This project charter template assists in all phases of scope definition. Clearly identify project objectives and deliverables, then build out task lists as well as resource, financial and quality plans to outline the work ahead. This document is what shows why a project is important and how those reasons will be addressed.
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Why You Need a Project Charter
There’s a reason for initiating a project, and the project charter is the document in which you outline those reasons. You also include how the project is going to be structured to meet the goals of the project, so it is a success.
Some of the things described in a project charter is the vision, objectives, scope and deliverables of the project. Then you’re going to need to address everyone’s responsibilities in the project, from the stakeholder on down. Finally, you want to explain how you are going to take on the project—that is with what resources, the financial expectations and quality?
This free project charter template is what you’ll follow to create the document to present to a senior management person within the organization, usually called a business sponsor. First, you need to fill out a couple of other documents. These are the business case and feasibility study. Once all these documents and the project charter have been approved, you are ready to begin the project.
So, what the project charter is doing is setting boundaries for the project. You are going into detail about the project’s scope that will account for all the deliverables the project is supposed to achieve. Once you have a project charter then you have to assemble your team and get planning, executing, tracking and reporting.
What Is the Difference Between a Project Charter, a Statement of Work and a Project Proposal?
Before going any further, it’s important that we’re clear on the distinction between a project charter and other similar but different project documents. For example, a Statement Of Work (SOW) explains the reason for the project and an overview of what the deliverables will look like.
A project charter, on the other hand is based on the SOW and gives the project manager the authority for a project kick-off. Another difference is that the SOW tends to be an internal document that is used only by the company to address business needs and provide an overview of the deliverables. A project charter, however, comes after the SOW and gives the project manager the authority to kick-off the project and spend the budget.
As for a project proposal, it’s designed to persuade stakeholders on the viability of the project. Again, the project charter doesn’t start until the project proposal has been sanctioned. The ownership of these documents differs too, in that traditionally the project manager owns the project charter and a project director is the owner of the project proposal.
The project charter is created during the planning phase of a project, while the project proposal takes place during the initiation phase. The project charter is a reference and details the roles and responsibilities of the project team. The project proposal identifies a problem and how to fix it or an opportunity and how to exploit it.
How to Get Started with a Project Charter
Before jumping into that executive summary and forging ahead with your project charter template, there are steps you can take that will help you deliver a better final product. Like any project, the research and due diligence you put in before the project pays off during the project.
First, it’s not a solo mission. While it is often tasked to the project manager, it is smart to get help building the project charter. Before you put word one to paper, lead a meeting that includes everyone who is a project stakeholder, clients and other team members.
It’s important to make this an open discussion, where everyone’s feedback is heard and, better yet, put to paper. This collects ideas and different perspectives, but it also serves to help everyone involved in the project stay informed and avoid any misunderstandings.
The meeting is a wealth of data for you to analyze. Review your notes and when you start a draft, show it to the people who attended the meeting. They might have more ideas or revisions that you can use to update the project charter.
How to Use this Project Charter Template
1. Executive Summary
An executive summary is where you sum up the various sections that will follow in greater detail in this document. Be concise, you are only outlining what will come, like a table of contents. This part of the document will cover definition, organization and plan, risks and issues and assumptions and constraints.
2. Project Definition
You must have a clear picture of what the project is in place to achieve, and here is where you want to state that purpose. This is where you note the vision of the project, what its key objectives are and how you are going to meet them. What is the scope of the work and how will the deliverables be produced? Answer these questions, the details of which follow.
To describe the vision of the project be concise. It should really be said in only a sentence. Boil it down, and don’t forget to make it achievable.
For the objectives, you want to list those crucial to the project. Each objective should be a statement which details what the project is going to achieve. These must be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound, which can be easily remembered as the acronym S.M.A.R.T.
The objectives can be broken down into sub-objectives. These can include business objectives, which are business-specific. There are also the technology-specific technology objectives.
When detailing the scope of the project you need to take into account what processes, and how they will change, organizational areas that will be affected, what locations will et impacted, how data might be altered, what applications need to be installed or altered and which technologies will be deployed and/or decommissioned. Don’t forget to note what will not be affected by the project, too.
The deliverables can be collected in a chart, such as one that lists the item in one column, followed by its components in another and then the description in the final column.
3. Project Organization
When organizing the structure of your project start with the customers. Describe who they are and how they will use the deliverables from your project. These customers can be individuals, but they can also be groups. Remember, the success of the project is dependent on the deliverables matching the requirements of the customers. Make a table to collect this information.
Stakeholders have to be considered in this section, as well. List those people who are in or out of the project, but have a key interest. These can include company executives, legislative bodies and regulatory bodies. Create a table with stakeholders in one column and why they are interested in the project in another.
Now you want to define the roles in the project. What are the various people needed to take on the project? They may include a sponsor, review group, manager, team member, et al. Again, you want to collect this information in a table, with columns for: role, organization, resource name, assignment status and assignment date. If your project is larger, however, only list the key roles.
What are the responsibilities of the project? That’s the next item to note. For each role listed you now have to define a full set of responsibilities, performance criteria and the skills required. You want to attach a job description as well.
You next will need to build an organization flow chart that shows the reporting lines between each of the key roles you have already written about.
4. Project Plan
Begin with what your approach will be. How will you implement each phase of the project? Create a table with each phase listed and next to it the approach outlined briefly.
The overall plan can be scheduled in a Gantt chart. Here you can summarize the plan, outlining the sequence of each phase that you have collected in the table above.
You want to know what your milestones will be over the course of the project’s lifecycle. Those are major points in a project when a phase is completed. Make a table with the milestone, the date you want it completed and a description of what it is.
Then you want to list the dependencies. How will they impact other tasks and will they be impacted by non-delivery, as in are they task dependent.
Next, create a resource plan. In this you are going to summarize the duration and effort for each project team member. Begin with their role, followed by the start and end dates and the percentage of effort.
Now comes the financial part. Here you break down the category to the cost and the value. A more detailed financial plan can be developed in the planning stage of the project.
You next need a quality plan. This makes sure the various processes are being done to lead to the success of the project. So, therefore, you want to list the process — be it change management, risk management, issue management, etc. — and then describe it.
5. Project Considerations
Here is where you address the risks in your project. Describe what risk might arise in the project, note the likelihood (high, medium or low), the impact it will have (again: high, medium or low) and the mitigating actions you will take if it does happen.
Next address the issues, listed by priority. An issue, unlike a risk, is any event that is currently affecting the project. Describe it, note the priority and what actions you will take to resolve it.
Now what are the assumptions identified with the project? And then list the constraints.
Finally, you’ll want to attach any and all supporting documentation in an appendix.
What do you do after you’ve filled out our project project charter template? The first thing you should do is review it. This is an edit for content and copy. The last thing you want is to have typos, which makes the operation appear unprofessional.
Show the charter to the team, your stakeholders and anyone else who helped you create it. Get their feedback and update the document as needed.
At last, you’ll need to get the project charter approved. Send it to your stakeholders and project sponsors for a final review. If they don’t have any questions, then it can be approved and the project work can begin.
The project charter shouldn’t be shelved at this point. It must be available for everyone on the team to use as reference. It keeps them on task and sure of the project objectives, obstacles and milestones.
The ProjectManager.com blog features regularly published articles and videos on project management, leadership, business and more. Here are a few items that have been recently posted that relate to project charters.
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(This post was updated December 2019)