How to Write a Project Charter: Template & Examples

Establishing a new project for the road involves a great deal of documentation – from project requirements and scope documents to risk assessments and project plans.

As a project manager, you are used to sifting through the paperwork of the project. But it is not always easy for your team and stakeholders to understand everything when they have limited time to invest in details.

This is where a project charter comes into play.

A project charter serves as a guide to the successful execution of a project so that you can update everyone and join the project faster.

Let’s take a closer look at what a project charter is, why it is important and how to create one for your projects.

What is a project charter, and why is it important?

A project charter is a document that details the project objectives, benefits, constraints, risks, stakeholders and even the budgets of your project. It can also be referred to as a project summary or project definition document.

The Project Management Institute (PMI) defines a project charter as “a document issued by the project initiator or sponsor that officially confirms the existence of a project, and gives the project manager the authority to apply organizational resources to project activity.”

The purpose of a project charter is to set clear project expectations so that you can lead even the largest teams and complex projects for timely and sub-budget delivery. A project charter also brings benefits such as tailoring stakeholders and teams to project objectives and clarifying important details that can impact the project.

Project Charter vs. Project Plan: What’s the Difference?

Having multiple documents related to your project may sound overwhelming – and it can be! But, every key document plays an important role in the success of the project.

So when should you use a project charter versus a project plan? The simple answer is that you should always use both to manage your projects. But let’s take a quick look at the difference between a project charter and a project plan.

Think of your project charter as the document that explains the what and Why Of your project, while your project plan describes the How, when, And who will.

Remember, the purpose of the project charter is to list your project in full – but High level. We are not talking here about missions and milestones.

A project charter details the details needed to understand a project and its goals, usually in Word, Excel, Google Docs or PDF format. This is delivered early in the project cycle to ensure everyone is on the same page regarding goals and products.

A project plan, on the other hand, is a line-by-line action plan for leading a project to completion after approval of all the details. It is usually designed as a Gantt chart with task dates and Milestones Mapped on a timeline so you can track progress along the way.

How to write a project charter

Ready to develop a project charter framework for your organization?

To create a project charter for your next project, your first step should be to discuss the project with your team and stakeholders. This will allow you to gather the information needed to carry out the project, while setting expectations as to what will be required to carry out the work.

Make sure this initial discussion covers the following project details:

  • Goals
  • Constraints (including deadlines and budgets)
  • Risks
  • Stakeholders
  • Any other detail that will help you really define your project

Achieving this level of insight and understanding from your team and stakeholders at an early stage will help you maintain fit throughout the project.

Just like anything else in project management, there is no one way to write a project charter. The most important thing to keep in mind when creating your charter is to make it easy to read and accessible to everyone involved in your project.

Remember, the convention should be a high-level review of the project, not a detailed account of what will happen. Feel free to use short descriptions – or even bullet points – to help you keep it short.

Project charter components and examples

A lot of information goes into a project charter, and it’s up to you to determine what components make sense for the teams and organizations you work with. Below is a list of key elements you may want to include when writing your project charter.

Business case

This is a statement related to the goals that explains the purpose of your project and why you are taking it upon yourself. The business case not only helps guide decisions in the project, but also ensures that everyone involved in the project is aligned to its purpose. That way you can all oblige each other to stick to this goal.

We have written the example of a business case statement for a website redesign project:

The Ghent Museum website (ganttmuseum.org) needs to be redesigned to help us meet our new and aggressive ticket sales goals and provide a new online store experience for visitors who cannot visit in person.

Goals

While the business case may indicate your overarching goals, you may find that you need to be more specific about practical goals for your project.

Writing SMART goals for your project initiatives can make the task easier to maintain. This example gives you an idea of ​​how you can process them into your project charter objectives:

  1. Provide an updated look and feel to align with new branding.
  2. View relevant visitor information easily accessible.
  3. Include an online ticketing system to allow visitors to buy round-the-clock tickets from anywhere. This new system must contribute an additional 20% in museum ticket revenue.
  4. Leverage an e-commerce platform from a shelf run by museum shop staff. This new system must contribute an additional 35% of the store’s revenue to the museum.

budget

This section may be optional for you, depending on your workplace and the type of project you are running. But whether you are dealing with project budgets or clients, be clear about the cost of the project and how it falls apart. Maintaining information transparency will help guide calls if and when your budget approaches the maximum.

