Monday 31 January 2022

Project Charter - how to write in simple language

Contents of the project charter

The project initiation process has several objectives. The top management of the company must accept the need to implement the project. It is subject to identification and definition as a new object of management. During the initiation, organizational support is also carried out to launch it into implementation. These goals are achieved in the course of relevant business processes, the outputs of which are readiness for the planning stage and a number of fundamental documents. One of these documents developed during the initiation process is the project charter.

The Place of the Charter in initiation processes

To start the initiation, the idea that is born in the mind of the initiator is important, and he intends to report the essence of his idea to the company's management. An unformed idea is amorphous, so there should be a source document for making the initial decision. 


If the work is supposed to be small, then the idea and its effects are formed in the form of a concept, a business case, a presentation of several pages and slides. If the idea is large-scale, then after reviewing the initial documents, an indication is given to the development of a feasibility study and a business plan. Upon their readiness, the management again returns to the issue, and after a successful defense, a decision is made - the project to be.

Then a series of new actions and new decisions are made in order to launch the start of the project event. As a result of these actions, the event becomes an object of management. In other words, the project manager is defined, and he is offered a unique task with all the necessary parameters. You can ask in this situation: 

"Excuse me, but in the business plan all this is described?!". Indeed, the business plan works out in detail the entire logic, infrastructure and economics of the task, its prospects and financial justification. But the manager in most cases cannot be responsible for all the results formed in the business plan. Its task has a narrower context.

If we consider the example of creating a new market product intended for production by a company, then the level of the PM task can be limited to at least three variants of its contours.

  • The manager's responsibility is limited to the creation of a new product.
  • PM ensures the creation of the product and its production.
  • The manager is responsible not only for the creation and production of new products, but also for its sale during a given period of time.

The level of the manager's task should be defined and fixed in a special document, which is called the charter. The charter of the project is a document issued by the company's management for the purpose of setting a unique task for the responsible resource represented by pm, which implies a established area of responsibility and authority. 


The manager's responsibility includes his right to accept a unique task for execution and the duty to perform without referring to newly arisen restrictions (ideally). Pm's mandate allows him to attract and use the company's resources and external stakeholders to achieve results within the scheduled time frame. The charter of the project takes priority place after the start of work on the project and the decision to start it, which is reflected in the diagrams presented above.

Composition and structure of the charter

The project charter provides a direct link between the unique task and the strategic goals of the company. Playing the role of a document formally authorizing the task, the charter includes in its composition the basic requirements and basic expectations of stakeholders. This document performs several functions, among them it is important to note:

  • the function of setting the problem;
  • matching function;
  • authorization function;
  • the function of improving discipline;
  • consolidation function;
  • integration function.

The development of the project charter begins after the launch order is issued. The administrative part of the document formally fixes the date of the start of project implementation, its full and short name is entered in it, a curator, a head (PM), responsible persons for key blocks are appointed. The order, as a rule, reflects the enlarged plan of the project in one of its first editions. The structural diagram of the charter is given below. It is developed iteratively and may have several editions, gradually clarifying the main provisions, which include the following aspects.

  • Justification for the implementation of a unique development task.
  • Goals, objectives and results.
  • PM's first and last name, the limits of its responsibility and authority.
  • Definition and structure of the product.
  • Interests and expectations of the participants.
  • Success criteria.
  • Principles of project organization and management.

Above is one of the variants of the typical structure of the charter. The charter of the project is a rather complex document in the development and implementation, which is often the first formal document of the project. Usually, the curator begins to work with it, including in it enlarged goals, expected results and the image of the project product. Further, the preparation of the charter is transferred to the PM to complete the development of the first edition of the document, of which there may be several.

The manager collects additional information, together with the curator organizes preliminary meetings with the main participants and future members of the project team. 


As a result of these activities, the manager clarifies the relationship with the strategy, interests and expectations of stakeholders. The needs and concerns of the participants become clear, the vision of the product, the main limitations and success criteria are formed. All this is included in the text of the charter. Below is an example of the form of the charter.

It is quite common practice to re-approve the charter after one or two stages of project implementation, when there is a final clarification, for example, of the market potential of the product, the decomposition of the task and sub tasks.


The document begins to work, using its full potential. Playing the role of a written task, a contract between the customer and the project manager, the charter forms a context that unites the team in values, implementing which, it is much easier for the PM and other participants to find motivation to achieve a successful result.

