What is Project Charter? complete guide

Project charters provide a guiding light for any new initiative. Therefore, whether you work as a project manager or an operations professional, you need to be adept at writing these documents.

Team discussing project management charter in office

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Apart from giving you authorization to undertake projects, project charters Help you sell the feasibility of your project to stakeholders. This document will also help get your entire team on board with your plans and deadlines.

In this guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know about project charters. We’ll cover:

Benefits of Creating Project Charters

“Project Charter is such an important document that a project cannot be started without it,” says Rita Mulcahy, a renowned project manager, trainer and author. This document can keep your team on track to achieve your project objectives by deadline.

Here are other benefits of creating a well-written project charter:

  • You will decide on a project budget.
  • You can define the outcome of the project.
  • You will avoid falling short of scope and meet your deadline.
  • You can buy and sell stakeholders for your project.
  • You can set the expected start and end dates of the project.
  • You can clearly explain how your project’s goals align with organizational objectives.

Next, we’ll explore best practices for writing a project charter.

how to write a project charter

When writing your project management charter, it’s important to get it right from the start. Mary Beth Embarato, author of “You Shouldn’t Change a Project Charter After It Has Been Approved.” project roadmap, Last-minute changes may cause stakeholders to question the viability of the project.

This step-by-step guide will help you write a great project charter from scratch.

1. Get insight from your project team.

Talking to your team members is essential when creating project charters. Your coworkers can help you set realistic project deadlines. They can also help you uncover project goals, scope and risk mitigation plans.

“You should set aside time for your team members to discuss the project, how they want to get it done, and what their current bandwidth is,” says head of development Will Yang. instrument, “Doing this ensures that your project team is on the same page.”

2. Store the charter in one central location.

To foster collaboration, store your project charter in a central hub so team members can comment on and edit it.

This gives everyone a sense of ownership of the project. Programs such as Google Drive and Dropbox offer co-editing capabilities.

3. Keep the project charter brief.

You may be tempted to include every detail in your project charter. But remember: You should go deep into your project planning document, not the project charter.

“Stakeholders won’t have time to read a verbose 15-page charter because they have other priorities,” advised Konstantinos Christofakis, head of marketing reverse tail, “So charters need to be a high-level overview of projects, short enough to be useful and long enough to be valuable.”

According to Christofakis, if the information is digestible, the chances of project approval increase.

4. Add views to your charter.

Using images or design elements can help improve the readability of your project charter and keep your document concise.

For example, if you want to outline a long-term communication plan or milestones in your charter, a Gantt chart can help. These charts also stand out in the project charter, allowing team members to easily reference them.

project charter timeline example

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5. Create a project charter template.

Have you written a project charter in the past? Or maybe the document you just completed is a masterpiece. Turn these documents into templates that you can use in the future.

Having a template for your project management charter helps you save time and maintain continuity in the future. This approach to project charters also ensures that you don’t leave out important elements in your document.

Pro Tip: If you don’t already have a template, you can browse for options online. HubSpot offers a free project charter template that you can download at any time.

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Now that you know the basics of creating project management charters, let’s look at the structure of a project charter.

Anatomy of a Project Management Charter

After developing the project charter, the project manager sends them to the project sponsor for approval. A sponsor may include the government, an individual financier, or the top management of the organization implementing the project.

Here are the elements your project charter needs to get approval from sponsors.

1. Objective of the Project

The purpose of the project is the high level reason for starting the project. Tying your company’s goals to the objectives is a great way to attract stakeholders’ interest in your project.

Pro Tip: Use smart framework To make your goals specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound.

2. Project Overview

Your project overview goes into more detail about the timeline and ownership of a project. This section outlines details such as the project name, project sponsor, project manager, expected start and end dates, and estimated budget.

Pro Tip: Add a table to your project overview. This makes information skimmable and easy to find.

