How to Write a Project Management Charter

- Project Management

by Lori Wade

All businesses reach a point in time where they have to undertake a project. The triggering factors could be a new initiative to achieve set goals, a change of business objectives, new customer needs, and technological changes, among others. When these projects are initiated, there arises a need for a project management charter.

Project management charters are the key documents that map out the specifics of an intended project. They describe the mission and vision of the project in question. These charters are not an entirely new phenomenon in project management. They have been in existence for a while now, and different firms may call them by other names. At the very least, the project management charter contains the objectives to be met, the scope to be covered, the key organization around the project and lastly the plan for implementation. This article will outline how to write a project management charter comprehensively.

Why Is It Necessary to Have a Project Charter?

The project management charter acts as a bridge between the parties executing a project and the parties that will be served by the project. Typically, it:

  • Identifies a project manager and gives him/her the authority to execute the project activities.
  • Gives some background information about the project, the justification and what organizational objectives it’s trying to achieve.
  • Gives the approvals that the project has and the sponsorship details.
  • Describes the project team, key stakeholders, expectations, scope, assumptions, and requirements.
  • Describes how performance will be measured.

Elements of a Project Management Charter

There are some key irreducible elements that project management charters should contain:

  • Project Overview Section
  • Project Approach Section
  • Project Approval Section

These are the basic three elements. However, depending on the type and nature of the project, there may be additional sections as per the requirements.

The Project Overview Section

1.Project Identification

This is where you give the formal name of the project. This may include any other relevant terms that may be used in reference to the project. This part aims to provide all terminology that will help the parties work and discuss the project.

In the case where the project is a revival of another past project which had stalled or was canceled, you should refer to that old project too.

2. Project History

This part should highlight all background information about the project at hand. It should explain the origin of the project and the underlying factors that led to its inception.

3. Project Purpose

Under the project purpose, you should explain why the project has to be carried out. Underscore the reasons that necessitate the project. It could be to fulfill a business need or to overcome some inadequacy. Whatever reason you give, back it up with proof and evidence.

4. Project Scope and Limitations

The project scope basically outlines the extent of coverage. It sets the boundaries within which the project’s objectives will be achieved. The limitations are also mentioned so that all parties are aware of them.

5. Project Goals and Objectives

Under this part, you will clearly state all the objectives. Use appropriate business language so as to bring out the intended purpose of the project. This part should be succinct with clear explanations so as to avoid any ambiguity.

6. Project Sponsorship and Stakeholders

As the name suggests, you are to provide the list of names of all the sponsors and stakeholders of the project. These are the people who will eventually constitute the owners of the project. As you list these individuals, add their portfolios and key roles in the project. This will forestall any possibility of confusion of roles once the project has been initiated.

7. Crucial Documentation

All documents that are relevant and crucial to the outworking of the project should be listed here. This documentation will help any party that reviews the project charter to understand key dimensions of the project.

8. Project Terminology

This is the last part of the project overview section. It is a glossary of terms that are significant in the project. List all the keywords, acronyms, abbreviations, phrases, and expressions that may prove to be difficult and contentious to anyone new to the project or existing stakeholders.
The above is a detailed outline of what your project overview section should contain.

The Project Approach Section

The project approach section is the second part of your project management charter. It gives specific details that pertain to the completion of the project including how and when the project will be completed. The following are crucial components of the Project Approach Section:

The Deliverables

These are the key milestones to be achieved in the project. Set a time and the tentative date of attaining every milestone.

Responsibilities

List all the principal parties of the project and their respective roles in relation to the project. Mention what each is bringing to the table in terms of expertise.

Resources

List all the human and non-human resources that are going to be utilized in achieving the project objectives. This could be machinery, computers, office spaces, raw materials, etc. If possible, mention the phase of the project in which each resource will be utilized.

Risks

Every project has its share of risks. All the risks should be highlighted in this part of the charter. Explain the measures that will be taken to absorb, transfer or mitigate the risks.

Control and Communication Plan

Control is crucial to any project. It assesses performance and ensures adherence to the standards. The control tools are typically used by the project manager to track progress and also to measure performance. When the progress is tracked, the results are communicated to the various stakeholders, thus acting as a communication tool.

The above represents the second part of your project management charter.

The Project Approval Section

This is the last and one of the most straightforward parts to write. However, it is one of the critical parts of the project management charter. The section should contain all the names and responsibilities of the major stakeholders, and an appendage of the signatures should be present.

A declaration should follow claiming that each stakeholder is satisfied with the contents of the charter. All departments of a business that are somehow related to the project at hand will also be included in the approval section. A representative of each of the departments will append their signature to show their acceptance and endorsement of the project.

This marks the end of your project management charter.

Checks for Your Project Management Charter

After writing your project management charter, there are specific checks that you should consider. The following eight questions can effectively perform those checks:

Were ample time and sufficient effort invested in coming up with the project purpose?

If ample time was not taken, then the implication will be that the project charter might be incomplete.

What is the value proposition of the project?

This question checks on the value that the project creates for the stakeholders and the business at large.

Does the project align with the organizational objectives?

Every project should have an underlying organizational objective that it strives to achieve. If the project charter doesn’t show this objective, then it can be problematic.

Is the project scope and boundaries clearly outlined?

All details that relate to time, cost, and quality should be outlined in clear terms for the stakeholders to use.

Are the objectives and goals realistic?

The reason as to why most projects stall or never see the light of day is due to over-ambition. A check should be carried out to ensure that the project at hand makes practical, financial, and technical sense.

What are the associated risks?

Analyze the internal and external forces that may pose a risk to the project initiation and completion. If the risks are too much to bear, then the project should not be initiated until there’s a definite way to mitigate, transfer or absorb the risks.

Are the necessary resources available?

All resources that are required for the project should first of all be availed before the project kicks off. If they are not availed, the project may drag or stall. This is a sign of inadequate planning. In some scenarios, a project may require resourcing. In order to meet this need, a contingency plan must be set in place.

Are there practical measures of success?

In any project, there has to be a way of measuring the attainment of goals and objectives. Appropriate KPI’s should be used to assess the rate of success of project goals.

Conclusion

A project management charter is an essential document for all businesses in times of undertaking projects. It is a unitary document that gives all dimensions of a project including the vision, objectives, and goals. In a sense, it gets everyone to speak the same language when a project is initiated. Therefore, the onus is on you to write a project management charter that is all inclusive of the points highlighted above. The model project charter given can guide to craft your own comprehensively.

Statistics show that 70% of projects fail. The underlying reasons are unclear and ambiguous things in the project charter. This contributes to a significant business setback. To reduce this occurrence, ensure that the time and cost implications are clearly outlined, and the stakeholders’ responsibilities are clearly defined. Most importantly, align the project management charter with the underlying business objective that has to be achieved.

Have you ever written a project management charter? What are some of the difficulties you faced? Tell us in the comments below!

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