How to write a project charter?

Do not rush to launch a project when you have only a general idea of what awaits you ahead and how to move towards it. Take the time to create a document that will become both a faithful compass and an invaluable cheat sheet!

  • The Charter of the project (UP) explains
  • in which direction your company will go and why,
  • what will change and what risks will arise in this case.
  • This document not only contains basic information, but also reflects the general vision of stakeholders.

RM is usually created at the earliest stage of the project, even before the formation of the project team (PC). Usually it is drawn up jointly with other project participants and submitted to stakeholders for final consideration. In most cases, the charter is signed by sponsors.

What is a project charter?

You can write a document of several dozen pages, filling it with all sorts of details, but it is unlikely that you will want to re-read it later. Therefore, it is better to fit everything in a maximum of 3-5 pages, ideally - 1-2 pages.

As an example, a project charter might look like a text document, a Google document, or a presentation. It can also look like a task labeled "Documents" and "Strategic" in the Work section project management program:

What does the UP clarify?

  • Which specialist becomes a project manager (PM) and what is his terms of reference
  • The purpose of the project and its relationship to business indicators
  • Who approved the project and who will finance it
  • The composition of the project team, the requirements and expectations of the project, the responsibility of each of its participants
  • Success criteria

When is the NC created?

Before you start the project. At the same time, stakeholders should familiarize themselves with it.

Who develops and approves the UP?

The development of UP is usually carried out by experienced PM. The document is approved by the sponsor of the project.

  • What should be contained in the UP?
  • Overview and rationale
  • Requirements and objectives
  • Names of PM, sponsors, stakeholders
  • Composition of the PC
  • Information about the parties involved
  • Risks, Constraints, Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats
  • Expected figures
  • Distribution of responsibilities between each participant
  • All available and required resources
  • Methodologies to be used
  • Communication Strategies
  • Budget and deadlines
  • Schedule

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for Measuring Success

Development of the project charter

Step 1. Define the end goal.

Make a list of 3 to 5 smaller goals to achieve during the project. Make sure they're specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-limited — that is, they meet SMART criteria.

Analyze how the project might affect your organization's business performance.

Step 2. Create an organizational structure.

Identify end users, stakeholders, sponsors, project manager, project committee members, and project team members. You can now create an organizational structure for the project.

In Work section, all of them can be contributed by participants or guests (a status convenient for customers, sponsors and stakeholders) to the project.

Step 3. Prepare a plan for the implementation of the UP.

List the steps and processes during the project lifecycle. Note the cue points and dependencies between processes. Make a list with the necessary resources: hardware, software, materials.

Step 4. Anticipate the risks and challenges.

If they arise, you will already be prepared and will know how to minimize their impact.

top 3 reasons why without a charter, your project risks failing

The project manager will lack authority, and the project will lack resources. The ready-made charter of the project documents the approval from stakeholders. Therefore, the PM will not have to constantly knock out additional funding or fight for its powers.

There are no clear expectations from the project. But in the charter its goals and objectives are described in detail. This reduces the likelihood that the content of the project will begin to grow in the future.

The project will lead you to results that go against the goals of the organization. After all, the UP, on the contrary, justifies the importance of the project for business and how it corresponds to the vision of the company.

8 Questions to Create a More Effective UP


Has enough time and effort been spent to understand the need to launch the project? Otherwise, you will not define the key elements and goals when compiling the UP.

Is there a clear link to the company's strategic goals? A project will benefit if it has logic to the organization's global mission.

What value will the project bring to owners and management? How does it fit into the company's business goals?


Was the description of the project clearly drawn up? When there are accurate metrics for budget, timing, quality, it will be much easier to display a more detailed picture for stakeholders, project sponsors and PCs.

Realistic and achievable goals? Otherwise, it makes no sense to give false hopes to stakeholders and sponsors.

What are the risks to the organization if you don't run the project? If they are minimal, then you need to analyze whether it is worth implementing a new idea. Or the existing internal and external risks, on the contrary, push to start the project faster.

Are the required resources available? If not, then the project planning was unsuccessful. Even if the company has the necessary resources, it is necessary to provide for undesirable situations when analyzing risks.

How to realistically measure the success of the project? KPIs should be revised if they do not objectively reflect the progress of the project.

How do I create a charter in Work section?

