How to Develop a Project Charter

pmp project charter -magoosh

Is the term Project Charter new to you? If so, spend a little time reviewing our blog PMP Charter: PMP Topics to Know. It is important that you first understand what a charter is and its critical importance on the PMP exam, before understanding HOW to develop a project charter.

An authorized project is the output of a project charter. Let me say that a different way, a project is not a project until you have a completed – signed project charter. Because the charter is such a critical document to the PMP process, you are wise to ensure you include all the necessary information in the document.

In this post we will discuss the key elements to include as you develop the project charter and wrap-up by providing what you need to complete the document.

Elements of the Project Charter

For the purpose of this post, I will discuss the items you should include as you develop a project charter. The exam assumes that the projects you are supporting are of large scale, which is why they will be our focus. Some smaller scale projects will not need all the information we outline here; which is important to know for the real world, but not for the exam.

There is one additional note I should mention, it is important as a PMP that you know what resources your organization provides. Typically a Project Charter is a templated document within an organization. Okay, what do I mean? For PMP exam purposes templates, like a project charter, are also known as OPAs (Organizational Process Assets). Knowing what your organization has available ensures you are always answering the right questions.

Now onto the elements!

Project Charter:Project Title and Description

The first element you need as you develop your charter is the Project Title and Description. Although the title is self-descriptive, this section should also provide a short description about what the project is.

Project Charter: Project Business Case

Next, you will want to include the Project Business Case. Good news, there is a whole blog that explains a Project Business Case. Because there is already great information available, we will not spend time discussing the business case here, other than to say a Business Case explains why the project should be done.

Project Charter: Project Deliverables and Objectives

After the Business Case, you will want to include the Project Deliverables and Objectives. The project deliverables provide an explanation on what products or services are expected as an output of completing your project. The Project Objective helps connect the project deliverables with the mission of the organization. Ultimately, this section allows you to show what you are completing and how it will support or enhance the work of the organization.

One final important note about this element is that the objective(s) of the project should be measurable. You should be able to quantify what the project provides to the organization.

Project Charter: Project Stakeholders

Additionally, your project will need to include high-level information about your project Stakeholders. Stakeholders are all the individuals that will be impacted by your project. They can be internal or external to the project or company. We spent a lot of time discussing Stakeholder Management in another post, which will help you understand what this section should include.

Project Charter: Project Assumptions and Constraints

Before a project even begins you will likely know some key Assumptions and Constraints of the project. What are assumptions? They are the things that you believe to be true. This could include an assumption that you have the resources available to complete the project.

Conversely what are constraints? These are the items that exist that would prohibit a portion of the project. For example, the fact that employees are only able to work 8 am – 5 pm is a constraint that your project has to consider.

Project Charter: Project Risks

Risks are opportunities or threats that could impact your project. It is important to note that for purposes of the exam, a risk could be a positive or a negative event. You should document anything you know that could present a risk to your project as early as possible. On the exam when risks are addressed you should assume you identified the risk and have a plan to handle the risk!

For more information about risks, read Risk Management: Remembering Risk Responses.

Project Charter: Project Manager and Authority

Finally, your charter should include a section that denotes who is assigned as the Project Manager and the authority of the project manager. This is an important element as it sets the tone for the rest of the project. If a Project Manager is granted high authority, the Project Sponsor needs to help shape this perception among future project team members from the start.

As you may have noticed, you are documenting who the project manager is in the charter. It is hard to contribute to the document if you are not officially assigned. For purpose of this exam, it is critical that a Project Sponsor work on the project charter, but the sponsor should identify the Project Manager to support in completion.

A charter is a team effort between the Project Manager and Project Sponsor.

Completing the Charter

Alright, now that you have developed all the elements of the charter, the final piece of the puzzle is gaining the Project Sponsor or Sponsors signature on the document.

It is only once the charter is signed that any work on the project can begin. If you remember nothing else for the exam, please remember a project is NOT a project until you have a completed – signed project charter.

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  • Tyler Marinelli

    Tyler earned her undergraduate degree from The Ohio State University in 2005 and her Master’s degree from West Virginia University in 2008. Tyler has spent a significant portion of her professional life informally managing projects. In 2015 Tyler made her project management experience official by proficiently passing the PMP exam. She has roughly 10 years of experience teaching college courses and tutoring. In her off-time, Tyler enjoys spending as much time as possible with her two amazing kids and husband.