What is a project charter?

A project charter is a formal document that outlines the business objective of your project and once approved, initiates the project. Ultimately, the purpose is to document the goals, objectives, and business case for the work.

How will you define project success?

As a project manager, you have a tough task ahead of you. It’s your job to juggle both personalities and responsibilities, and to keep your team focused on the goals at hand. While it’s impossible to predict a project’s success 100%, by creating an effective charter, you can take certain steps to ensure a project is heading in the right direction.

Why is a project charter important?

As well as fulfilling those main functions, there are a few other benefits to having a charter:

It makes the project’s purpose crystal clear.

Because a charter explicitly lays out the business case for the project, it means that everyone knows how the project contributes to the company’s big picture strategic goals.

It’s your north star.

Your charter is the absolute essence of your project. If you’re ever unsure whether something is steering you in the right direction or taking you off track, your project charter helps you and your team to cut through the noise and reevaluate whether the work you’re doing aligns with your ultimate objectives.

What is included in a project charter?

Your charter is a high-level overview, but it can still cover a lot of ground. Here are some project charter elements you should consider including in your project charter document:

How KPI Fire helps make your project a success

Your project’s purpose.

Why are you doing it? What are the aims and objectives? Try to sum it up in one concise goal statement. And make it specific! Compare the following:

  • A weak goal statement: “We want this project to increase revenue.”
  • A better goal statement: “This project aims to deliver a new product to X market in Y time to increase our revenue by Z% within 2 years.”

Make sure you’re clear about what you’re doing and why, because the right goal statement can set the tone for everything else. (No pressure.)

What success looks like.

What are you hoping to achieve with this project? This is a good time to start thinking about measurable KPIs so you can create a project plan that tangibly delivers on your success criteria.

The key players.

You might not know every single person who’s involved yet, but you should know enough to get you started: project sponsor, project manager, and any other key stakeholders. This is a good time to list them out, as well as their specific roles within the project.

Risks you’ve identified.

You’ll discover more of these as you flesh out your project plan, but this is a good place to acknowledge any top-level risks that you already know about from the outset.

Key deliverables.

What is it that you actually need to deliver as part of this project? 

High-level overview of resources, budget, and people power.

If there are already any pre-approved resources allocated to this project, make a note of them in your project charter so you know what you’re working with.

A top-level summary schedule.

You can delve into the nitty-gritty later, but it’s useful to outline a basic timeframe for your project, as well as plot out any key milestones along the way.

Your charter isn’t to go deep on any of the above; you can do that in the project plan. Instead, your aim is to cover enough ground to align all key stakeholders and get everyone onto the same page about the purpose, scope, and breadth of the project, so they can embark on the project with confidence.

Additional Project Charter Resources