In this article, you’ll find a Project Charter Example for a real-life project. In addition, you can get a simple template I developed and used throughout 10 years as a software development project manager.
Project Charter is a document issued by the project initiator or sponsor that formally authorizes the existence of a project and provides the project manager with the authority to apply organizational resources to project activities.
Table of Contents:
- Project Charter Example
- How to Create A Project Charter
- Contents of Project Charter Explained
- Strategic Benefits of a Project Charter
- Practical Application of the Charter
- Project Charter in PMP Exam
Video Walkthrough of the Project Charter
You can read through the project charter example below or I can walk you through all the details in this video.
Project Charter Example from Real Project
You can download the Project Charter Example in PDF for your future reference. Download the PDF.
Image Library Service Site Update (codename: project “redesign”)
The last update of the Image Library Service Site was done three years ago. It is outdated in terms of appearance, performance, and user experience.
An investigation was conducted to develop performance requirements and a new vision of the UI.
The purpose of this project is to develop a new design and implement a brand new site.
The new site deployment is not a part of this project. Due to its complexity, it will be done as a separate project.
Any updates or improvements to the database should not be performed unless needed.
Project Manager and Authority Level
Nizhebetskiy Dmitriy is assigned as the project manager. He has the authority to select the required team and determine the final budget.
All closest competitors have up-to-date, responsive, and fast websites. Customer satisfaction with our service has dropped to a level of severe attrition.
This project is called to update the Image Library Services site.
- The new site should have good search and filtering capabilities.
- UI should be clutter-free and focused on finding and previewing images in the library.
- The site should be fast, responsive, and support key accessibility features.
We expect to regain our first position as an image content provider within a year after the new site is online.
Patricia Smith from the design team is already assigned to the project on a full-time basis. The Project Manager will identify and request any other internal resources.
Andrew Peterson represents the design team. Ray Jackson is from the customer support team. Lora James is from marketing.
They are available to support the project as needed.
Stakeholder Requirements as Known
There are requirements for the new site’s performance and a description of a general vision of its design as attachments to this document.
In no way, the new website should reduce existing functionality for users.
- Full design of the new site as a storyboard
- Work Breakdown Structure
- Human Resources Plan
- List of project-related risks
- The new version of the site that is tested on lower environments and ready for deployment
- No new hardware is required.
- No changes to the database are required.
- Internal resources are capable of finishing the project.
The new site should be ready for deployment by October 20.
Work Breakdown Structure should be provided by July 10.
The List of risks should be provided by July 25.
The final design should be ready and approved no later than August 20.
Measurable Project Objectives
The objective of this project is to develop a site with the speed performance level stated in the requirements.
Attrition should be reduced to 3%.
Budget limits and deadlines are the next priority.
Release date: Due no later than October 20, 2016.
Summary budget: $100,000
Project Approval Requirements
Head of the Design Department should approve the final UI designs.
Sponsors should approve the Work Breakdown Structure.
PMO Manage should review and approve the list of risks.
High-Level Project Risks
We have little experience in improving and measuring customer satisfaction. It is possible that the new site will not meet end-users’ expectations. Therefore, our goals may not be reached.
Due to customer attrition project delays may cause serious customer loses.
Project Sponsors Authorizing This Project:
______________________ John Snow, Vice President
How to Develop a Useful Project Charter
Step #1: Check who is responsible for creating the project charter. Is it mandatory?
Step #2: Check if there is a template in your organization. Ask your manager and peer colleagues. If there’s no template – create one.
Step #3: Talk to Sponsor, Client, Customer, and key stakeholders. Collect information about the business case, high-level requirements, constraints, assumptions, risks.
Step #4: Understand the project objective and how it is aligned with the business case.
Step #5: Try to identify real expectations from the project.
Step #6: Make the first draft.
Step #7: Consult with subject matter experts, review historical data, look for similar projects.
Step #8: Update the draft if needed with risks and assumption from other projects.
Step #9: Meet with preassigned team members and get their input.
Step #10: Update the draft if needed.
Step #11: Plan a meeting with key stakeholders.
Step #12: Update the draft and finalize the Project Charter.
Step #13: Get the sign-off.
For sure the process may differ. Some steps might not be formal or mandatory.
Nevertheless, communicate with colleagues who have more recent and better expertise and authority first.
Does Project Charter Have to be a formal Document?
No, you can avoid creating a formal document.
Collect the same information in meetings, calls, or emails. Then, follow up on the collected information, get feedback, and confirmation.
Keep this information in a share document that you can quickly refer to.
How long should a project charter be?
A lot of project managers think that Project Charter is something from the corporate and bureaucratic world; that it is a long and complicated document; that efforts spend on it are not worth the benefits.
That’s not true.
I would suggest no more than five pages long.
Keep it as simple as possible. A branded rich text document works the best.
Any bells and whistles will only distract stakeholders from the main goal of this exercise.
Now, let’s review what information you should include into a Project Charter
What is Included in the Project Charter?
It’s a full list of common clauses of a project charter.
But there are no hard rules on what to include or what to remove. Use a common sense. The document should be useful.
Project Title and Short Name
First of all, you need an official name for the project. It’s the way to differentiate your project from other projects in your organization.
It’s also useful to think of a short name. An abbreviation that you will use in project management software and different systems.
What is this project all about?
Put a simple description of the project background here. It’ll help you to connect with the business case and to understand the requirements.
Use common language that all stakeholders understand.
Assigned Project Manager
That’s the only place that formally states that you are the one who makes decisions on the project.
The project manager role brings a lot of responsibility. So at least, ensure that your authority is recognized.
Project Manager’s Authority
Nevertheless, your authority has limits.
Here you need to clarify whether you can determine, manage, and make changes to the budget, scope, schedule, or request team members on your own.
What is the justification for the project? Is it a financial, legal, or market matter? Why did stakeholders decide to do it? Put it all here.
A business case may be a separate document that provides justification for undertaking a project. You can link to it.
Business case stated in Project Charter has an exceptional importance!
During the execution phase, any change to the project should be checked against the business case.
If the change is not aligned with it, it is automatically rejected.
Learn more about the importance of the business cases from this video:
At this moment, you don’t have a team yet. But someone has to help you to decide what needs to be done.
So you will have some preassigned resources beforehand. Put the names and expected availability here.
These people should be clear on their involvement.
Name key stakeholders here.
It’s a list of people or groups of people who can influence your project or will be influenced by your project.
For sure, you’ll do an in-depth stakeholder analysis later. That’s just a starting point.
Here you need to include high-level requirements as they are known as of now.
Remember that you can refer to other documents here—no need to put full text in Project Charter.
Description of Products/Service/Result or Deliverables
Here you’ll list all deliverables and a description of the end result, service, or product your project should produce.
It may include project documentation such as Work Breakdown Structure, Risk Register, Budget, etc.
Likewise, it can be intermediate results for product development.
Factors that, for planning purposes are considered to be true, real, or certain without proof or demonstration.
Applicable restrictions or limitations, either internal or external to a project that will affect the performance of the project.
It is crucial! You can fulfill or implement requirements in many different ways.
However, the project was started to achieve a particular business goal.
While your final product, service, or result may be functional and usable, it might not be able to achieve the project objectives.
Objectives here should be concrete and measurable. Meeting these objectives will mean you finished the project successfully.
Project Approval Requirements
This section should state what items of the project should be approved and by whom.
In most cases, you’ll need to get approvals at critical points in the project life cycle like:
- Work Breakdown Structure
- Project Schedule
- Project Budget
- Risk Management activities
- List of required resources.
Risks are uncertain events or conditions that, if they occur, have a positive or negative effect on project performance. This section contains only a high-level risk. They will be later elaborated during risk management processes.
Signatures of project sponsors
All in all project sponsor should sign the Project Charter.
Strategic Benefits of a Project Charter
Below I defined three main advantages crucial to project success that a charter provides.
1. Background of a Project (Project Description)
The first section of a Project Charter usually explains who needs this project and why. What are the problems that it solves? Is there a business justification for the project and its general goal?
