It is not uncommon for project managers to underestimate the value of a project charter. Some people are not even aware of what a project charter is, which is unfortunate, as it is a game changer.
Project charter is a game changer
In my case, holding a PMI PMP® certification, I knew the theory but still failed when creating and properly using a project charter.
What Is a Project Charter?
A project charter usually describes the big picture, the project boundaries, key milestones, budget, major risks, and constraints.
But How Do I Develop One?
Let’s start with a short story.
One day your boss steps into your office and assigns you the task of leading the development of a new product. She just tells you, “It is important that we get this right, I know you can do it”, after that she leaves the office.
Then you start thinking: Why do we need this product? What problem will it solve? Who wants it? How much should it cost? Who will help me with that? Will it be easy to do or will I encounter some difficulties along the way? When should the product be ready for the market?
After you invest some time on your own, you decide to collect more information. You talk to your boss again, interview some colleagues, do some research on the internet, etc.
Finally, you have enough information to understand what the project is about. Then you decide to organize the input in some structured way and create a short document. This might take you anywhere between some hours to some days, depending on the project size and complexity.
Congratulations! You have finished your first project charter.
If you feel that you need more information or templates for the specifics, you will find a lot of valuable information on the internet. There are amazing blogs explaining how to do it step by step.
What Are the Benefits of a Project Charter?
With the previous process, we have taken the first step to guarantee a proper project management process: we have centralized essential information in one single place.
Now, if we make sure that the key stakeholders agree on the project charter, we have managed to get the follwing key things done:
- We confirmed that we properly understood the needs of the stakeholders
- We managed to align their expectations and thus their support towards a common goal
With the project charter in place we created a powerful control mechanism which baselines the vision for the project. Besides of the control capability, having a baseline fosters constructive discussions and proper decision making and reduces scope creep.
According to PMI, a project should not exist without a project charter in place. This is true for traditional project management and for agile methodologies.
A project charter sets an intention at company level- a commitment- and describes a high-level plan, which is needed to guarantee success. The project charter thus sets the transition point between wishes and reality.
Why should somebody work on something that doesn’t have a clear definition and that lacks support to make it happen?
Project Charter Ideas
Here are some tips that worked for me really well in the past:
- Keep the project charter relevant, do not include too many details. The project charter should be concise.
- Make the project charter visual. Structure the information with your audience in mind. Print it out, and put it in your office where it is visible. Re-read it from time to time.
- Make the project collaborative. Invite people to support you in the development of the project charter. Tell stakeholders that you want their feedback on the charter.
- Use it to re-focus and re-communicate the vision to the people by referring to the information contained in the project charter.