Do you play an item list for the Project Charter? And do you actually use this document? Let’s see why we need it and what is inside the Project Charter.
Hey Crizpers, in a continuation of the previous article about the Project Management docs kit let’s concentrate the attention on the very first and essential one. I am talking about the Project Charter. Today I am going to share my tips on why we need this paper and how to compose a Project Charter document. Please let me know if you use a similar approach. If not, what do you do differently?
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What a Project Charter is
If you didn’t have a chance to meet this document yet; or if you have not checked the previous article about the Project Management documents; or for the simple brush up, let’s clarify what a Project Charter is.
Obviously, this is a Project Management document. And the more important thing is that a Charter is the essential and the most vital Project Management document. Why is that so?
This would be the first paper we are going to draft as Project Managers, and, this particular paper will authorize us, as Project Managers, to work on a project and to operate on behalf of the Project Owner or a Customer.
See, before you start, you need a work authorization on a Project. And Project Charter grants an accountability for you and provides an opportunity to rule the Project’s world.
In other words, it is going to outline what Project is in the focus, state your assignment to the Project, and your powers and accountability.
Who creates it
Frankly speaking, who created the Project Charter depends on the company policies and governance. As well as the Project Charter structure itself. The one and essential item that is always present in this document is the notification of ‘Who’ grants ‘What’ and ‘for Whom’ in terms of the major Project accountabilities.
In some companies the responsibility of drafting a Project Charter lays on the operations department as PMs are assigned to Projects as line team members all together with other pears.
Others position a Project Manager as a pivotal point of contact, who gets in touch with the customer initially and who builds the project initiation from scratch. In this situation it is evident that a PM will be the one who writes the Charter and gets all the essential approvals to start planning the Project.
I have been in both situations, and have managed to develop for myself a particular approach for the basic and general Project Charter structure guidelines. Now I am going to share my findings with you and hope to receive some giving-backs. Therefore, please share your opinion on what would you include in the Project Charter document.
What do you need to Start
We would consider a situation when a Project Manager is responsible for the Project Charter creation. Or, another case, when a PM needs to develop a Project Charter template. Thus we are here with a necessity to build a doc, what do we need to start with?
Initially, I believe, many companies have internal guidelines for the project documentation. This is good as such internal rules facilitate the documents setup a lot. At least regarding the style and format.
Next, check out if there were any previous templates present and whether they are still available in the knowledge base. If so, we can use them as a basis. Finding them and requesting for the feedback will help to define what was wrong with these pieces; whether they were missing something; or vice versa, were overloaded with unnecessary details.
If there were no initial templates and you need to create a Charter from scratch, this is great as well. You are able to build a document according to your best knowledge and according to the current Project Management needs; and further on, standardize it within the organization.
Next we would need to build a structure for this file. The more straight forward it is the better. Try not to overload it. The main purpose of the Project Charter is to provide a basic information, thus people from a glance could know the general Project related aspects.
Once we have all the rags on hand, let’s focus on the information source. And now I am referring to the Project that we need to create a Charter for.
How much do you know about the Project? What actually do you need to start working with it? By ‘start working’ I am talking about the very first steps in the Project Initiation.
Project initiation usually involves starting a research, collecting requirements, building up a solution architecture, etc. In a couple of words, this activity suspects that a Customer or a Project Owner will already start spending money. And you, as a Project Manager, will drive the direction. So what I am about, by that moment you should already be authorized to act as a Project Manager.
Therefore, let’s think of what are the minimal necessary items that we need to consider putting into the Project Charter about the project. I guess this should be the essential information about the request gathered by the sales team or provided by the Project Owner; details about the project that a Customer has managed to share; information about the Customer and his or her contact details; the budget or time limits if present; any other details that was possible to find out.
And the very important thing, a personality of the Project Manager that is assigned to the Project and his or her contact info. What a Customer authorizes a Project Manager to do on behalf of him / her, and the level of authority. Basic things that will allow you to start working in this role.
If you are still struggling this information is not enough for starting, remember, initially we need to be enabled for work. Thus, once a request is addressed, a manager is assigned and a level of authority if agreed, we need to put a date and to sign this paper.
What is inside the Project Charter
Here I would like to compose a brief summary of the what we have touched base above. Hope you will share your thoughts in the comments.
According to what I have experienced before, the best approach is to have a standardized template for the Project Charter. Actually, having a template for the most common Project documentation is always a wise move. It helps to decrease the possible variance in the management approach which supports the organizational governance; and it facilitates and speeds up the Project Management work.
Charter should have a pure and simple structure that allows to promptly grasp all the basic Project related details. And what is the most important, it should give an understanding of ‘Who’ grants an authority; authority to do ‘What’; and ‘For Whom’ the authority is granted.
Additionally to the pieces outlined above, according to what I was overseeing in my background, I consider the following pieces to be desirably added to the Project Charter.
- Customer’s / Project Owner’s details.
- Project Manager’s details.
- Key Stakeholders, if known.
- Steering Committee members, if applicable.
- Level of authority. For instance, PM can decide on schedule changes, but all cost related questions to be approved by the Customer.
- Business case – as we know, all Projects should bring value. Thus it is good to have this information in front of your eyes.
- Goals – to know what we should aim to.
- Success Criteria – measurable indicators to estimates the project success against to.
- Kill Points – cases when the Project is not valuable anymore.
- Any constraints, that are known in advance, such as budget, time, scope, or known risks.
The best is if we would be able to compose the document within a single page. As I have mentioned, Project Charter should reflect a vision of a Project from a glance. Otherwise, it would be a bit complicated if we have to thumb through too long.
Let me know if you have tried to draft a Project Charter? What would you add or exclude from the list suggested above?