You may object that it doesn’t really matter from the project management point of view.
But here is the truth:
The background will profoundly impact the decision-making process.
Project’s results, services, or products create value for people first of all.
But it’s quite easy to dehumanize your work and fall under cognitive scope limitation.
The background of a project provides a connection to the human value that your project is meant to create.
This link helps to overcome the limitation and personalize problems. Therefore, it will help you make decisions and solutions that benefit the end-users.
In the long run, it will ensure that people will use your product. In most cases, it means that your client’s business will grow. They will reinvest the money into more projects with you.
But that’s not all…
Background of the project will hugely impact the attitude of the stakeholders towards your project.
Do not assume that everyone will do their best just because you ask.
A Critical and highly visible project will draw stakeholders’ attention. But an ordinary maintenance project will reduce their desire to work hard on your tasks. They’ll prioritize other projects over yours.
The same applies to your top management.
If your project doesn’t impact them – they will have little interest in your problems.
Therefore, you need to plan and work accordingly. You should expect delays in communications, approvals, resources, and support.
Low interests towards your project is a source of many risks.
2. Objectives (Goals) in Project Charter
How can you tell whether a project is successful?
Finishing it within constraints of scope, time and budget is not enough!
A project should achieve its business goal. It’s a concrete and measurable goal.
Otherwise, is 4% improvement good enough? What about 10%?
Unless you have a specific goal, you can not prove that you have finished the project successfully.
Moreover, you need to select solutions adequate to the project’s goal. The Law of Diminishing Returns kicks in here:
In pursuit of the best possible outcome, you may sink a lot of money and resources. You should be sure that results are worth the investment for the client.
So, unless you can measure against your goals, you can’t tell how successful your project currently is. And when do you need to stop?
It is not always black or white. Acceptable results for a reasonable price is also a success.
But that is not all!
3. Aligned Understanding of the Project
Most of the resources and books on project management state that a project manager should create a Project Charter. Or it’s issued by a sponsor.
PMs misinterpret these statements as if they do it on their own.
You can create Project Charter on your own.
In this case, you lose the main advantage that this document can provide.
Instead, invite all key stakeholders to a Project Charter session.
By facilitating this meeting, you can achieve mutual understanding for the project goals, discover expectations on deliverables, and discuss main risks, assumptions, and constraints.
In the end, you will have a shared vision for the project. This vision will be stated in the Project Charter and signed by the sponsor.
A good basis for a project start, don’t you think?
It’s ultimately important:
Because if you refer to the 3 Useful Applications of Project Life Cycle Knowledge article, you will recall that the level of uncertainty is the highest at this stage.
Quite often organizations ignore the importance of a Project Charter and do not require it.
But it doesn’t mean that you should deprive yourself of the overall advantage at the start of the project.
Real-World Application of a Project Charter
As I mentioned above, there are benefits and advantages to creating a Project Charter.
However, it also has a formal purpose:
Project Charter helps to recognize your authority.
Imagine a situation.
Your manager assigns you to a project. No Project Charter was created.
The only information he provides is that the project is already up and running.
No time to waste, you need to get there and do the work.
The first-priority task is to place an order to buy equipment that costs 12000$.
You analyze requirements, investigate available solutions, draft the procurement documents.
When you get to the procurement manager, he only asks: “Who are you? What charge code should I use to log all these expenses?”.
At this moment, you should realize that you have only one argument:
Your manager asked you to do that! But formally, unless he is the sponsor, he is not authorized to use the project’s money.
And the project officially doesn’t exist for the rest of the organization. At least, you can not prove that.
It’s a bit of a bureaucratic exaggeration at first glance. On small projects and in small organizations such problems might not even exist.
At least, while everything goes well.
However, what if you work for a large company or your customer (sponsor) is from the formal corporate world?
You should expect that they will be solemn about the Project Charter.
To avoid unnecessary problems, you need to know the benefits of having a charter.
Here are key aspects where it helps you:
1. Project Charter recognizes the project’s existence.
Project Charter is a tool that helps an organization to control allocated resources.
