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Developing the Project Charter
By Elyse Nielsen

Congratulations, you have been elected to write a charter. So with about 5 dollars you head over to your local starbucks and wonder what to do next. A project charter is a pretty systematic document. If you have one at your organization, you can derive several others from that foundational work.

In developing a project charter, there are several inputs to the process:

  1. Contract – The contract that is used as an input is the contract between your organization and the organization you’re asking to provide a product or service.
  2. Statement of Work (SOW) – An SOW is a narrative description of products, services, or results to be supplied. The SOW indicates a business need, a product scope description, or a strategic plan.
  3. Enterprise environmental factors – Enterprise environmental factors are any external environmental factors and internal organizational environmental factors that surround or influence the project’s success. These factors include organizational culture and structure, infrastructure, existing resources, industry databases, and market conditions.
  4. Organizational process assets – Organizational process assets are any or all process-related assets, from any or all of the organizations involved in the project, that can be or are used to influence the project’s success. These include processes and procedures as well as the organization’s lessons learned and other historical information.

The inputs for creating a Project Charter are contracts, Statements of Work, enterprise environmental factors, and organizational process assets. You may not use all of these inputs for every Project Charter, but using some of these inputs is a good place to start before chartering.

A project manager requires an appropriate set of tools and techniques to build a Project Charter. With these tools and techniques, the project manager and project team can act on the inputs to create outputs. Creating a good charter often requires relaying on appropriate tools and techniques:

  • Project selection methods – Project selection methods are used by the performing organization to determine which projects to undertake. Such methods include benefit measurement methods, constrained optimization (mathematical models), and decision models.
  • Project management methodology – The methodology refers to a collection of processes, project process groups, and control functions that include formal and informal methods to help a team develop a charter. One such methodology is called the agile development lifecycle another could be ITIL release management.
  • Project management information systems (PMISs) – A PMIS is a set of automated tools accessible within an organization and integrated into a system. It is used by a team to create a Project Charter, elicit feedback, manage changes, and submit the approved document. Some organizations successfully use project central and sharepoint as their PMIS.
  • Expert judgment – Expert judgement is used to evaluate the inputs needed for Project Charter development. People with specialized knowledge apply expertise to project details during the Project Charter development process.

By applying these tools and techniques to the Project Charter inputs, the project manager and project team can develop the Project Charter.

Developing the Project Charter is the start for the rest of the project. The inputs and tools and techniques are used to create the Project Charter, which is the output of the Develop Project Charter process.

A Project Charter provides an overview of the project and its goals. The Project Charter details the project purpose, overview, goals, and high-level deliverables.

The elements of a Project Charter are:

  • The project overview – A project overview contains a description of the business need, purpose, and product or service that is to be provided.
  • Preliminary roles and responsibilities – This section describes the duties of the project team. This includes people who should be involved and why and how they might be involved. This might include customers, stakeholders, and the project team.
  • Identification of the project manager – The project manager identification designates the project manager who has primary project oversight responsibility.
  • A description of the project manager’s authority – The description of the project manager’s authority outlines the level of authority given to the project manager. This would include financial oversight and level of decision making.
  • Sign-off – This is the approval required from the project’s sponsor to give the go-ahead to the project.

When the sponsor or sponsors sign off on the charter, it marks the beginning of the planning phase of a project.

Elyse Nielsen runs Anticlue, a blog covering a variety of health care related topics from both an IT and a Project Manager’s perspective.

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