What to Include in Your Project Charter blog feature image

What is a Project Charter?

The project charter is the key document in the initiation stage of the project management process. This document provides an outline of:

  • What is going to be done during the project – scope
  • When this is going to happen – schedule
  • How much it will cost – budget
  • Roles and responsibilities of those involved
  • Authority given to the project manager

The Purpose of the Project Charter

This document is used to get approval from the project sponsor, the individual or organization initiating the project. The project charter acts as a written agreement between the project sponsor and the project manager.

This document is especially important for the project manager as it establishes the client/sponsor’s expectations and sets the standard the project manager will be measured against.

What to Include in the Project Charter

  1. Introduction 
  2. Scope 
  3. Budget estimate
  4. Milestone schedule 
  5. Risk assessment
  6. Roles and responsibilities 
  7. Sign off

Introduction / Statement of Work / Requirements

Your introduction should include what the project is, the goal of the project, who is involved and what requirements need to be met for the project to be successful.

The statement of work (SOW) is typically provided by the sponsor and is a description of products or services to be delivered by the project. The SOW covers the business reason for the project, product scope description and how the project aligns with the organization’s strategic goals.

Requirements are the needs/wants of the project provided by the sponsor. They include the required deliverables and outline how the project will be measured for success. The project manager uses the requirements to determine the scope of the project. The requirements must be very specific to ensure the scope will satisfy the requirements.

Scope

The scope Tocribes the ‘what’ of the project. What is going to be achieved and what is required to reach that goal. It is important to be specific while defining the scope. The scope should outline the obligation of money, time, people, supplies and equipment. The scope section might also include what is not included in the scope, this can be just as important as what is included. It’s also important to note here that this is the preliminary scope, the scope may shift as the project proceeds. 

TIP: Remember the Triple Constraint! As the scope increases, time and cost will be impacted.

Triple Constraint for project charter
Triple Constraint

Budget Estimate

To determine a precise budget, we will need to establish a Work Breakdown Structure. However, we’ll leave that for Project Plan. The budget in the Project Charter is an estimate based on the scope described. Although, it is helpful to take a moment to think about the sponsor’s requirements, how they translate to activities and how much each of these activities will cost.

Try listing out each requirement, activity and cost in a table like the one below.

budget estimation for project charter
Budget estimation

Milestone Schedule

First of all, what is a milestone? The Project Management Institute defines a milestone as “the planned completion of a significant event in the project”. 

“Significant” is key here, not every activity associated with the project is considered a milestone. Every project has a minimum of two milestones – start and completion. In the planning stage we will get into a detailed schedule but for the Project Charter, plan out the key milestones of the project. A project management tool may be helpful here.

kanban and table view with different phases in zipBoard
Use phases in zipBoard to organize project activities.

Risk assessment

Every project is subject to risk. As the project manager, you identify these risks and include them in the Project Charter. There are various categories of risk such as business risk, technical risk, political risk, legal risk, project risk (budget, time, scope), environmental risk and reputational risk. You must assess these risks and have a plan to mitigate the risk.

Risks must be included in the project charter so that they are identified early and the sponsor understands the risks associated with their project.

Roles and responsibilities

In this section, make sure to state who is responsible for which aspects of the project. This is an opportunity to outline what responsibility you have as a project manager and to communicate to the project sponsor what you are expecting from them. Think about things like funding, people management and procurement. Also, identify areas for collaboration and how you are going to communicate. Is it best to use email or project management software like Jira?

Flexible sharing in zipBoard
Flexible sharing in zipBoard

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Sign off

The final and most important step! Make sure the project charter is signed by all necessary parties. All parties must read and understand the project charter so that they have appropriate expectations and understand their role in the completion of the project.

In closing

With sign-off completed, you are ready to move onto the planning stage! As you move through the project, don’t forget about the Project Charter, this is a living document. Make sure to go back and adjust as needed.

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