First, create a project, come up with a name for it according to the goals. Use the Invite to Project menu to invite people to help you create a charter. Fill in the fields with information about the project participants: name, surname, e-mail, department.

Now create tasks that correspond to the 3-5 goals of your project mentioned in the charter. Select the menu "Set a new task", add its detailed description: what you are striving for, what are the criteria for success, is there a link to other goals.

Next, set the priority of the task, assign a person responsible for the implementation, specify the timing and costs.

Determine the circle of subscribers for each of the tasks - someone it concerns first of all, and someone on the contrary is not interested in much. Attach files and set labels to track progress as needed.

To finish creating a task, click New Task. If you need to split a task into several sub tasks, you can immediately add in the "Batch Add Tasks" mode.

You can customize the appearance of tasks in Work section, sort them by priority, responsible persons, labels, etc. It is also convenient to track how the tasks are progressing as a whole and how much of the planned budget has already been spent.

Why was the project initiated, what opportunities will it open up for the company?

Miracle paper, or why you need a project charter and how to write it

The Project Charter is a document that is usually prepared by the project manager after receiving an introduction to the project.

Why do we need a project charter?

The Charter contains the main characteristics of the project and is agreed upon by the main stakeholders (at least - the Customer and the Project Sponsor). As a rule, the development and signing of the Charter has 3 main functions:

Determine the main requirements for the result of the project and the main characteristics of the project itself (budget, deadlines).

Formally, launch the project, because only after signing the project is considered to really exist in the Company.

Give the project manager a certain level of authority (which one depends on the Company).
Sometimes the charter of a project is used to assess the benefits of its implementation and make a decision on the launch. Although this does not correspond to the classical methodology, according to which the charter is prepared only for a project that has already been evaluated and approved for implementation.

Importantly! Starting a project without a signed charter is the worst service you can do yourself as a project manager. Without defining and agreeing on the goals and content of what you will do, you risk very quickly finding yourself in a situation where the deadlines have passed, the budget has ended, the "wrong and wrong" has been done, and your career in this Company has ended ingloriously. 


Moreover, the signing of the charter with stakeholders is an excellent indicator of whether they are really interested or just pretending. If the project is launched "from above", the Sponsor is appointed, and the Customer himself does not understand why he needs it - it is better to try to take his feet off this project, and if it does not work out - at least realize how not to remain as a result the only one to blame for failure (we will talk about this later).

How to Write a Project Charter

The content of the project charter often depends on the specifics of the Company. An example is the following set of sections of the charter:

Initial conditions (Project Background) - which led to the initiation of the project, input conditions, "pain" of the Customer.

Project Objectives / Expectations 


What we want to achieve at the output. This something should be measurable (by SMART or something else, it does not matter) and not allow for double interpretation. For example, the goal of "making a CRM system to attract more customers" is somehow not very good, right? But "to develop and implement a CRM system for employees of the sales department of the North Volga branch until 01.12.2015 to provide instant access to information about customer spending in different periods of the year" is already a little better.

Scope and deliverables 


What exactly do we include in the project and what specific results will we get? For example, if we need to release a new CRM system, then the output is the system itself, the servers on which we will install it, trained users and documentation for transfer to support (and maybe the support itself organized from scratch). In this section, you clearly limit what you will do. It is also very useful to include here a subsection with a list of what is not explicitly included in the content of the project (so that all this is agreed upon and then no one wonders why you also implemented an incident management system for technical support of the system within the project).

Requirements and Characteristics are something that is not the result of the project, but is important for it. If we go back to the CRM system again, then a typical requirement may be "The period of training of an employee in the system should not exceed 1 working day", "System support should not be more than 200,000 Dollars per year", "At least 300 people should work in the system at the same time" and the like.

Cost and Timelines 


Money, deadlines and their relationships with other parties to the project triangle. For example, it is useful to enter descending priorities of the Budget-Content-Deadlines type. That is, it is impossible to spend more money directly, it is highly undesirable to reduce the results obtained (but it is possible, in the most extreme case), and if it is necessary to increase the term for the sake of the first two points - this is OK. Often many people hang around, saying, "Yes, everything is important to us!", But in the right world you go to the Sponsor and ask him if the sponsor is adequate - he definitely has this understanding of priorities, and he will share it with you.

