Why Project Charter?


Have you ever wondered how most IT projects get started in a hurry as if they were required last month! Delay in project launch adversely affects the appointed PM in particular and delivery organisation in general because there is generally not much time to put required project processes in place because the focus is more on getting the work done! In such a situation you are more likely not find an approved statement of work from sponsors or a Project Charter summarizing business needs and objective of the project and it’s deliverables defined clearly.

So, what do you do if you are in such a position? Unpleasant as it mind sound to some in your surroundings, you must insist to have one on your project even if it is a one page document. You must insist because it is not only the Project Charter that names the Project Manager officially assigned to the project but also it specifies the authority of PM on the project & other key stakeholders.

Coming to the structure, most charters have the followings, depending on your specific requirements you can modify the same as applicable;

  1. Business Need: Evidently, this describes why the project is there in the first place or what opportunities it want the organization to take advantage of.
  2. Project Sponsor: This identifies the business group head that would assign the budget for the project and would have all encompassing authority in terms of project finance & at times to stop or terminate the project mid way.
  3. Project Manager: This section has the name of authorized project manager who is supposed to run the show and be accountable.
  4. Project Description: This section should outline the project scope in short highlighting what would project cover and what it would not cover as project activities or requirements. This can be found in Statement of Work if it exists or provided by the end customer.
  5. Project Duration: Here it specifies as to what is project start and project finish dates and year.
  6. Aim or Goal: This section highlights the project goals in specific and measurable terms e.g. reduce cost of quality of organization by 25% from current in 3 months
  7. Assumptions & Constraints: Here it highlights assumptions that are applicable for the project e.g. cabling and wiring work to be done by the customer where project aims to provide installation and ongoing support for POS systems of a retail store. Similarly the constraint can be that vendor teams would can work only between non business hours of the store.
  8. Risks: This covers high level risks to the project such as delay in system procurement or exchange rate risks in case of international procurements.
  9. Resources: It is important to note how and which resources would be used as they directly impact the project work  along with reporting relationships. Mention the resource skills and their requirement duration.
  10. Budget: This specifies how much budget is made available for the project on a high level. In your planning phase you would ensure to keep for contingency and known unknown!
  11. Approach: You may like to touch upon the project methodology to be used e.g. Waterfall, Agile or Spiral

Remember, if there is no project charter for your project, or none has been provided to you by the sponsors, it only going to affect you as PM. That’s the reason PMI says in absence of a project charter, the PM should create one and have it approved from sponsors of the project. Good Luck!

Shyam Verma, PMP, ITIL
Program & portfolio mgnt professional
LinkedIn:spverma. Twitter: Shammy11

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One thought on “Why Project Charter?

  1. Very well said. Though it is not absolutely critical to have a charter especially for projects where you already have some previous relationship with sponsoring client, however, having said that, it does help in certain situations where there is some ambiguity for executive champion. I would like to have it in my projects for sure!

    -Leila

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