Published here July 2020


Musings Index

Writing an Effective Project Management Charter

If you read down my list of musings,[1] you will see that from time to time I receive short articles from different project management authors on how to deal with various tasks and issues. Here is one of the most important tasks. Read it through and see if you agree with the purpose, scope and effectiveness of Molly Crocket's[2] Guide to Writing an Effective Project Management Charter.[3]

Molly says[4]

Anyone working in a project management environment should know the value of a well-written project charter in providing the foundation for an efficient and successful process. This can be a complicated procedure if you are unsure of exactly how to go about it, so take a look at the guide below.

What is a project charter?

In short, a project charter — also known as a project management charter, a project statement, or a project definition report — is a form of documented authorizations for a project. These authorizations include the scope, objectives, and people involved. It also outlines the roles and responsibilities that each party is to fulfill. As an authorization document it must include a budget and an estimated time line.

What purpose does it serve/why is it so important?

A project charter should serve to authorize the project, as well as acting as a contract among participants. It is also a point-of-reference throughout the lifetime of the project and is the main source for any information or details needed for the project at any point. Depending on the type of project, it may be that not all the necessary details are available at the start. In this case, the charter may be issued as a preliminary document to get work going and marked: "to be updated as more information becomes available" — or some similar wording.

What does it need to include?

Your project charter should be thorough yet concise. This means deciding what information is necessary and most beneficial to include. It needs to be clear and specific in every section, in order for the reader to fully understand the goal of the project and what it entails. These are some of the core sections:

  • Project statement/specification, objective, purpose — consider presenting a business case as the main aspect of the charter, explaining the details of the project, including what it will entail, what it aims to achieve, and how to reach this goal.
  • Scope/Risks — what potential risks or constraints are involved in the project and how will you manage them?
  • Major deliverables — what is the result of the project? How will you measure success?
  • Budget — detail the costs of the project and the sources for funding.
  • Schedule/Timeframe — illustrate the milestones of the project and set clear start and end dates.
  • Team roles, responsibilities, and organization — include everyone working on the project and what their roles and responsibilities will be.

In addition to this, you will need to sort through the information to determine what should be included in the charter document itself and which details need to be written up in separate documents and only referenced in the appendix of the main charter. As Rosemary Chen, a project manager at Bestaustralianwriters and Academized, says: "This may include, but is not limited to, a detailed list of deliverables, a visual illustration of your timeline, and your communication plan."

Steps and tips for writing a project charter

Make it visual with images and other design elements to make it easier to digest upon initial reading, and easier to reference at a later date. Improve overall readability by working on the headers and how you divide sections and convert some information into visual format, such as your timeline for the project.

Keep it collaborative — while you are in the process of developing your project management charter, make sure you are working on a platform that allows multiple people to contribute, such as Google Drive. This allows involved parties to ensure that their voice and opinions are not only heard but incorporated into the project, before the charter is presented to other potential stakeholders.

Shane Ritchey, a business writer at Stateofwriting and Studydemic, explains: "The style and presentation of a project charter ultimately come down to the nature of the project itself and the format should therefore adapt to best serve the purpose/objective of the proposed project."

Make sure you gather information from each involved party, including team members, sponsors, clients, project managers, and stakeholders, to ensure the charter is comprehensive and representative of the entire team. The best way to do this is to prepare an initial draft, and ask all those who expect to be actively involved in the project to provide their comments and suggestions.

There are plenty of templates available online for you to take advantage of, as well as detailed instructions for how to fully format and write your own. However you choose to go about it, writing an effective charter for your project is vital in gaining approval from stakeholders and clearly outlining the details of your proposal. It is also the first step to a successful outcome.

      Your thoughts?     

1. To read previous Musings, go here:
2. Molly Crocket is a successful marketing writer for Oxessays and Bigassignments, where she shares her unique lifestyle tips and personal development advice with her audience. In her spare time, Molly enjoys teaching writing skills to young people at do homework for me.
3. Depending on an organization's approach, sometimes the project charter is rolled into the project's business case, such that the business case includes the necessary information to effectively become a charter upon official approval.
4. Introduction and advice by Molly Crocket.
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