How to Write an Effective Project Charter?


In the old days, businesses or the organizational culture was a hit or miss affair. Businesses were pushed forward and projects were pitched without asking the tough questions or defining a specific direction for the team on how to achieve the goals that were set by the company. If you are in such a position that you are responsible for setting the direction and scope of a team to work on a project, then you should be able to write an effective Project Charter and in this article, we’ll guide you on project charter examples.

Given below is a comprehensive guide for everyone who needs that information. This guide will explain what a project charter is, give some project charter examples, the difference between a project charter and a Scope of Work, and how you can successfully embed a project charter in various phases of a project management life cycle.

Let us begin.

What is a Project Charter?

The most basic definition of a project charter is that it is a conclusive document that is made up of the following three elements:

This is the simplest definition of a project charter that you can find online nowadays. It isn’t wrong but it doesn’t fully encapsulate the purpose of the project charter elements rather it just focusses on their structure.

This definition is a very abstract one and it isn’t fully descriptive, which easily explains the cold attitude people and companies have towards project charters examples.

It completely forgoes the fact that project charters examples in all their pride and glory, are a sort of initiation documents necessary for starting a project.

A project charter, therefore, is a proper authorization permit for a project manager that he should write the bylaws and provide a proper direction to the team so that they can easily commence the project activities. This charter also includes the allocation of the organizational resources needed for the development of the project.

We have briefly seen that a project charter is actually, so let us study a more in-depth definition of a project charter, which will hopefully capture the purpose of all the elements listed above.

A More Detailed Charter Definition:

A Project Charter is an initiation document that effectively encapsulates the understanding of the project’s objectives, scope, and developmental paradigms. This document is also important because it clearly defines all of the roles and responsibilities of each individual involved in the project.

Project Charter Vs Statement of Work

There is no enmity when it comes to a Project Charter or Statement of Work (SoW) because, for a project to function properly you need to cover all of your bases, so you need both of these.

Typically, when a project commences, SoW is written first to highlight all of the basics related to the project and after that, they are incorporated in the Project Charter for a more detailed enunciation of the project. So why do we set them apart? How are they different from one another?

Statement of Work

A Statement of Work, in essence, is kind of an initial overview of why the company is doing a specific project (i.e. why we are doing this project? What are the business needs related to this endeavor?). It also includes all of the things that will and won’t be a part of the project.

It highlights what the final deliverables of the project will be and also these following attributes like:

An SoW is one of the crucial aspects of the project because it is the center point for all of the team members to check their bearings and get back on the right track. Because of this severity, the project managers have a proper duty that they should learn how to make an effective Statement of Work.

This is because, it can save you a lot of time and headache down the road when there will be a lot of different changing variables that can affect the development of the project, but If the SoW is perfect, those changing variables won’t stand a chance.

Project Charter

A Project Charter is a bit different than an SoW but not in many ways. It is a more formal version of the initial overview document (Statement of Work) which is submitted for proper authorization of the project to move forward.

The Project Charter gives the PM, the authority and knowledge about how to spend the allocated budget effectively in the delivery of the project. It addresses all of the questions and inquiries anyone could ever have about the project and its development.

As we know that the project charter is prepared during the initial phases of the project development and some people also call it the project initiation document. If PC is approved, the project is shifted into the planning phase where there are more additions to it. This is the stage where the charter effectively becomes the whole foundation for the project development plan.

Why is the Project Charter so Important?

We have briefly discussed what a project charter is, how important it is, and how it is different from the SoW, so it’s about time we moved forward to the perspective side of the whole shebang and let us consider the PC from the perspective of every individual party involved in the process.

The Benefits of a Project Charter for the Project Manager & Team

The Benefits of a Project Charter for the Clients & Stakeholders

What Is Included in A Project Charter?

A good project charter is rich in clarity and adequate information that can propel the project forward. And what makes it effective is that it should be easy enough so that it can be read ad understood by everyone ranging from the manager, to the team to the stakeholders.

Elements of A Project Charter

The major elements of an effective Project Charter are as follows:

In addition to all of these factors, you can also add these sections that can make your Project Charter more detailed and comprehensive, such as:

Project Charter Examples

To keep a project charter fresh and attractive which is also understandable by the masses, the managers have to put in a lot of work and effort.

For the charter to serve its purpose and explain the project in an easy but a detailed form, the managers can read the following charter examples for projects to draw inspiration from.

How to Write A Project Charter?

There’s no hard and fast rule to write an effective Project Charter that will fulfill every requirement and task related to your project and all other projects you will work on but here’s a basic formula to follow:

1. Discuss with Stakeholders & Team

The manager should meet with all of the people involved before the project is approved. This is because, a good manager always consults their team and the stakeholders, to figure out the best way which the team should follow, so that the company can achieve all of their goals regarding that project.

These discussions can also be with the support staff such as security experts and network engineers.

2. Take & Organize Notes

In all of your discussions, you should document the whole thing in your notes. This helps you keep track of all of the questions and important points that were raised during the meeting.

Always keep the discussion centered towards the main objective of the meeting but if a different point of view is raised in that meeting about anything, you should write it down because its easier to write it down rather than forgetting about it which will hinder project development.

3. Use A Template

You don’t have to make a dedicated project charter format to serve your purpose. The internet is full of project charter templates. Just review a few of them and find the right combination of templates to merge which will help you in your project.

4. Include Specific Information

These are some of the most frequent questions that are asked by the stakeholders from the project manager.

  1. When will the project be completed?
  2. Will we be simply updating an already existing system or building a completely new system from scratch?
  3. Will the contract include any ongoing maintenance support for the system?
  4. Whose communication channels will be improved? Customers? Internal staff?
  5. How many users’ needs are we trying to target?
  6. Does the scope extend to training on the new communication tool?

If your project charter is accurate then it should have all the answers to these questions. Here’s an example of a complete project charter:

“Our goal: Create a new communication system to replace ABC system by December 2019, so that all customers can chat with their product managers via XYZ bank’s proprietary mobile apps. Train all 400 employees to maintain and support the system themselves.”

Obviously, this is not the whole charter but a simple goal statement. But you can see that the tone of the whole thing is precise and to the point with no extra information just crammed in there. Just like this goal statement, all of the information regarding the budget, risks, and milestones, etc. should be properly enunciated to make the project charter complete and effective.

5. Review with Team Representatives

Once you think that your charter is complete, you should set aside some time to get your draft approved by the key members involved in the process. If they like it, that’ll make sure that the charter is complete and ready to go into effect.

6. Present for Approval

You should not just push the charter onto your team and the stakeholders. Instead, you should arrange meetings with the team members, sponsors, and clients, and present them the charter so that they might have a say in the changes to be made. This will also give you the credibility of being a good project manager that involves people in the decision making process about some crucial things.

We hope that this guide helped you to some extent. If you would like to share your own experiences, feel free to use the comments section below.

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Originally published at on October 8, 2019.

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