My Project Management Expert

What is a Project Charter?

Depending on who you talk to within project management the term Project Charter tends to hold a number of different meanings. In many instances it is simply another name for a shortened version of a Project Initiation Document (PID) where a small project is involved.

The reason for this confusion is that many Organisations tend to adopt a "pick and mix" approach to the various project management methodologies out there; cherry picking the processes which work best for them. Also Project Management Office's are known to create documents for Project Manager's to produce simply to make their job easier!

But in essence a Project Charter is the initiation project document, but it is in my experience, much more lightweight than a PID. A Project Charter focuses on scoping and high level statements of need and expected benefit but also recognises far more than a Project Initiation Document that to get momentum, a project simply needs enough to get going; but no more.

Typically a Project Charter would be produced at the end of about 5 days effort and would outline sufficient information to obtain permission to progress to detailed requirements gathering.

Project Charter, What is a project charter and how to write a project charter document

The high level key elements which are usually included in the Project Charter include:

  • An Overview of the Project
  • Justification for the Project
  • Proposed goals for the Project (scope)
  • Proposed Deliverables
  • Proposed Roles, Responsibilities and Authority
  • Approval

As you will see from the list above, a Project Charter is essentially a document which gives a Project Manager the mandate to get the project started and delivered. It may not have the detail or reams of documentation required in a Project Initiation Document (PID) but it can be extremely effective and a good way to get a project started quickly.

Too often Organisations get bogged down in process and forget the big picture; that there is a reason why a project needs to be delivered. Therefore a Project Charter is a great way to ensure there is clarity over what the project is delivering and that process is followed, whilst allowing you to get on and actually get it delivered.

Now you just need to learn how to write a Project Charter and you are well on your well to initiating your project and starting the hard work of getting it delivered!

What is a Project Charter? - Tip

Always check to see whether your Organisation will accept a Project Charter rather than a Project Initiation Document as the initiating project document. Whilst a Project Charter may not be that common in Europe, it is still a more efficient way of initiating a small project than writing a PID. Of course if you are initiating a large or complex project where a great deal of politics are involved then it would make sense to write a PID and follow the normal approval process to reduce any confusion later on.

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