So you want to learn how to write a quick and easy Project Charter? One that sets your project off on the right path by outlining the preliminary project framework, providing clear guidance to your project team and stakeholders and ensuring the organization and senior management are committed to the project.
To achieve these objectives a project charter must contain eight essential elements.
- Project Authorization – this includes the name of the project, its formal authorization and a very brief description of the project.
- Goals and Scope – The project’s broad scope and high level goals are outlined in greater detail than in the Project Authorization. The preliminary scope describes what the project involves, any high-level resource or requirement descriptions, and what constitutes successful project completion. Project goals should be SMART: Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound. SMART goals and objectives make it easy to track and measure progress and success. High level risks can also be included.
- Deliverables – a concise description of the high level deliverables required by the client, project sponsor or stakeholders at the successful completion of the project.
- Business Case – the benefits of the project to the organisation and its alignment with organisational objectives. How will this project enable the organisation to meet its objectives?
- Project Manager’s Authority – The Project Manager is named and given authority to interact with management and allocate resources to the project. Depending on the project scope and the organisational structure, the project manager will have varying levels of authority and responsibility for resources, scheduling and expenditure.
- Time frame – this section sets out the preliminary project time frame. Be aware that this will change as the project progresses and tasks and milestones and their associated requirements are more clearly defined.
- Budget Summary – sets out the preliminary summary budget for the project. This may also change as the project progresses, but any changes must be communicated by the project manager and approvals gained. The Project Manager is authorized to approve expenditures up to, and including, the allocated budget amounts.
- Project Sponsor – sets out name(s) of the project sponsor(s) and the sponsor’s signature. The project sponsor is the appropriate person to sign the charter, because he or she is the person who will be actively supporting the project. You can also think about getting your customer to sign the charter as this displays confidence from both the sponsor and the customer.
When written down in the project charter these elements define and authorize the project, its resources and activities. I’d like to think, that after some practice, it won’t take you more than half a day to write a quick and easy project charter. That’s assuming you have the project details at hand. If you don’t know your project goals or other important details it might just take you a bit longer!
And a final tip – a well-written project charter specifies the “end,” but not the “means.” It is important that the “means” is left to the project manager and the project team. So find the right balance with your project charter. If the charter is unclear or fuzzy- that wastes time and causes confusion about what actions are supposed to be taken. On the other hand, being overly prescriptive diminishes the benefits of having a talented team. It is best to encourage your team to self-manage and do goal focused work.
Continuing Professional Development offers a series of project management online courses to advance your project management skills and your career while adding to the intellectual wealth of individuals and organizations. Click here to find out more about our online Project Charter course or to download a Project Charter Course Overview. This course gives you practical skills so that you can confidently prepare a quick and easy Project Charter after you have completed the example project charter template based on our case study.