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What is a Project Charter in Project Management?

What is a project charter in project management? A project charter is a formal, typically short document that describes your project in its entirety — including what the objectives are, how it will be carried out, and who the stakeholders are. It is a crucial ingredient in planning out the project because it is used throughout the project lifecycle.

Project Charter Overview

The project charter typically documents:

  • Reasons for the project
  • Objectives and constraints of the project
  • Who the main stakeholders are
  • Risks identified
  • Benefits of the project
  • General overview of the budget

How to Create a Project Charter

  1. Understand project goals and objectives. Identify the project vision and determine the scope of the project
  2. Define project organization. List all of the essential roles for the project, including customers, stakeholders, and day-to-day project team.
  3. Create an implementation plan. Outline major milestones, dependencies and timeline for the entire team and stakeholders.
  4. List potential problem areas. No one wants to be a downer, but adding potential risks and issues to the project charter helps everyone think ahead should the worst happen.

Tips for writing a Project Management Charter

Ready to pull together your own project charter? Here are a few other helpful tips to keep in mind as you work through the above steps. 

1. Rely on insights from your team. Don’t feel like you need to work out all of this information on your own. Pull together some of your project team members to pick their brains about goals, milestones, and more. Gathering their insights will help you pull together a far more accurate project charter. 

2. Keep it short and straightforward. It’s tempting to get lost in the weeds. But, keep in mind that your project charter is supposed to be a high-level overview of your project and not a breakdown that covers every last detail. Each section of your charter shouldn’t require more than a sentence or two. Additionally, charts and bulleted lists will help you present the information in an organized and digestible way. 

3. Create a template. After you realize how helpful a project charter is, you’ll undoubtedly want one for all of your team’s projects. Don’t waste time reinventing the wheel over and over again. Create a simple template that you can copy and use for your project charters. Not only will it eliminate some manual effort, but it will also ensure that you don’t miss any elements.   

Project Charter example

Nothing clears up confusion like an example. So, let’s set up a scenario and pull together a project charter sample. Imagine that you and your team are putting together a webinar to generate some new leads. Here’s what a super simple project charter could look like.

Company XYZ Project Charter

Project Name: “Building a Positive Company Culture” Webinar

Project Description: A one-hour webinar featuring insights from three employee engagement experts. 

Business Case: Supports our company wide goals of:

1. Increasing sales by 28% this quarter
2. Establishing Company XYZ as a thought leader in the employee engagement space

Project Deliverables:

1. Landing page for webinar signups
2. One-hour webinar
3. Webinar recording for continued lead generation

Project Benefits:

1. Boosted reputation
2. Lead generation
3. Resource we can continue to promote

Project Risks: 

1. Technical difficulties
2. This is our first webinar, and the team lacks this expertise

Project Budget: 

Not to exceed $3,000

Project Milestones: 

Landing page launched: October 15, 2020
Slides completed:
October 26, 2020
Live webinar: November 4, 2020

Project Team Members: 
Project Manager:
Thai V.
Designer: Greta K. 
Webinar Participant/Expert:
Jason B. 
Webinar Participant/Expert:
Safiya M. 
Webinar Participant/Expert:
Rachel C.
Webinar Host:
Tom S.
Social Media Coordinator: Ander B.
Email Marketing Coordinator: Nancy R.

Further Reading: