Why Use a Project Charter?

Posted on

Creating a Project Charter is like having a superhero origin story for your project! It gives your project the official seal of approval to make a difference in the world. You are officially named Project Manager… All in all, the Project Charter is a critical document that formalizes the project’s initiation, defines its objectives and scope, identifies key stakeholders, and sets the stage for effective project management. It provides a roadmap and reference point for the project team and stakeholders, ensuring a common understanding and commitment to project success.

Tom Kendrick, PMP advises that this charter should list the Project Objective and Priorities. He describes Project Objective and Priorities as the fundamental elements that guide project planning and decision-making. He emphasizes the importance of understanding and aligning these objectives and priorities to achieve project success. The “3 by 3 Matrix” is a framework he recommends involves assessing project objectives based on three dimensions: Time, Quality, and Cost. Each dimension is further categorized into three levels: Low, Medium, and High. The matrix provides a visual representation of the project’s objectives and their relative importance. I talk about this in this post. You can also read more here (PMI’s learning library).

If you are prepping for your PMP exam, PMI says that all projects must have a Project Charter, but they do say that a contract or SOW can serve as one.

Typical Project Charter Contents

According to PMI (Project Management Institute), a Project Charter typically includes the following contents:

  1. Project Overview:
    This section provides an overview of the project, including a brief description, objectives, and high-level goals. It establishes the purpose and context of the project, highlighting its alignment with organizational strategies and priorities.
  2. Project Justification:
    The project justification section outlines the reasons why the project is necessary. It explains the business need, opportunities, or challenges that the project aims to address. This section may include the analysis of cost-benefit, return on investment (ROI), or other relevant justifications.
  3. Project Scope:
    Here, the project scope is defined, including the boundaries, deliverables, and key features or functionalities of the intended project outcome. It helps stakeholders understand what is included and excluded from the project, ensuring a common understanding of project boundaries.
  4. Stakeholder Identification:
    This section identifies the key stakeholders who will be impacted by or have an interest in the project. It includes information about their roles, responsibilities, and potential influence on the project. Understanding stakeholders is crucial for effective communication and engagement throughout the project.
  5. Project Objectives and Success Criteria:
    The project objectives section outlines the specific, measurable objectives that the project aims to achieve. It includes both project-level objectives (e.g., delivering a specific product or service) and business objectives (e.g., improving customer satisfaction or increasing market share). Success criteria are defined to assess whether the project objectives have been met.
  6. High-Level Project Timeline:
    This section provides a high-level timeline or schedule for the project, indicating major milestones, key deliverables, and estimated start and end dates. It helps stakeholders understand the project’s anticipated duration and important dates.
  7. High-Level Resource Requirements:
    Here, the high-level resource requirements are outlined, including personnel, equipment, materials, or other resources needed to execute the project. It provides an initial understanding of the resource needs to support planning and procurement efforts.
  8. Project Risks and Constraints:
    This section identifies potential risks, constraints, and assumptions associated with the project. It highlights factors that may impact the project’s success, such as external dependencies, regulatory requirements, or resource limitations. Risk identification enables proactive risk management throughout the project lifecycle.
  9. Project Governance:
    This section outlines the project governance structure and decision-making processes. It clarifies the roles, responsibilities, and authority of project stakeholders, including the project manager, steering committee, or other governance bodies involved in project oversight.
  10. Approval and Signatures:
    The final section of the Project Charter includes spaces for approval and signatures from key stakeholders, indicating their endorsement and commitment to the project. It signifies formal approval and serves as an official authorization to proceed with project execution.

These contents provide a comprehensive overview of the project, its objectives, scope, stakeholders, and high-level planning considerations. The Project Charter serves as a foundational document, setting the stage for effective project initiation and establishing a shared understanding among stakeholders.

Funnified Example (Based on PMBOK v6)