Project Management basics – Project Charter…

The Project Charter (PMP) or Project Initiation Document {PID}, (APM), :


A document that, while describing the purpose of a project and its scope,  is produced at the beginning of the project.

Having a good and complete Project Charter is the very first step in managing a project, it serves as a key Communications Document for the project.

One of the most critical and essential documents for every project is the Project Charter. It lays down the foundation for the project.

A project charter is a document which explains about the project at a very high level and highlights the stakeholders and the approach towards the project. It introduces the Project Manager to the project.

The Project Sponsor owns the Project Charter. Project Sponsor authorizes the Project Charter, but the Project Manager usually creates it. Project Stakeholders should approve every Project Charter. Once the Project Charter is approved, it should not be changed throughout the project life cycle.

As Rita Mulcahy writes in one of her prep books for the PMP® certification,

“Do not underestimate the value of the project charter. It is such an important document that a project should not be started without one. If the project charter serves as a definition of how success will be measured, then without a project charter, the project and project manager cannot be successful”.

The Project Charter is the statement of scope, objectives and people who are participating in a project. It begins the process of defining the roles and responsibilities of those participants, Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed (RACI).

The RACI matrix is a responsibility assignment chart that maps out every task, milestone or key decision involved in completing a project and assigns which roles are Responsible for each action item, which personnel are Accountable, and, where appropriate, who needs to be Consulted or Informed e.g.;

                                                                                                                                                                                                  RACI matrix

The Charter goes on to outline the objectives and goals of the project. The charter also identifies the main stakeholders and defines the authority of the Project Manager.

Many businesses nowadays, before initiating a new project require a signed Project Charter to be developed, there is no standard format but a good charter will normally contain the following:

Project Overview: 

Consists of the project name, author of the charter (can be the Project Sponsor or the Project Manager, who can draft it on behalf of the Sponsor), creation date, project manager, project charter purpose, and charter version.

Project Details:

A detailed project description which includes the mission of the Project and the general scope of the project, the Project Sponsor and details of the key stakeholders, and customer.

Project Scope:

The project scope this helps us better visualize the project. You would also include points such as objectives / goals. Majority of the project fails because the scope of a specific project is not defined clearly. For any project to be successful, the project scope has to be clear to all stakeholders without any assumption.

List three to five objectives of the project, these should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound.

Detail any key deliverables and items out of scope.

Detail the benefits of doing the project or reference the business case (financial and non-financial) also capture your assumptions, key risks, and constraints.

The business case explains why a project is being undertaken, the problem it will solve, as well as the benefit-cost analysis.

Defining scope is a significant problem in many projects. An error in project scope can lead to the project disaster.

Unless and until the scope is identified correctly, the project cannot be under control and scope will keep increasing.


Details of the Business Case:

Detail the benefits of doing the project or reference the business case (financial and non-financial) also capture your assumptions, key risks, and constraints.

The business case explains why a project is being undertaken, the problem it will solve, as well as the benefit-cost analysis.

Roles and responsibilities:

Another important role of the project charter is to clarify roles and responsibilities, the RACI. This is critical!

The project charter spells out who are the various players in a project including vendors, project team members, business users and also management.

Always bring the roles and responsibilities upfront in a project. I find that many projects don’t like to discuss this – thinking it is a waste of time. However, when there is a crisis, knowing exactly who does what is very important.


Change and Issue Management:

A project charter also very importantly spells out the change control process.

What should you do if a user feels that a system enhancement should be included in the final product, when it was originally not in scope?

Perhaps the change requires another 20 man-days of effort on the part of the vendor. This is known as a system change request.

In a project charter, a flowchart is usually drawn to show how this type of change request should be routed between different stakeholders for approval.

The next thing that a project charter documents is the issue management process. Besides change requests, there are lots of other issues that a project manager needs to manage.


Project Approach:

How will the Project be run?

  • Traditional; with traditional project management a managerial approach looks at a relatively uncomplicated project that may be repetitive and the activities of which follow a sequence. Sequences can be effectively defined by using project management tools such as the Gantt-flow that it provides, along with some added benefits.


  • The agile working methodology or ‘movement’;

allows project managers and other stakeholders to assess and examine the direction of the project during its life cycle.

 Sprints or iterations are regular and consistent project works which allow for a constant-growth model which team members follow.

At the end of each sprint or iteration it is required that the project team deliver results in moving the project along.


  • The waterfall approach;

to project management refers to the traditional process approach to project management approach management.

Effectively, it cannot compare to the optimisation of an agile method, especially for modern, complex and demanding projects.

  • A systems approach;

To project management means that the project manager can continuously evaluate the needs of the client for which the project is being carried out and therefore better achieve the end results that are required.

Program management approach;

Refers to the management of multiple projects that make up a master project simultaneously.

In the same way that project management requires a specific approach, program management does also.


Project Timeline:

It’s important to have an idea on what the high-level timeline is for your project is. It should include a high-level milestone view of the project schedule.

It is a high-level document that does not include the project details. The specifics of project activities will be developed later.

You’re Sponsor / management or possibly the client, will want to know when the Project will be delivered and whether the project is on schedule, and an timeline is a good way to estimate that.


Project Communication Plan:

It is a good idea to set up a communication plan to consistently revise changes and assure alignment of goals and objectives.

The project rarely goes the way it’s intended; often you’ll have to make some changes to the project charter along the way. This means you should establish a communication plan, bi-weekly/ monthly meetings with the sponsor and key stakeholder, for example, to check on whether the project is going according to the charter or not.



The list of signatories to the project, gaining key stakeholders and the Project Manager signatory binds commitment. Undertake at the first ‘Steering Committee’.


A project charter is not simply a document stating facts and information about a project, it is the one of the key deliverables from the Initiating Process:

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It serves as the groundwork for effectively communicating with stakeholders and for efficiently allocating work between the resources that will take part in the project.

The Sponsor or the initiator issues the project charter, not the customer, project manager, or any other stakeholder.

If you are an investor or a contributor in a project, you want get a clear understanding of what this project will bring about, the benefit of undertaking the work / investment from the project charter.

A project charter provides a solid foundation for a project (small or large). All the stakeholders of the project are informed about their roles and the level of efforts required from their end.

Project Charter is used during the initial phase and planning phase; hence, a good project charter can help in the success of the project. A project manager needs to have a project charter before he/she take over a new project.

If a project charter is unavailable, it is better to create a project charter and get it approved from the stakeholders before one starts the project if not how will you ever be able to measure if a project is successful?


Good luck and we wish you every success with your Project!



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