It offers the ability to ensure that efforts and money are spent to achieve specific goals. These goals are aligned with the organization’s strategy and are justified in financial or any other aspect.
When you work on a project for an external party, a contract is a preferred way to establish your agreements.
However, in this case, you’ll still need to create a Project Charter. It will be an internal agreement with your organization.
This project charter will ensure that your project will fulfill the contract obligations.
2. It clearly defines the project’s start.
Quite often projects creep from pre-sale or initial feasibility assessment right into the project planning phase.
And you continue your work without clear goals and boundaries. As you will see below the contents of a Project Charter will help you to avoid poor decision-making and the waste of resources and time.
You’ll work towards the agreed goal within defined constraints, assumptions, and expectations.
3. Project Charter sets the change management foundation.
As I said before, Project Charter states the project objective.
After it is signed off, you will be spending efforts and allocated resources to reach that goal.
Changes are inevitable, and Project Charter will help you to control them.
You will be able to check and ensure that every change request is aligned with a project objective. If not, it must be rejected.
It can give you valid reasons to justify canceling the project.
Sometimes it is better to restart the project with explicitly redefined objectives.
4. It sets a mutual understanding of the project boundaries.
For example, you need to improve a system.
Be that software, logistics or marketing one. You can spend a fortune and a lot of time, but still, there will always be some place for improvement.
But will the improvement be worth it?
By providing project justification and setting specific requirements and goals, Project Charter sets boundaries. It ensures that each dollar is well spent.
5. It states the assigned project manager and his level of authority.
I firmly believe that there should be only one responsible person for the project.
Also, I think there should be only one person on a project that can make hard decisions. That is why the name of this person should be on a Project Charter.
On the other hand, to mitigate critical risks, there should be an upper limit of authority.
Beyond that limit, a project manager should make sanity checks and get approvals from the sponsor.
6. Project Charter gives permission to the project manager to use allocated resources.
Within stated boundaries and limits of authority, a project manager can do his best to achieve project objectives.
No one should interfere with his project management activities.
Do I Need a Project Charter If No One Asks It?
Take my advice:
Even if a Project Charter is not required by your organization or by your customer, find time to create it, explain its benefits, and get agreement on its contents.
Do it once from the beginning to an end. And create your own template.
It will pay you back many times more.
When you searched the Internet for “project charter example,” you probably found a lot of relevant results.
The vast number of available samples, templates, and examples points to only one fact.
There is no universal project charter example!
A long time ago I tried to take the shortcut. I found a template.
Following the predefined structure, I filled out the suggested sections.
I even gave it a second thought and added some extras on my own.
However, I had a feeling like, “why worry? Someone smart enough created this template. It should just work.”
Should I even say that it was a waste of time?
I provided you the generic project charter example.
However, it’s only to help you to understand the concept!
If your organization just starts to use Project Charters, this example will suit you well.
But make a commitment and create your own template. The process takes a few hours.
Project Charter In PMP Exam
PMBOK® Guide gives us the following definition:
“A Document issued by the project initiator or sponsor that formally authorizes the existence of a project and provides the project manager with authority to apply organizational resources to project activities.”
From PMI’s perspective Project Charter is a mandatory document on all projects.
A single project can start without it.
Well, in large organizations it does work this way. You do need the authorization to allocate and use some serious money and resources.
On small and medium projects and in less formal environments things are entirely different.
In some cases, it’s even not in the best interests of a client to explicitly mark the start of a project. You will be billed from that moment. Therefore, no one sees the benefits of spending time and effort to create a Charter.
Therefore, a project manager becomes the most interested person in it.
Project Charter in Project Management
In the long run throughout the whole lifetime, Project Charter will help you to deliver the result that sponsors paid for.
Likewise, it can help you to prove that the Customer and Sponsor do not understand what they really want. As each piece of work on the project should be clearly aligned with the project objectives.
However, keep in mind that no single document can guarantee project success. Building mutually beneficial relationships with stakeholders is the only true way to make them happy.