A project charter can be defined as a formal approval which documents the shared understanding of the scope of the project, objectives, and development while also defining the duties and responsibilities of all the parties involved. A project charter authorizes the project to exist and grants the project manager authority to use all the resources in the organization to ensure the project’s success.
Project Charters function together with the Statement of Work (SoW)-you need them both. Basically, a SoW comes first and is thereafter incorporated into the charter. So then, what’s the difference between a project charter and a Statement of work?
Statement of Work
A Statement of Work is an overview document that states why the project has been proposed, what is to be included or not included in the project, and defines the nature of the deliverables. A Statement of Work describes:
- The projected criteria for accepting the project,
- The project deliverables,
- The scope of the project, and
- The project assumptions and exclusions
On the other hand, a project charter is a formal document based on the Statement of Work, which is submitted for authorization. A project charter is basically the foundation upon which a project is built. A project Charter describes:
- What are the goals and objectives of the project? What is the essence of the project? How are you planning to reach the set goals and objectives?
- A project charter provides a shared understanding of the project. It should communicate its value/or reason for existence to everyone who is a party to it, from the team manager, sponsors, stakeholders, etc.
- It also acts as a contract between the project sponsors, the project team, and the key stakeholders. By clearly stipulating the duties and responsibilities of each party involved in the project, everyone is clear what their duties are.
Importance of a Charter Document
Helps determine project value: a charter document maps out the various elements that are crucial for any project thereby helping the project manager determine whether it is worth carrying out or proposing the project
Saves time down the road: a project charter helps one anticipate the challenges they are likely to encounter with the project thereby saving the time that would have otherwise been used to solve the problems
Ensures budget clarity: a project charter helps one create a clear and well-informed budget. It also ensures that funds are available and that they will be released on time as the budget is set before starting the project.
Helps the project manager to give clear guidelines to their team: the charter helps the project managers in setting milestones and criteria for measurement as they brief out the project to the team members.
Inspires confidence: a project charter inspires your team as they are assured that they are working under a valid and well-organized project manager.
Creates a shared understanding: since everything about the project has been laid down for the stakeholders, they can know what to expect of the project and what pressure the project may put on the resources.
Serves as a marketing tool: a project charter can be used as a sales and marketing document to be circulated to those outside the project team. It can also be used to justify the expenses and investment.
Elements of a project charter
One of the main features of a good project charter is simplicity and adequate information. After reading the document, everyone should have a clear understanding of what the project is all about. Some of the key elements of a project charter include:
- Introduction: provides a clear explanation of the purpose of the project charter
- Business case, scope, and project statement
- Success criteria: this section defines the project’s success criteria and provides a list of all the critical success factors
- Major Requirements and Deliverables: provides a clear description of the key stakeholder requirements or significant project deliverables, depending on how one chooses to track the deliverables.
- Budget: the total cost estimate of the project as well as information about spending authority.
- Schedule and milestones: this section provides a timeline for the completion of the project and the major milestones to be achieved in a set duration.
- Constraints and Assumptions: this section provides the known and the unknown project parameters at a specific point in time.
- Team and Organization: which teams will work on what and when who oversees the project and the outline of their duties and responsibilities.
- Approvals: this is a space left in the charter document for the stakeholders to record their approval or disapproval of the project.
- Communication plan: a communication plan defines how each person involved in the project will be kept informed about the project’s progress and changes made to the project.
- List of deliverables: if all the deliverables have already been defined, this section contains a detailed list of each deliverable.
How to Write A Project Charter Document
The first step when you want to create a project charter is to gather information about the project. Meet with all the parties who will be involved in the project, including all the team representatives, sponsors, project managers, and team members to help you come up with a name that best fits the project.
Purpose, Goals and Project Specifications
Discuss with all the parties mentioned above and take notes to help you in filling out the information for all the parts of the charter. Focus the discussion on the main objective, and then record the details to use them later in your charter document. The discussion should revolve around
- Why the project is being proposed, the main points it will elevate, and the impact it will have on the organization
- The specifics of the project
- What the project will accomplish and how it fits in with the general organizational goals
- What should be done to make sure that the project is a success
Use a Template
The format you use can make a huge difference when presenting the project charter to investors and key shareholders; it is, therefore, important that you take advantage of our ready to use templates which you can review, make a few changes to create the format that will best serve your project.
To make your work easier, you should take advantage of our ready to use templates which you can easily customize to create a format that best serves your project.
what will the product/service be? Since project charters are usually flexible, it is advisable that you include information in this section about the measures you will take to ensure that the project is a success; the criteria you will use to determine whether you have accomplished the projects objectives and the metrics you will use for the project.
Scope and Risks
You should look into every aspect of the project. Narrow down the scope and alleviate the risks from the very start of the project. Your project charter should state the known constraints, risks, and any plans for evaluating and mitigating risks throughout the project.
Review with Team Representatives
After you have written and compiled the project charter, before tabling the charter in front of a client, you must review it with the key members of your team to ensure that it is accurate.
Present for Approval
The presentation of your project charter matters a lot. Your charter is the key to having your project approved. It is, therefore, important that it is properly presented. You should not attach your charter as a PDF in an email. Instead, you should present your charter to your clients, sponsors, and stakeholders in person.
How to Develop a Project Charter
Now that you are familiar with the basics of a project charter, you might still need some additional direction to create your project charter with less hassle and with increased persuading power.
Make it Visual
It is important to make your project charter stand out. You may only have one chance of presenting the charter before stakeholders, and you wouldn’t want to take your chances with the presentation. Adding a few images and design elements to your project charter will not only make your charter stand out but also make it easier for people to refer to key parts of the charter later.
Other than adding images to the charter, you should also separate the different sections of the charter with boxes or highlighted headers for better readability.
Make it Collaborative
Making the charter available to all the parties involved in it is the best way of making sure that all aspects have been covered. Keeping the document in a program where multiple people can view it makes it easy for anyone to through the document and make or suggest some changes that will work towards making the project a success.
Project charters are important in defining projects’ goals, objectives, and development while also defining the duties and responsibilities of all the parties involved. With this guide, we believe that you will now be able to make a project charter that will not only be appealing to the stakeholders but also one that will be easy to read and understand.