Project Charter Overview Template, HubSpot

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3. Project Deliverables

This is a list of the services or products that the project team will provide to the stakeholders. Be clear about what your team is delivering to avoid any disagreements that may cause you to extend your deadline.

4. Scope of the Project

The project scope explains the boundaries of the project. While PMs usually write detailed project scope, it is a best practice to keep it concise in the project charter. Why? You can create a detailed scope statement in the project planning phase.

5. Project Stakeholders

This is a list of the names and responsibilities of the parties involved with a project. Specifying who is responsible for different tasks holds your team members accountable.

6. Project Risk

Outlining the risks of a project will help you identify roadblocks to your project’s success and their potential impact. By doing this, you can develop a risk mitigation strategy.

Pro Tip: Make a table of possible risks. Be sure to explain why the risk is a threat to your project and the mitigation strategies you plan to implement.

Project Charter Risk Template, HubSpot

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7. Project Resources

Always make a list of the resources your project will require. And it’s not just money. Your resources should include team members, facilities, equipment and other essential items that are critical to the success of your project. This helps you account for everything needed to take the project to the finish line.

Project Charter Resource Template, HubSpot

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project charter example

1. Project Management Charter for Lean Six Sigma

Project Charter Example, Lean Six Sigma

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This sample project charter follows the Lean Six Sigma format, a methodology for project management. Teams that already use this framework may choose to structure their project charters in this manner.

What we like: The Lean Six Sigma project charter provides a clear scope of work. The project’s goals also follow the SMART framework, making it clear how the project will benefit the company.

Project Charter Limitations: While this charter outlines important information including the project goal and problem statement, some important information is missing. The process owner did not explain the cost or risks of the project. If you follow this format, be sure to include this information.

2. Project Management Charter for Website Redesign

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In this project charter, the University of Guelph explores what its web team needed to do to redesign the school’s library website. This includes all the necessary stakeholders and who owns the project.

What we like: The project has a well defined scope and timeline. Sponsors know exactly who is doing what and when.

Project Charter Limitations: While this document explores the risks associated with the project, mitigation plans will improve this section of the document.

Mistakes to Avoid When Creating Project Management Charters

1. Missing a Clear Purpose Statement

Every project should have a clear goal and objective. But sometimes the primary purpose becomes unclear. To combat this, apply the illusory truth effect, which states that repeated use of information enhances understanding.

Lauren Carter, Principal Consultant Lauren Ashley Consulting, says she uses this strategy to help her team remember the purpose of projects. In the words of Lauren:

“Project members often lose the ‘North Star’ in the thick of work. One effective way to prevent this is to have a clear purpose statement in the charter, which I reiterate in several ways throughout the project’s lifecycle.”

“It can be as a header on project documents, put it at the top of a timeline or chart, or use it as a metric against which you evaluate planned and unplanned activities.”

2. Creating a Charter Mid-Project

Project charters should start your initiative. Writing this document halfway can lead to narrowing of scope, ill-defined responsibilities and confusion.

Mary Beth Embarato, a 25-year veteran in the project management industry, says, “Changing the project charter after initiation and planning means you’ll need to review any work you’ve completed and even some completed projects.” Work has to be done again.”

“This can lead to delays, cost overruns and create more project risk,” she says.

Mary Beth also says that changing the charter can affect how team members approach a project. Result? Low commitment and engagement.

Bottom line: Creating a charter before starting a project will help you avoid falling short of scope, prevent wasted time re-doing work, and keep additional risk to your project at bay.

3. Ignoring Your Company’s Project Charter Template

Using existing project charters as templates can save you time and ensure continuity.

Instead of creating new charters from scratch, request a sample of a completed charter document the company likes and use it as your template. This template will help you understand how your organization prefers to present ideas, so you can follow suit and start the project off on the right foot.

Start a new project without any wrong steps

A well-thought-out charter is a roadmap for achieving your project objectives in record time.

Start by gathering input from your team and creating a project charter, which will get the go-ahead from stakeholders.

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