Key Stakeholders 


The main stakeholders, at least – the Sponsor, the Customer, those who will have to share resources with you (in the matrix structure), your manager, the budget holder, etc. It is not worth including the whole company here, just think and write: a) who should know about the project at this stage b) to whose authority it will be useful for you to appeal during the project

Assumptions and Restrictions, Main Risks (Project Assumptions and Restrictions, Main Risks) - we will talk about these things in more detail, but in general, the purpose of including them in the project charter is to convey to all interested parties the features of the environment and the moment in which you make the project, voice your concerns and get confirmation of their readiness in these matters to help you in every possible way. And then no one would say "and we weren't told."
A real-life example! Let's make a very short charter of the project "Repair in the apartment", as a sample, otherwise the theory is good, but not always clear:

Initial conditions 


I have been living in the apartment for 15 years, the paint on the ceiling has peeled off, the batteries are old and in general I am uncomfortable. I ordered a design project, I drew the apartment of my dreams, it remains only to do.

The goal is to make repairs in an apartment with an area of 65 meters in strict accordance with the design project no later than to such and such a number and no more than for such and such money.

Content and results (Scope and deliverables) 


At the output there should be completely replaced communications (plumbing, electrics, heating), a new front door, new plumbing, cosmetic repairs (tiles in the bathroom, laminate, wallpaper and ceilings in all rooms), ordered and installed kitchen, completely all lighting and all furniture. What I will not do: tear off the floor screed (which it has become in 15 years), do underfloor heating and sound insulation, and change the windows (they are good, only 2 years ago I put).

Key requirements and characteristics

Everything should be in strict accordance with the design project (see a pack of attached drawings and an estimate), if something cannot be done or more than 10% more expensive - must be agreed at a family council. Wiring of electrics and plumbing must be agreed with the local housing office.

Budget and deadlines (Cost and Timelines) 

2 million Dollars for everything, including furniture and kitchen (30% for rough finishing and communications, 20% for finishing, including plumbing, 20% for the kitchen and 30% for furniture). The term is a maximum of 4 months, because we agreed to move to the parents for only 4 months, in extreme cases you can add another 2 weeks (we will live in a hotel). Priorities are budget-quality-timing (it is better to live in the hotel while the plaster dries, but we will not allocate money for a heat gun for drying and we will not glue wallpaper on wet plaster either).
Key Stakeholders – me, my husband, parents, the team with which I have already agreed, neighbors (it is necessary to clarify when they have children sleeping), housing and communal services (it is necessary to coordinate the project with them).

Assumptions and Restrictions(Main Risks)

Assumptions: neighbors are not scandalous, you can work all day long, the brigade is adequate and will not be bubbling at the facility, the dollar rate will not grow globally and building materials will not rise in price much; restrictions: I can not work after 22.00, I can not come to control the work on weekdays (I work), the first payment to the brigade is possible only in April (the deposit will end, where the money for repairs lies); risks: perhaps the estimate was mistakenly calculated and there will not be enough money for everything, there is an error in the design project, such a redevelopment cannot be legalized, i.e. you will have to stop the repair and redo everything.

And finally. I am often asked how detailed should the project charter be? There is no exact recipe here, but in general, the detailing of the project charter should be such that in the event of some serious request for a change in the project, you can turn to the charter as the ultimate truth and say "no, we do not do this, because it does not bring us closer to the goal of the project or contradicts the characteristics of the result." By and large, if the project has reached such a state that requests for change with the charter are no longer "fighting" - it seems that your project ended in failure and it is better to close it, the requirements and restrictions to revise and start a new one.

Moral: a charter even on page 1 of A4, signed by interested parties, is better than unsigned on 5 pages. And the requirement to sign it before the start of work on the part of the Republic of Moldova is completely legal in any company, moreover, it adds professional weight to you, allows you to understand "what are we still doing" and get at least some authority. If project management in the company is absent as a class, then even an unsigned charter is better than its absence, you will at least figure out what to do and tune in the right mood from the very beginning of the project (forgive me RMVOK).

Of course, there may be other items in the charter of the project, depending on the specifics of the project, the post lists the "candidate minimum", the document itself can and should be redone for yourself.

For only 99 Dollars, you can download a ready-made detailed template of the IT project charter in docx. In the ready-made example of the project charter, you will find all the necessary items - from the content of the project and the description of the roles and responsibilities of the project participants to the list of typical risks. After payment by e-mail, you will receive an archive with a template. Save your time, it costs a lot more!

Download a ready-made sample project charter and start working right now instead of spending several hours searching and writing typical sections.

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