Do you know how much value a well-crafted and structured project charter can add when creating a project? If the answer is ‘no’, don’t worry, you soon will.
Project charters are often a forgotten part of project management, as they get lost among other assets like the project timeline, Gantt charts and even the project management software used.
Sometimes when you’re planning or managing projects, you can get caught up in the final result as opposed to establishing up-front processes to ensure everything is in place to work on the project (without hiccups!).
In this article, you’ll learn what a project charter is and how a good project charter can help keep your projects on track and boost overall productivity. We’ll also share some examples so you’ll know the best way to craft your own.
What is a project charter?
Think of a project charter as a formal document that authorizes the project from start to finish. It details the overall understanding of a project’s development and objectives while also detailing the roles and responsibilities of each involved individual.
Project charters help ensure that everyone involved has a clear idea of the project scope, objectives, and measures of success right from the get-go.A project charter is essentially a very high-level first crack at your project plan. It’s where you capture all the essential details before you get going full throttle into detailed project planning.
We’ll get into the details in a minute, but first let’s quickly cover why you should care:
What are the benefits of using a project charter?
It goes without saying that well organized and clearly defined projects tend to be more successful since they run less of a risk of going off-track and descending into chaos.
Kicking your project off right from the beginning will help you keep a laser focus on your project’s objectives and keep things moving in the right direction.
Here are the 4 top benefits of using a project charter:
1. Save time
Young companies deliver projects on time less than 40% of the time, and 21% of projects fail altogether.
Given these stats, it’s clear that time management is a huge issue for the majority of younger companies.
While a project charter template may take some time to complete before the start of the project, it can save you a lot of time in the long run.
Taking time to document a project’s parameters and objectives at the start will save you time — and headaches — down the road since it helps remove a lot of ambiguity.
2. Clarify your budget
If your team doesn’t have a clear idea of the project’s overall budget, how are they meant to stick to it?
When you set clear budgets, you’ll make it much easier for your team members to follow them and avoid overspending.
Keeping your project on budget is essential for ensuring it’s completed and doesn’t run the risk of burning through too much cash before completion.
Using a project charter will help you establish your project’s overall budget and how to release funding when you need to before beginning the project.
It’s important to clarify exact budgets for each part of the project along with who has the authority to make spending related decisions before people jump into ordering materials or doing work.
3. Boost team morale
When elements of the project go undefined, team members will constantly find themselves without direction, unsure of which tasks to do, or wasting their hard work on the wrong items.
There’s nothing more disheartening than giving your all to a project only for it to dissolve into disorganization and failure without a clear direction and objectives.
Project charters help outline your project’s purpose, goals, and major deliverables. So everyone knows what they’re committing to upfront and they’re clear on where their focus should be.
4. Give clear guidelines
A key part of any project charter is the setting out of high-level metrics, timelines, and requirements for the project.
Setting out key metrics and constraints for each part of the project provides valuable guidance for team members as they begin to get to work.
When people have a clear idea of what needs to be achieved when and know the overall outcome they’re working toward, they’ll work much more effectively.
What’s included in a project charter?
Your project charter should answer all the big questions that team members and stakeholders may have about the project.
Think of your project charter as an executive summary or an expanded project statement. It doesn’t contain all the nitty-gritty details, but it roughly sums up the important bits.
A project charter should include:
- Project name: make your project name as specific as possible. Avoid vague names like ‘application development’ or titles that could apply to a dozen different projects you’ve worked on. Pro tip: using a standard format like “Client Name – Main Deliverable – Year” will help separate projects and make them easier to search for later (assuming you’re using a handy project management platform like monday.com).
- Purpose and goals: think about what problems you’re trying to solve with this project and how you will measure the project’s success.
- Budget: At this stage you should outline the overall budget, detail who is responsible for managing the budget, and include any important info you know, such as when payments will be made or if there’s a huge expenditure you’ll need to account for.
