Project Management 1. Establish a Project Charter

A project charter is “the signed document that formally defines and authorizes a project” (Taylor, 2008).  It provides an initial overview of the purpose and scope of the project and some of its requirements, and provides a basis for more in-depth planning of the project and subsequent work on the project.

Sometimes, the project charter is referred to as the Terms of Reference.

In projects that are launched through a competitive bidding process, the project charter is the Request for Proposals (RFP) or Request for Quotation (RFQ) that third-parties use to prepare their proposals for the project.  Usually, the resulting proposal comprises the majority of a more complete project plan, as those proposals usually contain detailed schedules, budgets, staffing proposals and quality control efforts (the key components of a project plan).

Why Do Projects Need a Charter?

Like subsequent project plans, the purpose of the project charter is to establish shared expectations for the project. By clarifying the purpose, scope, and requirements of the project at its beginning, all parties should have a reasonably similar set of expectations and the project manager has a basis for more preparing more specific plans later, such as the budget, schedule, staffing plan, and quality plan.

Similarly, by closing the project charter with formal authorization to start work, those who need to start work on the project have permission to do so and can expect to receive payment for the time spent on the project.

What to Include in a Project Charter

Include the following material?

  • Purpose of the project.  Why is the organization undertaking it? What benefit does the organization hope to receive at the end?
  • Scope of the project.  In this section, you state what the project covers and, if needed, what it does not cover.  If you can state them as observable and measurable objectives, that would be terrific.  But establishing those might be something that’s needed as part of the project.  If you cannot state observable and measurable objectives, state topics the project should address.
  • Requirements for the project, which includes the:
    • Drop-dead deadline (if known now)
    • General budget range or not-to-exceed budget (if known now)
    • Must-include staff (if known now), especially those with signature authority on the budget and those with approval rights to the finished project.
    • Other requirements or preferences for the project, such as the need to publish content in a particular content management system or a preference for a classroom course.
    • General project startup activities, such as establishing a project plan and some initial ongoing communication

How to Prepare a Project Charter

Follow the Template for Preparing a Project Charter.



_____ (2012.) Project charter entry.  Wikipedia.  Viewed at Visited October 14, 2012.

Taylor, M. (2008.) How to write a project charter.  The Project Management Hut. Viewed at . Visited October 14, 2012.

© Copyright 2012. Saul Carliner. All rights reserved.  If sharing or excerpting, should be properly cited.


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