Ideally, project charter should be created, as a mandate or terms of reference document, for the project manager to implement the project. In reality, the project manager may have to create, update or coordinate the creation of the project charter. A project charter usually includes the following elements, not in any particular order:
§ Project profile: includes project name, owner, projected start and end dates, and key stakeholders.
§ Executive summary: includes project strategic goal, desired outcome, business drivers, summary of deliverables, timeline, cost and benefits.
§ Project background: includes historical perspective, needs met or problem that will be solved.
§ Scope: ‘in’ and ‘out of’ scope.
§ High level milestones timeline.
§ Cost, benefits and funding (budget).
§ Project management approach: it defines the use of applicable methodology and techniques to plan and manage the project.
§ High level risk assessment and impact analysis: includes qualitative impact analysis and risk mitigations.
§ Assumptions and constraints.
§ Project critical success factors.
§ Performance measures: it defines the criteria for measuring the project outcome success, for client acceptance.
§ Stakeholders, their interests, expectations and communication needs.
§ Governance: includes project organization, stakeholders’ roles and responsibilities.
§ Change management guideline: describes how changes will be managed, that is, assessed and approved by the authorized stakeholders.
§ Approvals by authorized stakeholders.
The content of the project charter is project dependent. For instance, the elements above may contain varying degree of details. In some cases, small projects may combine project charter and integrated project plan. Project charter ensures that you have a clearly defined mandate or terms of reference to authorize the implementation of an approved project. At the minimum, the project charter should contain the project goal and scope, cost and funding, risk management, deliverables timeline, stakeholders’ interests and measurable expectations, and approvals. Table 8 includes a reference or link to the project charter template.