of the major reasons why they get overlooked in the project management process. An easier way to write a project charter that everyone can quickly read and understand, with minimal effort is through visualization.
- PMBOK 6
- Grey Campus.
- A Project Manager’s Book of Forms by Cynthia Snyder Dionisio
- Project Management Professional Exam Review Guide by Kim Heldman
- Project Management Professional Exam Study Guide by Kim Heldman
- PMP Certification Study Guide by Joseph Philips
- Rita Mulcahy
- Specialities at BAYT
- Brown, A. S. (2005). The charter: selling your project. Paper presented at PMI® Global Congress 2005—North America, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.