Jason Westland: Charter Significance
It’s the Project Manager’s responsibility to produce the project charter, which is a document that officially kicks off a project. It formally authorizes the work to start, and it’s the mandate the project manager needs to get things done. You should make sure that the charter is written and in place before any further commitment to the project is made. However, in practice, many Project Directors delegate producing the charter to the project manager.
Whether it is you or your project manager producing the document, here are 5 things that you should make sure are included in the project charter.
1. Statement of need
The most important thing is to set out the business requirements. Why is this project necessary? And what problem are you trying to solve? This section should be a high-level description of the project work and also include any background required to explain the issues and how the project’s deliverables will address them.
You can include any sort of evidence in here that backs up your claim for the project’s existence – customer feedback, financial predictions and so on all provide the background and help explain the rationale for beginning this work.
Document the main requirements of the project. You probably won’t have all the detail at this point but you will have some ideas about what the project is going to produce. List the deliverables. It might help to think of them in terms of different stakeholder groups. What the end customer wants and what you want might be different but they are both equally valid and all deliverables should be included.
If you can, and if you already have an idea about the requirements, prioritize them here in this section. You may already be aware that some requirements will only be ‘nice to have’ and others will be essential. Make it easy for the project team to prioritize their own work by giving them some guidelines as to what is most important.
You may be prepared for the project team to go away and calculate the project schedule by themselves. But you probably already have some idea about when you want the work completed. Some projects, of course, have to have fixed dates, for example those that have already been communicated externally or those that require completion by a particular point on the calendar such as year end.
Put these time constraints and any other milestones in the project charter. Your project manager will then use these dates to build the project schedule. You can get your project manager to put some dates into their project management software and then take a screenshot: this is the easiest way to complete this section of the document with visual information and it avoids you having to construct a table of dates.
4. Project manager and team assignments
Who is going to be working on the project? This is normally a short section of the document but it is very important. If you know the name of the assigned project manager, include this here. If you don’t already know who it will be, you can list some of the core skills required so that the resource manager can select someone appropriate. Ideally, though, you’ll already have met your project manager and he or she will be helping you prepare this document.
You can also include other resource assignments if you know them. Normally you won’t have the details of the full team but if you need time from any subject matter experts (and you know that already) it is worth including their names in here so that everyone has early visibility of who is going to be working on the project.
5. Other stakeholders
Aside from yourself and the project team, who else needs to know about the project? Include a list of key stakeholders and their roles. This could include people like a representative from Finance, business representatives, an end user, project administrator or others. Make the list as comprehensive as possible but add a caveat to say that you will manage this list proactively going forward as you’ll probably uncover more stakeholders as the project progresses.
Split out those people who will sit with you on the Project Board. At this point in the project it’s best if they already know about this upcoming commitment – make sure that you call them and let them know that they’ve been nominated to sit on the Project Board and explain what their role will be.
A good project charter is essential to make sure that the project starts off properly and continues along a path to success. Of course, you can revise the document later but it helps with project communication and gaining buy-in if this first version is as good as it can possibly be.