The Easy Guide to Creating a Successful Project Charter

Updated on: 29 November 2022 | 5 min read

One of the very first steps in the phases of the project management lifecycle is developing the project charter. It helps inform everyone in the team what they are in charge of and what needs to be done.

Let’s define the project charter and discuss how to create one. We have added some useful project charter templates that will help you kick-start your project. Customize them to your liking and export them as images or SVGs to add to presentations or documents.

What is a Project Charter?

The project charter is a document that lays out the project vision, scope, objectives, project team, and their responsibilities, key stakeholders, and how it will be carried out or the implementation plan. It is also known as the project statement and project definition report.

It helps define the level of authority of the project manager and the direction of the project.

A project charter

  • Describes the purpose and the outcomes of the project
  • Legally authorizes the start of a project
  • Helps keep track of project deadlines
  • Helps identify constraints and risks and define preventive measures  
  • Outlines a general overview of the budget
  • Helps align the project goals with the interests of the stakeholders

Project Charter vs Project Plan

The project charter is a high-level initiation document that consists of only a few pages. It lists the project objectives, scope, vision, team, and their responsibilities and stakeholders.  

A project plan, on the other hand, is a detailed document that describes how to accomplish the project objectives. It elucidates the project deliverables, action plan, the required resources, and milestones.

How to Develop a Project Charter

Here we’ll look into how to create a project charter while identifying its key elements.

1. Identify the Project Vision

The vision of the project is expressed through its end goal and its purpose. It can be divided into,

Scope: Explain the boundaries of the project in terms of project goals, deliverables, costs, deadlines and the work to be done. Defining the project scope early in the project lifecycle is important as it will impact the project cost and the schedule.

Objectives: When setting objectives, make sure that they adhere to the SMART criteria, or in other words that they are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.  Taking into consideration the overall goals of the organization, set about 5 objectives to be accomplished by the end of the project.

Deliverables: List down the deliverables that will be produced at the end of each successful accomplishment of an objective.

2. Identify the Stakeholders and the Customers

Stakeholders are the individuals who have a key stake or interest in the successful completion of the project. They could be within or outside of the company and include those who fund your project as well as the team members and clients.

You can use a stakeholder map like the one below to categorize the stakeholder and make the information at your hand more presentable and easy-to-understand.

Stakeholder Map
Stakeholder Map (Click on the template to edit it online)

3. Create an Organizational Chart

Now that you have identified the project team, clarify their responsibilities.

Use an org chart to list down their names, roles, and responsibilities. At the same time, you can highlight the reporting relationships among the member with the help of connecting lines.

Organizational Chart Template
Organizational Chart Template (Click on the template to edit it online)

4. Define Project Milestones

Milestones represent important events within the project lifecycle and include the start and end dates of the project, the successful completion of key deliverables, etc.

Project Schedule Template
Project Schedule Template (Click on the template to edit it online)

5. Create a Resource Plan

List down all the resources that you need for the project; equipment, machines, people, materials, etc. This can help you when allocating your budget.  

6. Set the Budget for the Project

List down the expenses your organization will have to bear in order to carry out the plan. As these expenses may change during the project, you can make rough estimations. Also, note down the person who will be responsible for authorizing the approval of the expenditure.

7. List Down the Dependencies, Constraints, and Risks

Dependencies:  Identify and list down project dependencies, or the activities that will have an impact on the initiation or the completion of another task.

Constraints: Figure out the factors that would hinder the progression of the project outcomes. For example, lack of resources or time.

Risks: Risks could occur during any stage of the project lifecycle. It’s important that you identify these beforehand and have taken precautions. Here are some great risk management techniques that would come in handy here.

8. Lay Out the Implementation Plan

This is where you will put together an action plan, highlighting the key dates or milestones.

Action Plan Template
Action Plan Template (Click on the template to edit it online)

Visualize Your Project Charter

Usually, a project charter spans for 5-6 pages. This is one of the major reasons why they get overlooked in the project management process. An easier way to write a project charter that everyone can quickly read and understand, with minimal effort is through visualization.

Project charters that incorporate graphic elements like the ones below help you bring together all project charter elements onto one page. They are easy-to-read and visually pleasing.

The following are a few examples of how you can visualize your project charters. You can edit them online to add or remove elements and customize them based on your project’s needs. Download them as SVGs or as images to add to presentations, websites, company wikis, documents, etc.

Template 1

Project Charter Template
Project Charter Template (Click on the template to edit it online)

Template 2

Project Charter Example
Project Charter Example (Click on the template to edit it online)

Template 3

One Page Project Charter
One Page Project Charter (Click on the template to edit it online)

What Are Your Thoughts on the Guide?

Throughout the project lifecycle, the project charter plays an essential role in keeping things on track. In this guide, we have covered what is a project charter, how to create one along with some editable project charter templates.

Any best practices you follow when creating a project charter? Do share them with our readers in the comments section below.

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Amanda Athuraliya

Amanda Athuraliya is the communication specialist/content writer at Creately, online diagramming and collaboration tool. She is an avid reader, a budding writer and a passionate researcher who loves to write about all kinds of topics.

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