Tips for Writing a Project Charter

Page content

Why Is a Project Charter Needed?

A project charter is sometimes referred to as a Project Overview Statement. It is a signed document that defines and authorizes a project. If a project charter is not agreed upon, the goals of the project are left up to interpretation by key stakeholders because each may have a different view on how the project will proceed. This will lead to conflicts and confusion, and in the end a failed project.

What Should be Included?

While each project charter must be customized to fit a particular project, they each need to contain at least one of the following components:

  1. Authorization of the Project: A statement that identifies the project by name or number.
  2. Authorization of the Project Manager: The project manager needs to be identified in the charter, and his/her role needs to be clearly identified.
  3. Stakeholders: Key stakeholders need to be identified, and their roles should be clearly stated.
  4. Project Goals: The goal statement needs to be clearly stated and is important to the success of the project. Goals should be specific, measurable, and achievable.
  5. Project Priorities: The charter must include a list of the project priorities and they should be delineated in order of importance. Whenever possible, these priorities need to remain consistent throughout the project.
  6. Scope Statement: The scope statement must describe the major components of the project so that it will be clear if extra work will need to be added on at a later date.
  7. Project Constraints: All project constraints need to be clearly identified and may include availability of resources, time and budget constraints, or quality standards.
  8. Project Risks: Any risks that may rear their head and potentially interrupt the attainment of goals need to be recognized. Each risk should be carefully analyzed, quantified, and prioritized and then responded to.
  9. Deliverables: The charter needs to include a list of deliverables produced by the project that will be delivered to the client.
  10. Cost Estimates: Cost estimates must be included in the charter. These can include information on whether the budget is fixed and if there is indeed enough information presented to make an accurate estimate.
  11. Schedule Estimates: If project duration estimates were established, they need to be included in the project charter.
  12. Success Criteria: By establishing success criteria, you can then measure at the end of a project whether a project has succeeded. Even a project not completed on time or within budget is not necessarily a failure. Success criteria can help motivate and guide your team.

Final Tips

A project charter has goals, and these goals will drive the format, language, and style of the charter. Simple and short is always better, and unnecessary vocabulary or extraneous information should be deleted. Throw out the thesaurus and get to the point, describe the issues concisely, and be done.

If you do not have a project charter established, it needs to be done immediately and submitted to the sponsor of the project and all key stakeholders. The charter needs to be in writing and needs the approval of stakeholders so that the project can move on to a successful finish.