Project Charter

Project Charter

A charter contains the business need, the product description, and major assumptions. See Box 1.

Now that the individual objectives have been recognized and the overall project scope is understood and has been agreed upon, it is time to prepare the project charter. On the whole, the project manager will capture the high-level objectives and the scope, and then add other pertinent high-level information so that a sponsor or customer can approve it. Often, the charter is the essential document required for project selection in the organization's project portfolio management process, in which this project would be compared to others in a cost/benefit sense and funded, if selected. Project selection models and techniques are outside the scope of this blog.

Project Charter Contents

The charter may sometimes be called by other names, such as the project initiation document (PID), scope baseline, or just contract (generally for external work). It may be created in many forms, such as a narrative document (most common), a fill-in-the-blank form (paper or software application), or spreadsheets for large financial justification.

The charter includes the why and what of the project processes discussed at the beginning of this section. It should contain brief statements (very brief - don't qualify every phrase!) about the following:

●  Objectives: What the desired outcomes are
●  Functions: Major features and/or processes
●  Performance: Generalized specifications
●  Constraints: Limitations of the environment
●  Scope: Boundaries of the project
●  Costs/benefits: Rough order of magnitude estimates

Be sure to answer the usual questions about a project that uninformed observers tend to ask: What is the reason for the project? Is it to seize an opportunity, solve a problem, increase revenues, decrease costs, or a combination of these? Be sure to have an answer for the usual newspaper reporter's questions: Who? What? Where? Why? When?

Normally, the charter is a short one- to three-page letter, memo, or email document - just enough to secure management or customer approval for the project. Sometimes the charter is labeled as the SPMP and uses its framework but contains only the sections pertinent to the selection process at this early point. Sometimes it is better to make it a separate document and merge it later because executives don't like to see large documents come their way (such as SPMPs with lots of extra sections, revision blocks and change control, specifications, appendices, etc.). Keep in mind that the purpose of the charter is to concisely represent the project at a high level, to get management approval and support (and a signature). From there, you can flesh out the rest of the project planning because you will have the authority of approved sponsorship (and funding).


project scope, project process, spmp, project charter
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