A project charter is a crucial planning tool that should be prepared before you embark on any project. It lays out the foundation of the work you are about to do and guides you through the process by identifying factors such as risks, budgets, and milestones. If you are looking to launch a project or streamline one that is in progress, this article will tell you what a Project Charter Template should include, why it is important, and how you can prepare one.
What Is a Project Charter?
A project charter or statement or project definition is a document used in project management to outline the scope, objectives, and stakeholders of a project. It identifies the team members involved in the project and describes their roles and responsibilities. Additionally, it determines the project initiators and authorities, establishing the lines of reporting.
Generally, a project charter tells you everything you need to know about the execution of a project. From risk analysis to budget estimations, it is a vital tool for any project manager and a crucial point of reference for stakeholders and clients.
Project Charter Templates and Examples
Project Plan Vs. Project Charter
A project charter is a review of the scope, objectives, stakeholders, and deliverables of a project. In contrast, a project clam is a detailed guide containing all details needed to implement and oversee a project, such as the milestones, resources, and activities.
Importance of Project Charter
Before embarking on a project, you can ensure its smooth running by creating a project charter. This is because the document does more than overview the activities. It also:
- Determines the worthiness of the project (if the project aligns with your company’s vision).
- Identifies the project objective, deliverables, and milestones.
- Identifies the project leader and defines their authority, which includes assigning team roles.
- Sets a project framework and explains why the project was initiated in the first place.
- Anticipates the difficulties the team might encounter, helping you prepare adequately.
- Sets the budget for the project, which fosters transparency and accountability.
- Defines the project scope, eliminating the chances of scope creep (an uncontrollable increase of the deliverables during a project).
- States what problems the project is bound to solve.
- Creates an understanding between the stakeholders and project team, which builds trust and a conducive work environment.
Consequences of Not Having a Project Charter
Creating a Project Charter Template may seem like a long, tedious task – so much so that you decide to forgo it. But what are the consequences of starting a project without this document? Not having a guide for the tasks at hand could have the following repercussions:
- Your project runs the risk of scope creep – where the deliverables increase uncontrollably – due to the lack of a clear scope of work.
- The absence of formal authorization could prevent the project manager from acquiring the needed resources for your project.
- Without the document, there is no signature – and thus, verification – that the project initiators or sponsors are backing your activities.
- The team could lack direction due to the absence of clear set project goals.
- You could end up executing tasks that don’t align with your project’s objectives.
Essential Elements of a Project Charter
As with any project-related document, an effective project charter should name the project, sponsors, and manager and indicate the date it was prepared. It should also contain the following key elements:
- Project Description – This is a clear definition of the project scope (what the project will involve). It helps the team avoid scope creep during the project.
- Project Goal – This field identifies the objectives or aims of the project. It answers the question, ‘what problem will this project’s deliverables solve?’
- Success Criteria – This is a set of conditions that identify what constitutes a successful project.
- Timeline and Milestones – These are the dates involved in the project and a description of what activities must be completed by the set deadlines.
- Deliverables and Requirements – These are the client’s requirements.
- Budget – This is an estimate of the costs involved in the project.
- Risks – This section identifies the difficulties the project team might encounter and how they can overcome them.
- Constraints and Assumptions – These are the currently known (constraints) and unknown (assumptions) project parameters.
- Team Responsibilities – This section assigns the roles of those involved in the project, including the team leader, initiator, and members.
- Project Approval – This section holds the client’s authorized signature.
How to Write
When you prepare a project charter, you should include enough information that you can refer to it in the future if the need arises. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you achieve this:
Step 1: Research the Project
Research is an excellent first step because it familiarizes you with the problem addressed by the project and the solutions it provides. During this initial stage, you should identify the following details:
- Project solutions and objectives
- Project success factors
- Required resources
- Possible risks
Step 2: Define Your Vision
With these details set, you should craft a suitable vision for your project. This is the main objective or end goal of your activities and should define the deliverables and project scope.
Step 3: Highlight the Stakeholders’ Interests
Next, you need to identify the stakeholders and their interests in the project. This analysis should cover the following parties:
- Project Initiator/Sponsor – What does the sponsor wish to get from the project?
- Consumer – Also called the end-user. Explain how the project will meet their requirements.
- Project Team – What roles will the team members play? Who will they report to?
Step 4: Develop an Implementation Plan
By this stage, you know the scope, objectives, and structure of the project. The next step is to identify an implementation plan that covers the phases, timeline, and milestones.
Step 5: Identify the Risks and Create a Budget
Finally, list the risks you identified in step one and define measures you could take to avoid or overcome them. You should then tie everything into the project budget and prepare the document for signing.
Having a Project Charter Template at hand can help you prepare adequately for your project and anticipate any difficulties you might face. It provides you with a high-level overview of the tasks, deliverables, team members, budget, and stakeholder requirements, allowing you to keep your team in check and meet your project objectives. When preparing it, invest in intensive research and dialogue with the team and stakeholders and be as detailed as possible.