In the example of the project charter below, we have broken down the budget according to the project phase:

$ 500,000, broken down by stage:

  • Research: $ 50,000
  • Design: $ 200,000
  • Development: $ 250,000

Scope and products

Be sure to define what you will provide and the scope associated with it so that you can set clear expectations about what will be included and what will not be included – or carried out – in your project.

Here is an example of how you can outline the scope of the project and the products in your project charter:

We redesign and build the following templates:

  • homepage
  • Ticket purchase page
  • Home page of the store
  • Store item description page

The products include:

  • Wireframes for each page (updated up to 3 times)
  • Page designs (up to 3 times updated)
  • Encoded templates

Resources are needed

In this section, you will list all the people, finances, time, materials, equipment or additional resources that you or the team will need to complete the project. Here is an example of resources that a website design project may require:

  • The branding work is done by our partner agency. All files will be required before formatting begins.
  • All photography for the site will be FPO in design. A new photo may be required.
  • The museum will purchase fonts licenses.
  • The museum will need to purchase CMS licenses for staff.
  • The museum will need to hire a CMS coach and content entry team.

Timeline

Do not worry about adapting an entire plan to your project charter. But it’s a good idea to write down key milestones in a project with dates and refer to your program in TeamGantt by Sharing a view-only link to your Gantt chart.

For example, you can build the milestone schedule of your project charter as follows:

This project is estimated to last 9 months with the following milestone schedule:

  • October 31, 2021 – Kick
  • December 15, 2021 – The study is complete
  • February 28, 2022 – The design is complete
  • April 15, 2022 – Development and CMS training completed
  • May 21, 2022 – Content entry completed
  • June 30, 2022 – Environmental inspection completed, launch

Risks and problems

Every project carries a risk, whether it’s the threat of a critical stakeholder leaving the project, a necessary asset missing a deadline, or even a hurricane taking out your Internet and stopping work.

Documents things that could have Going wrong with your project charter – as we did in the example below – makes everyone aware of the risks in the first place:

  • The stakeholder team has never been part of a website redesign.
  • Most of the content will have to be rewritten, and the effort is unknown.
  • Funding for the e-commerce platform has not yet been approved.

dependence

Sometimes one part of a project cannot start until the previous stage is completed. And when a partner is responsible for that step, you have no control. If this is the case for your project, you have a rolling list of risks at hand.

Pay attention to every major dependence In your project charter so you can highlight potential scheduling issues. This is what it might look like:

  • If the branding project is not approved in time, it will delay our project.
  • The selection of the content management system (CMS) and the following licensing are required before the start of development.

Stakeholders

If you are working on a project with a team of people responsible for approving your project, you want to be sure they are present and treated. Registering them here will help!

While you’re at it, you might want to define their roles or at least specify who will be the “leader” or chief approver.

This sample project charter keeps the list of stakeholders simple:

  • Sponsors of the project and a key point of contact: Sandy Sanderson, VP of Marketing
  • Don Lemon, IT Manager
  • Donna Sumner, Ticket Manager
  • Bob Burg, director, museum shop
  • Daniel Della, Senior Writer

Download Free Project Charter Template

Creating a project charter may feel like a daunting task, but it really does not have to be. Using a template can help you get in straight and keep things short so that your project charter will be quick to create and scan.

Download our free project charter template (Word) And use the examples above to write your own project charter. Feel free to tailor this template to your organization’s style or needs.

Remember, a well-written project charter can help you answer and document big project questions and quickly tailor your team and stakeholders. This is a small document with a huge purpose, so your best approach is to develop a simple project charter that is easy to read and useful to all involved.

For a project planning coach with TeamGantt

Once you have a solid project charter in hand, it’s time to design your plan! With TeamGantt, you can create an interactive project plan without boredom.

You will have all the features you need to ensure projects are completed on time and on budget, including:

  • Drag and drop simplicity
  • Easy teamwork
  • Views of Ghent chart, list, calendar and calendar
  • Staff availability and workload management
  • Planned timeline versus actual timeline
  • Dedicated mobile app

And it all comes with a simple and intuitive interface that is easy for anyone to use.

Try TeamGantt for free today!

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