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10 chapters | 97 lessons
Project Manager and Governance, Risk & Compliance Specialist
As a project manager, when you're assigned to manage a project one of the first and most important documents you will need to draft is the project charter. You will do this during the initiation, or start-up, phase of the project.
When writing a project charter, you should remember its purpose. A project charter contains important information about the project, as well as its goals and objectives. It also formally authorizes the project to begin and gives the project manager authority to do his or her job, so in a way it serves as a contract between the project sponsor and the project manager. Without a charter, a project is like a group of travelers without a map -- you have nothing to guide you in the right direction.
Let's imagine that you've just been assigned to manage a project to build and launch a new website. When you draft the charter for this project, you will need to include the following information:
• The project's background, why you are embarking on the project, and a description of the business need that the project will meet. For example, the background could be that the company currently does not have a website, so the project will meet the need of the company to have a web presence and enable customers to purchase their products online.
• The key objectives and goals, or desired achievements, of the project. These should be written using the 'SMART' format, which ensures that the project goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. For example, the goal of your project could be to build and launch a website that contains company information, product information, product ordering facility, and online payment functionality, by the end of October.
• A description of the deliverable(s) resulting from the project. These are the products, or outputs, of the project, and it's important to be clear from the start exactly what they will be, to avoid confusion or disagreement down the line. So deliverables for your project could be things like the business requirements document, the website design specifications, the coding files, the website itself, the marketing plan, and so on.
• Project scope and exclusions. The project scope describes everything that the project will deliver, and the exclusions list things that are not included in the scope. Confusion over project scope is one of the major causes of scope creep, which is term used for the scope of the project widening as the project proceeds -- something you, as project manager, do not want! So, for example, we could specify that the project scope includes the design, build, and launch of the website, but excludes the training of back-office staff on how to deal with orders placed on the website.
• Any assumptions or constraints affecting the project's schedule, budget, or quality. Assumptions are things taken for granted at the start of a project. In our example one assumption could be that adequate funding and resources will be made available for the project. Constraints are limitations or parameters within which the project must operate. For example, that the website designed has to be able to run on a certain operating system used by the company.
• Key stakeholders of the project. This would include a list of all the parties who either are customers of the end product of the project, or have a vested interest in the successful delivery of the project, or are required to assist with delivery of the project in some way.
• Estimated project budget. The budget, or the amount of money to be used for the project, is likely to be estimated at this stage, as sometimes a detailed budget can be arrived at only after the planning stage.
• High-level project plan and milestones. Again, this is likely to be only an indication of the timing of certain project milestones, as detailed planning still has to take place.
• Project approach. This describes the methodology that the project manager will follow.
• Project team structure. This illustrates, by means of a type of drawing called an organogram, the project team's structure and reporting lines.
• Roles and responsibilities. This important section designates you as the manager of the project. It includes the level of decision making you will be able to make independently, and the levels above which you will need to seek the approval of the project sponsor or steering committee. It also sets out the roles of the other stakeholders and team members.
• Project communication. This section provides details of the methods and the frequency with which the project manager will communicate with the stakeholders. For example: a weekly team status meeting, a monthly steering committee meeting, or a monthly status report.
You can obtain most of the information you need for the charter from the project sponsor or the other steering committee members. If a business case has already been written for the project, it can also serve as a key source of information.
Some organizations have their own prescribed templates that they use for drafting project charters. In this case you will need to write your charter using the standard template (which can make life easier for a project manager!). If the company has no prescribed format, the Internet contains many sources for project charter templates, and you can easily find one that will fit your project's and organization's needs.
After you have written your project charter, you should circulate the document to all relevant stakeholders for their review and feedback. After they make changes, it is important that the sponsor or the steering committee signs off on the charter, as a record of their authority for the project to proceed on the basis described in the charter. The project manager should always keep a signed copy of the charter for his or her records.
In this lesson you learned that a project charter is a very important document created during the initiation phase of a project, which formally authorizes the project to begin, and gives the project manager authority to do his/her job. You also learned about the elements to include in a project charter, and where to source this information. Finally you learned about the format you can use to write your charter, and the importance of having it formally approved.
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Back To CourseProject Management Training
10 chapters | 97 lessons