Writing your first Project Charter

project-charter terminologyThe Charter is a key document that brings together all the separate pieces of information about the project with a view to ensure the buy-in from all the stakeholders. Proper construction of a project charter can help ensure the success of any project.

If it is your first attempt at writing a Charter find a mentor who can advise and direct you. The best way to approach it is to think that it’s just a form (download this template) that you need to fill in, and there are many versions of such a form available online that can guide you, in case you need to use it (or you can write your own version).

A Charter should have no more than 1-2 pages. As a guide, use less than 100 words to describe each element (average of 15-20 words per sentence – that’s about 5-7 sentences per element). But feel free to use lists as well to describe elements – for instance, deliverables or project milestones. Some elements, such as the Project Authorization, can be covered in only one or two sentences.

It may contain:

  1. Project title
  2. Description of project purpose, including needs/justifications taken from the Business Case
  3. Summary schedule (start/end/significant milestone dates)
  4. Summary project budget
  5. Measurable project objectives and their success criteria
  6. Roles and responsibilities including who authorizes the Charter and who signs off on project deliverables
  7. Possible risks
  8. Who the assigned Project Manager is, with contact details
  9. Sign-off section for key stakeholders with date of authorization (must include Sponsor, often a manager or an executive with overall accountability for the project)
  10. Comments area for stakeholders to note any issues

It may be written by the Project Sponsor or the Project Manager. If you work in an organization, you will probably receive instructions on who will write the Charter. Many argue it should be the Sponsor as he is responsible for oversight and funding of the project, others argue the PM should, as he is the one that will have to develop plans and manage them. Ultimately what is important is that the person paying for the project (the Sponsor) is the person who signs the Charter, thereby allocating authority to the Project Manager to take the project forward to planning. If it’s just you working with a client, it would still be a good idea to write a Charter for your project and present it to him/her.

My next post will talk about the “Triple Constraint” or “Iron Triangle” of Project Management: Dealing with constraints, which are actually more than three – a topic that is commonly discussed in terminology project training courses.

Sources and further reading:

  1. Principles Project Management free online course. (Highly recommended).
  2. Parker, Finlay, How to create a project charter?
  3. com Project Charter template.
  4. University of Berkeley Project Charter template.
  5. What does into writing a Project Charter. Bright Hub PM
  6. Watson, Cameron, Meet Your New Best Friend: The Project Charter

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