How to Write an Effective Project Charter?

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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:

  • The scope of the proposed project,
  • Project assumptions and exclusions, and
  • The proposed criteria for accepting the project.

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

  • Helps to determine project value: A Project Charter will help you understand the value of your project and to properly assign the manpower it needs. Also, if the project is not worth the effort then you can scrap it right from the start.
  • Saves time down the road: A well-written project charter is a sort of lifeline for you if you get stuck in something during the project development phase. When that happens, project managers can consult the charter and deal with the problem because it would be mentioned in it along with the possible solutions. This will help you save time and energy that could be used in project development.
  • Gives you budget clarity: The Project Charter properly ensures that you are allocating your precious resources in the right direction and that this money is not wasted on unachievable tasks that benefit no-one. This will give you a time-sheet on when the funding should be released when the funding should be made available according to each cycle and whether or not the funding is being released on time.
  • Helps you give clear guidelines to your team: The tasks or assignments you assign your team are also properly discussed in the document. This ensures that everyone knows their role in the project development and that no bottlenecks arise during the critical phases of the project.
  • Inspires Confidence:The best benefit of a project charter if you are the manager is, that it gives the whole team hope and assurance that they are doing important work and that their project manager is a competent entity to be respected.
  • Boosts team morale: Team management is a very important thing to keep in mind while working on a project. If the team is not respecting the manager, then they would not work as productively as they should. This disrespect comes when the project charter designed by the manager is not up to the mark. A sloppy project charter will always confuse the team members whenever they come across an unknown hurdle. But if the Charter is perfect, it will help the team to perform admirably, and they will feel quite motivated and confident for the manager.

The Benefits of a Project Charter for the Clients & Stakeholders

  • Creates a shared understanding: Stakeholders are one of the most important entities in a business and it is your job to keep them happy and informed about the project. They are not short of money or resources, but they would expect you to be open and straight forward about where they are investing their resources. Project Charter helps the manager do that.
  • Serves as a marketing tool: A project charter can be many things and being a marketing tool is one of them. It can act as a detailed sales document for those people who are not a part of the project team. Because it has all the budget allocation information, it can easily justify expenses and investment.

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:

  • Introduction: This chapter of the charter explains the exact scope and information that is included in the document.
  • Schedule or Milestones: This section describes all of the milestones that the development team has to overcome and also all of the schedules that are defined to reach those milestones.
  • Approvals: This is a section where the stakeholders can record their approval or disapproval for the Project Charter and also where they can engage in constructive criticism.
  • Business Case, Project Statement, and Scope: These elements describe all of the unique characteristics of the project.
  • Constraints and Assumptions: This section describes all of the constraints and assumptions related to the project which is like a glorifies pros and cons list of the unknown parameters at any given time. Also, all of the internal and external factors/ constraints that can affect the project.
  • Team and Organization: This is a comprehensive list of all of the team members that are involved in the project development and what roles they will play during the whole process.
  • Success Criteria: This section describes all of the critical success factors that will help you complete your project easily and effectively.
  • Major Requirements or Deliverables: This section highlights all of the information related to the deliverables that are connected to this project. Also, all of the requirements that are related to this project.
  • Budget: This section highlights the information about budget spending and also the cost estimate of all of the resources that have to be acquired for this project.
  • Summary of Risks: This is a very important part of the charter as it properly highlights all of the risks and threats that can affect the development of the project.

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:

  • Scheduling documents: This section gives a proper timeline/timesheet of the whole project. That means that it will include a calendar or any other document that will enunciate the project schedule with all of the details and how the team has to achieve the milestones in the quickest way possible.
  • Communication plan: This section is basically a digital “Yellow Pages” section that keeps the information about all of the contact information related to the team members and also the different ways on how to keep them informed of all of the different changes and tweaks being done by their team members.
  • List of deliverables: This is a comprehensive list of deliverables that are associated with the project. It also describes each deliverable and what is the success criteria of each one.

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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