A project charter is a document that formally establishes a project and the commitment made by the organization to carry out the project. An effective charter provides a high-level description of the project and specific commitments for resources or participation by stakeholders (e.g., specific departments or offices in an organization that will have major roles in project work). In a sense, a project charter is an internal agreement among project stakeholders (senior managers of organizations or departments) which confirms and documents commitments by project participants. The PMI recommends that a formal charter be prepared for ALL projects (see PMI PMBOK Section 3). In practice, formal project charters are not the norm--but they should be. Sometimes, other types of formal documents or instruments may serve the same purpose as a charter (e.g., memoranda of agreement or inter-agency agreements). It is a best practice to prepare a project charter for major projects in which there are multiple departments or organizations participating in project work or providing funding for project support. Some organizations may create a project charter from a standardized template, while other organizations may take a more free-form and adaptable approach. The best project charters are relatively brief, with summary information about the proposed project. In some cases, they may reference more detailed, external documents (like a cost-benefit analysis or business case). While there is no single, accepted format for project charters, well-designed project charters should not include extreme project details and usually contain the following major parts:
- Title (including clear name of the project), author name and affiliation, and date
- Summary of project purpose and objectives
- Anticipated start date and project length
- Project manager's name
- Project sponsors (senior officials who acknowledge support for the project)
- Summary of scope and deliverables
- List of stakeholders and the group(s) for which deliverables are being prepared (e.g., users, customers)
- Projected budget and resources required (including contract or vendor costs and expected internal staff resources required)
- Business Case (summary of benefits for the organization)
- Identification of the project manager and key project team members
- Management approach (summary of approach for communications, monitoring, and status reporting)
- Initial risk and major assumptions
- Formal sign-off: name, title, affiliation, and signature of senior managers and decision makers who contribute money or staff resources for project
See Croswell (2022), Subsection 2.10 for more information about project charters. There is not a single, accepted format for project charters but they are written for senior people in the organization. For this reason, charters should not include detailed scope or work plan information. Keep the charter high-level with a focus on how the project supports the organization's mission and business, the resources required, how it will be managed, and how it will benefit the organization. One example of a GIS project charter is this City GIS Web Mapping Project Charter.
Now that we've talked about a project charter, you will have an opportunity to create one! The Assignment 2 Web page provides directions for project charter preparation.