Project Charter

Writing a project charter

What’s included in a project charter?

Project charters in project management should briefly outline the project’s objectives, plans, and stakeholders without delving into a sea of details. Project charters typically include the following elements: 

Business case

Why is your team proposing this project? How will it help move the business forward, boost growth, or relieve pain points? What is the expected return on investment? 

Learn how to write a business case

Scope and deliverables

Your project charter should define the specific outcomes your team plans to deliver. Setting and communicating clear boundaries can keep team members from straying from the predetermined project scope. 

Learn more about scope management

Objectives

In your project charter, decide on a limited number of primary objectives. Keep these goals SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.

Resources needed

Identify the resources your team will need to be successful, including personnel, funds, time, materials, equipment, and any contributions you may need to source from a third party

Learn more about resource management

Milestone plan and timeline

Create a rough timeline that includes milestones for each achievement. Many project managers use work management software to keep track of deadlines and accountabilities. 

Learn more about project time management

Cost estimate

How much will the project cost? You may need to adjust your estimate as the project proceeds, but creating an initial budget helps get stakeholders, executive sponsors, and team members all on the same page.

Learn more about cost management

Risks and issues

What could go wrong? While focusing on the negative may sound counterproductive, taking the time to identify potential pitfalls can prepare your team for unforeseen challenges down the road. 

Learn more about risk management

Dependencies

When one piece of a project can’t start until a previous step has reached a certain stage, that’s known as a dependency. It’s important to outline the optimal sequence of tasks—including all dependencies—within the project plan. This helps you identify the necessary resources and highlight potential scheduling issues, especially when the scope of your project requires certain tasks to be completed in order.

Learn more about project constraints


Ebook: 3 Ways to Improve Resource Management in Your Organization

Datasheet: Agile Marketing Cheat Sheet


How to write a project charter

Teams should write their project charter before the project begins. First, project managers hold a high-level discussion with their team, including any relevant stakeholders. Once teams have a good idea about the overall direction of the project—including stakeholder expectations—they may turn to a project charter template to help get them started. Here are a few product charter examples that might give you some ideas.  

When writing your project charter, be sure to include each of the project charter elements listed above. After you complete your draft, share it with your larger team for feedback and approval. 

Benefits of a project charter

Project charters serve two principal functions:

  • Create a project roadmap—One of the main purposes of your project charter is to establish expectations for the project. Whenever the team has doubts about the project’s direction, they can look to the project charter for guidance. 

  • Market the project to stakeholders—A well-drafted project charter serves as your project’s principal internal marketing document, which you can show to stakeholders, managers, executives, and clients to help justify the cost, secure resources, and gain buy-in. 

Manage your project with confidence

Writing a project charter requires a bit of time and attention up front, but the investment will be well worth the effort. Your project charter will serve as a guiding document that keeps the team aligned to a common vision and boosts stakeholder confidence in your project.

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