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Project Charter: A Project Manager’s Best Friend

To kick-start any new project, we need a proper plan. A project can be as simple as planning a surprise birthday party for our loved one or a complex task such as handling a huge multi-billion dollar venture for a big Software company.

Successful projects don’t just happen. They need clear objectives, well-defined goals and smart planning strategies. A Project Charter plays a crucial role to achieve these benchmarks.



So, what is a Project Charter?

A Project Charter is a formal document that provides a high-level description of the entire project. It contains key elements like goals, objectives, scope, resources and deliverables of the project. A Project Charter acts like a golden compass for the project and serves as a baseline that describes the skeleton of the Project.

A Project charter should be simple, short and straightforward. It is a living document, i.e., it can be reviewed and revisited as the project progresses to ensure the interest of the team members working on the project is aligned with the objectives and goals of the project. Hence, its relevance is very much applicable in today’s Agile environment.



Why do we need a Project Charter?

Every Project is unique. Similarly, the risks and challenges involved in each project are also different. Therefore, we need distinct strategies and diverse approaches to handle each project.

This is where a Project Charter comes into the picture. Primarily, a Project Charter paves a clear path for the project from its start to finish. It acts like an official document between the team members involved in the project and the stakeholders by providing them with all the critical information to keep them on track and update them with the latest information about the project. The Project Charter is a great resource for the Project Manager to have on hand while communicating with the Project Sponsors, Stakeholders and the team members.





Who creates a Project Charter?

Typically, the Project manager creates the Project Charter in the initial phases of the project. A well-documented project charter is a project manager’s secret weapon to success.

As a project manager, developing the project charter in collaboration with both the team members and the stakeholders ensures that the project charter addresses the key stakeholder’s most important concerns and keeps the interest of the team aligned with the goals of the project. It offers a shared understanding of the project’s objectives.



What are the main components of a Project Charter?

A Project Charter typically contains the following key elements:

  • Project Summary

  • Project Goals and Objectives

  • Scope

  • Project team

  • Success criteria

  • Key deliverables

  • Budget

  • Schedule/timeline

  • Constraints, risks and assumptions





Ultimately, the project charter addresses the following questions in any project:

  • Why? – (Why do we need this project? Why is this project important?)

  • Who? – (Who is involved in this project? – Project Sponsors, Stakeholders, team members)

  • What? – (What are the goals, scope, deliverables and budget of the project?)

  • When? – (When is the deadline for the project?)

  • How? – (How do we measure the success of the project?)

How to create a good Project Charter?

Since a Project Charter is used to share the project details with the key stakeholders in order to get their approval to kick-start the project, it is important to create an appealing Project charter.

Usually, a Project charter consists of 1-2 pages with all the necessary vital information like objectives, goals, team etc. It is an abridged and simplified document that is written in clear language.

When crafting a Project Charter, it is suggested to incorporate the SMART method to write the goals and scope of the project.

SMART stands for – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound.



Sample Template of a Project Charter

Every organization follows its own version of the Project Charter. But essentially, it has more or less the same key elements included in it.


Below is the sample Template of a Project Charter:




What are the benefits of a Project Charter?

The Project Charter is one of the fundamental documents in the Project Management Life-cycle. It is widely used in the software industry and business ventures as it has a lot of benefits.


· A Project Charter makes the purpose and goals of the Project crystal clear to all the parties involved in the Project.

· It aligns the objective of the Project with the interest of the Organization.

· Project Charter gives a clear timeline for achieving the milestones of the project.

· Since a Project Charter outlines the possible risks and challenges, it predicts the chokepoints and bottlenecks that the team might face during the progress of the project and prepares them in advance to tackle these problems and mitigate them.

· It cogently defines the estimated budget so that the teams can plan accordingly and stick to the project’s financial plan.

· Project Charter helps in improving the team dynamics by clearly defining the roles and responsibilities of each member of the project.

· It acts as a reference point for all future decisions of the project.



Summing Up

A Project Charter serves as a lighthouse for the Project Managers and helps them to seamlessly navigate through their Project Management journey. It sets the flavor and tone for the Project. This document functions as an outline for the Project. A Project Charter acts like the Pole Star and aids in the successful completion of the project and ensures the team’s smooth voyage throughout the Project Life cycle.

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