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What Should You Include in an IT Project Charter?

written by: Jayant R Row • edited by: Michele McDonough • updated: 7/20/2013

An IT project charter is an initial document generally prepared by the owner or his representatives and should list the objectives of the project, the scope envisioned, and the likely participants who would be involved with the project.

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    Laying the Groundwork

    Writing an IT project charter may seem like a time-consuming process, but using it will lay the groundwork for the project. Down the line, you're going to save a lot of time.

    Basically, the charter should define the scope, objectives and likely risks. Preparation of a project proposal is vital in order to write the charter. This allows all the stakeholders including those likely to be project managers to put down their own perspective of looking at the project, its goals and likely methodology for execution. Once the proposal is made and circulated to all concerned a charter is finalized, which serves as a guideline for all future activities.

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    Here Are the Key Points:

    These are the key points you've got to consider.

    • Your charter needs to clearly identify the key stakeholders in a project, their likely roles and their expected contribution to the project.
    • The charter must identify the project by a name or number that will be referred to in all future documentation for the project. It also needs to identify clearly the designated project manager and the responsibilities that the job would entail. A project manager for software development would need to be familiar with the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC)
    • It needs to set out the goals for the project that are specific, achievable, measurable and relevant to the interests of the stakeholders. A specific time frame also must be mentioned.
    • Priorities for the project should be clearly defined. This could be the time, the cost or the defined scope. Setting these priorities allows a project team to take action necessary during the execution of the project.
    • A listing of the major activities is essential, so that any deviation would point to extra work being carried out. Such deviations have to be brought to the notice of the stakeholders and need their approval before execution.
    • The end product and what everyone expects from it should be laid down. In the case of IT projects, the norms for software functioning need to be specified.
    • You should include all the assumptions made while drawing up the charter. This must include technical skills required, sources of funding, quality standards, regulations governing the work being done and the specifications for the end product. This will then clearly lay down the constraints for the project and directions to the project manager for execution of the work.
    • Likely risks for the project need to be estimated. For IT projects, the likely risk from other competitor software developers needs to be identified and kept in view at all times. Such risks need to be analyzed, and the charter could include methods to avoid the risk or mitigate its effect on the project.
    • You should include a list of deliverables, and in cases of software development include intermediate modules for testing and feedback. Cost and time estimates also need to be approved and laid down in the project charter.
    • Change management needs to be discussed in order to handle any changes to the project plan. The authority for making those changes needs to be clearly defined.
    • Define acceptable minimum success criteria that the stakeholders expect in terms of time and money, besides the technical successes that are expected.