- Deliverables: which services, products, or results should be delivered to conclude the project and consider it a success? The charter is one of the first things you do, so at this point it may just be a somewhat vague description. (Requirements usually haven’t been outlined yet.)
- Scope: define the overall scope of the project. What’s included and what is definitely not included? Any add-ons that will only be included at an extra cost should be spelled out here.
- Risks: any risks you’ve already identified should be recorded now. This will become the starting point of your risk management plan when you get to the planning stage.
- Roles and responsibilities: include the names of the essential players, such as the project manager, sponsor, client, and other critical stakeholders. You can also write down the roles you know you’ll need (I.e., designer, tester, etc.) even if you don’t know which people will be filling them yet.
- Timeline and milestones: there’s no detailed project schedule yet, but you may have already agreed to a final delivery date and other major milestones or deliveries. If you’re using an Agile framework this is where you’d note down sprint length and the estimated number of sprints you’ll need.
If there are any main assumptions about the project that could impact its success, these should also be included in the charter.
For instance, if you’re assuming a new software will be released by Jan 1, 2021 and you can’t complete the project without it, put it in your charter. It helps you manage expectations if it turns out the software doesn’t come out until Feb 1, 2021.
Who writes the project charter?
In many business cases, you would assume the project manager should write the project charter right? Actually, it’s best if the project sponsor writes the project charter.
A project sponsor is the individual who requested the project and who signed it off. In other words, the project initiator. Project sponsors are generally in senior management and may even be the CEO.
The sponsor is the best person to write the project charter document before passing it on to the project manager and the project team, since they are often the one who had the initial discussions with the client or other stakeholders about the purpose, objectives, and constraints of the project.
(Of course, if your sponsor wants to delegate the task, it’s probably not wise to refuse. But at least run it by them to make sure nothing was missed.)
Project charter examples
Although project charters act like a written authorization for projects, there will be changes along the way so it’s important to use adaptable templates.
If you’ve used a project charter before, you might be familiar with the traditional PDF or Word doc that sets out the parameters of the project.
While the formatting might be slightly different, they all tend to look pretty much the same.
It’s a formal doc and can sometimes seem quite limited in scope and flexibility. If you’re not familiar with it, take a look at our traditional project charter example here:
There’s nothing wrong with the above project charter example. If it works for you that’s great, but you may prefer a more visually pleasing project charter that feels more intuitive and user-friendly (and is easier to share).
Take a look at this monday.com project charter example:
Each section of the charter has a different color and includes handy information like the status, action type, description, costs, and the target date.
At a quick glance, you can easily see multiple components of the project and easily edit each section should you need to do so.
Using monday.com for project charters
Project charters sounding complicated? The good news is that they’re not.
While every project has its own set of unique needs, you’ll probably find it easiest to build an effective project charter using customizable pre-built templates.
Whether you’re new to project charters or a project management pro, we recommend you use one of our monday.com project charters and personalize it according to your project’s unique needs.
Our project charter templates make it easy to delegate responsibilities, outline costs, add in statuses, and approve budgets.
Best of all, it’s easy to read and share so your stakeholders will love it.
While there are a few fundamental components of each project that shouldn’t change — the objectives and goals are some of those things, it’s important to allow for a degree of flexibility in your project charter.
For instance, you may need to shift deadlines or change which team members are working on certain sections. There may even be a change to key stakeholders.
Building a customizable monday.com project charter makes it easy to modify components of the project as you go along.
With so many unexpected challenges and different issues along the way, it can be easy for projects to go off course. When team members have to fix multiple problems, it becomes easier to forget about why you’re doing the project in the first place and what the ultimate goals are.
A monday.com project charter should give your project the structure you need to keep it on the right path.
The more you know
While project charters are often overlooked by project managers, they can add structure and process-based thinking to your business’s projects.
As we know, well organized and properly implemented project management processes give your project the best chance of success.
Project management is rarely straightforward. But if you can harness all of the tools and processes available at your disposal, you should be able to streamline the process and ultimately enjoy more project success.