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Project Charter

Topic : Project Charter
By Nabanita Hazra
• What is a project Charter?
A project Charter, in a project management, is a document (word, PowerPoint etc.) and the format of the document varies depending on the type of the project.
A project charter is used to introduce people to an upcoming project. It is created on the early days of the project (at a time when, may be, even not everyone in the team is onboard). It also helps the new comer in the team to get up to date with the project.
It helps to align everyone’s thinking and reach an agreement on the most important aspects of the project. (Such as the objective, scope, budget etc.)
A project charter is also useful in attaining approval, for proceeding with further project planning.
A project charter is also known as project definition or project statement. It contours the project activities, identifies the main stakeholders along with defining the authority of the project manager.
It serves as the reference of authority for the future of the project. It describes the new offering or request for proposal for that particular project. Thus we can say that a project charter is needed in most project management processes.
A project charter addresses following points:
1. Why the project is being undertaken?
2. Project objectives and constraints.
3. Directions by which solutions can be achieved.
4. Main stakeholder’s identities.
5. Project in scope and out of scope items.
6. High level risk management plan
7. Communication plans.
8. Project benefits
9. Project budget and spending authority
Uses of a project charter:
1. Authorizing the project using a comparable format.
2. It serves as the primary sales document for the project ranking stakeholders.
3. It serves as the focal point for the entire project.

• How Detailed should a project Charter is?
Given the fact that a charter is prepared even before any real planning has been taken place, it is not supposed to be a detailed document. It should contain just enough information that describes the project and the product or the solution intended to be created.
Thus it is important to make a charter short and to the point yet conveying the ultimate goal for the project, maintaining the interest of the intended readers.
A good project charter should’nt be more than 5 pages. The lesser the better, which can be read in few minutes, otherwise it will not accomplish its purpose.

• When do you really need to Draft a Charter?
Everyone will have a different perspective looking at a same thing. Similarly, every member of a project team will have something different in their heads when they are first introduced to the project.
Thus to align everyone’s thinking in the same track, it is important to draft a Project Charter as soon as a project is assigned, irrespective of the size and type of the project.
The below image is an example of why we need a project Charter:

• What information should be feeded into a project charter?
1. Background Information: provide the reasons which explain why the project is a good idea to proceed with.
2. Scope of the project: it should explain enough of the attributes of the intended end product, so that anyone reading it should have the same thought and understanding about the end product. The scope should also mention the intended actions of the project team (such as whether the team is going to designee and build the product or test it etc.). Thus the scope should explain the boundaries of the project as well. It’s very important to mention what the project team is not meant to do, just to avoid any sort of confusion.
3. Objectives of the project: The objectives mentioned should be measurable i.e.: they should be having scientific proof.
4. Governance: Under this section, the project team members of the projects along with their designation are mentioned. This is to ensure that, if the reader has any question regarding a particular topic of the project, he can directly ask to the concerned team member handling it. If the list of member is a long list, we can stick to only the team lead.
5. Schedule of the project: key important dates or any milestones of the project are mentioned under this section. However, it is important to keep in mind that the dates mentioned here are tentative dates and are not final dates as the project details’ designing has not been completed yet.
6. Budget of the project: This section is meant for mentioning the tentative expenditure that will be done for the project to accomplish. Any expenditure, about which the company must be aware of, regarding the project, is mentioned here.
7. Constraints/Dependencies/risks/assumptions involved with the project :
 Constraints: Limitations that might affect the project.
 Assumptions: Situations on which the project team is relying on to accomplish the objectives of the project.
 Risk: anything that gets into the way of achieving the project objectives.
 Dependencies: Things that should happen before the deliverables of the project to meet the objectives.

• Who should be involved in the creation of a project Charter?
For a project manager, the best way to create a charter is to involve both Sponsor and the team (or tentative team). This is a best way to know everyone’s perspective and aligning their thoughts in one track. This becomes a very good team building exercise. This can be achieved by a project charter session.
After getting everyone’s perspective, the project manager can draft the charter. After this, he can send the draft charter to the team for feedback and finally send it out for sign off. Both the project manager and sponsor should sign it.

Thus in a nutshell we can say that a project charter is a minimal summarized documentation of an upcoming project which helps its readers (associated with project) to align in the same thought process leading to same understanding.

About Nabanita Hazra

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