What is a Project Charter?

A short explanation of the main elements of your new project.
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Project charter is a core element to project management. However excited you feel about the new project getting off the ground. Whether pitching your project idea or trying to get the approval you need to implement the project you need to gather a vast amount of information together to present the idea. The best way to do that is to create a project charter.

A project charter describes the aspects of your project and is the foundation upon which you’ll build the rest of your project plan. While it won’t include every detail, it should contain information about who will be responsible for various elements of the project process, what the objectives are, and how you plan to measure its success or failure.

If you’ve heard the term project charter tossed around in meetings, but have no idea what it means or how to use it. Well, it is a crucial ingredient in planning the project, explaining the objectives and it is used throughout the project lifecycle. Let’s talk about what exactly makes up this documentation and why it’s important to know how to work with it.

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What is a project charter?

A project charter is a formal, relatively short document that describes your project in its entirety — including what the objectives are, project scope how it will be carried out, and who the project team are. It is a crucial ingredient in planning the project because it is used throughout the project lifecycle. A great project charter doesn’t just tell you what needs to happen but also why, who’s responsible for doing what, and when each task needs to be completed by, among other things.

Project Charter = Project Planning

A project charter is an early, explanation document that provides guidance for how you plan to take on the project. It helps set direction and expectations for both you, the team, managers and business owners. If a project were a car, then, project charter would be its steering wheel. Without it, there’s no telling where you might end up — if you even get there at all!

The key question that should be answered in your project charter is: Why are we doing (or not doing) and what we’re doing? The answer to this question should help guide everyone involved.

Why Do I Need a Project Charter?

A project charter serves as a road map and foundation for your project. Without it, you could waste valuable time, money, and resources on activities that don’t align with your overall goals. A project charter can be an effective mechanism to get everyone on board with your vision and to gain their commitment to seeing it through. Furthermore, it lays out specific details about who is responsible for each part of the project from start to finish. As your team members know what they need to do, they will have no excuses to do it well. Having documented expectations also allows you to more easily track progress and report results.

When Do I Need a Project Charter?

A project charter is an essential document for your business. It will provide an outline of what you plan to do and it will set expectations with your stakeholders and colleagues. A project charter helps keep everyone on track throughout all stages of a project and can be adjusted or rewritten as circumstances change. This is why it is important to know when you need one, who needs one, and how to write one properly.

What is a good project charter?

A project charter short document that describes your project in its entirety. Make sure it is effective it should be simple and easy enough to read and understand by everyone in the team.

– including what its objectives are, how it will be carried out, and who the stakeholders are. It is crucial to planning and managing projects because it’s used throughout every stage of development. Project charters serve as milestones to indicate progress, measure performance and communicate goals. They can also outline things like deliverables, budgets and key dates.

What are the 3 main parts to a project charter?

There are three main parts to every project charter. They are purpose, approach, and assumptions. All of these makeup what is called the executive summary section of your project charter. Let’s take a look at each part individually.

Project Charter Checklist

Vision, Purpose and Objectives - “Why”

The purpose of every project charter is to tell you why it exists. It might sound simple, but that one sentence will serve as a foundation for everything else in your document. Explain why this project is so important and what the main objectives are. By having clear objectives from day one, everyone involved knows where they stand and their roles in achieving those objectives.

This can also mean saving time and effort during implementation by working toward clearly defined goals rather than guessing about them later.

For example, Our project’s purpose is to develop a new piece of software to replace our existing systems. We have identified several areas that we hope will improve efficiency once implemented; however, there are some risks associated with implementing any new technology system within an organization. How we plan to mitigate those risks and meet our overall objective is discussed below…

Consider using something like SMART Goals or CLEAR Goals to create objectives.

It is also essential to explain why it is important and how the project will support the business goals moving forward.

Organise, Approach and Scope - “What”

Explain how you plan to accomplish your goal(s). Define exactly what the project is and the ideal budget and how the money will be spent. It is about setting boundaries and outlining what you won’t be doing as part of the project.

For example: Based on my company’s assessment, I determined that developing a prototype would give us better insight into how we could achieve our end goal while staying within budget constraints. Therefore, I recommend completing a development and quality assurance phase first, followed by a beta test phase. Once we feel confident in our product offering, then we will proceed to roll out across all locations.

Organisation, Implementation and Responsibilities - “Who”

Who will be working on the project and what role will they take? Assign key roles and responsibilities with a short written summary defining what is expected from them, along with a line of reporting of responsibility.

Illustrate what resources will be involved and how they will be allocated breaking it down into items like labour, equipment and materials.

Every business decision is affected by assumptions. That’s because an assumption affects something you're doing or planning – or even considering doing or planning! An assumption is a statement that goes without proof like our customers prefer white over black keyboards. In project management terms, an assumption can also be considered risks that go along with your planned course of action.

Project Management Documentation

There are many types of documents required for the process of implementing a project successfully. Here’s how you can compare project charter to other project planning documents:

Project charter vs Project Plan

Project charter includes just three elements. The charter is used to get the go-ahead and approval for the project and once this has happened you move on to creating a project plan. The project plan expands on your charter to deliver a more in-depth detailed document that will include key elements of the project. For example goals, metrics, roles, milestones and timelines.

Project Charter vs Project Brief

Project brief is created once the project has been approved, it is a short condensed version of your project plan. The project brief provides context about the project containing elements like background data and information, objectives, how will measure success, timelines and the target audience.

Project Charter vs Business Case

Both of these documents are tools to help pitch a project to the people that have the power to approve. A business case is a formal document that explains the benefits and risks of the investment. 

Benefits of a Project Charter

It is a crucial ingredient in planning the project because it is rich in clarity and helps propel the project forward. With an updated document that has clear and concise information on your project, you can prove value and secure support for the project.

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