Project Charter Template

Dick Billows, PMP
Dick Billows, PMP
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Use this project charter template to create the charter at the end of the project initiation process. This is after you have the scope information, the statement of work (SOW) from the sponsor and before the detailed planning begins. It includes the following:

  • scope
  • major deliverables
  • assumptions
  • constraints
  • risks
  • required resources and
  • change control.

 Starting work is still a ways off and this is the best time to discuss potential risks and problems with the project sponsor. You should also discuss your authority to assign work to borrowed team members and the availability of those resources. You need to be sure the project team will show up to do the work when they’re scheduled.

Other issues you should address are the scope’s underlying risks and assumptions. You can use the project charter template to identify those assumptions and risks. Then talk with the sponsor and stakeholders about how you can avoid or mitigate the risks. You should do this before the detailed planning begins. It’s easier and cheaper to include responses to the risks now than it will be later on. The project charter template should also include a process for making changes to the project plan. Everyone needs to understand that there is a process that includes an evaluation and approval before the plan can be modified. Project Phases Main Page

Project Charter Template: Cross-functional Authority

The project charter template should also address cross-functional authority issues. But that issue often gets lost among the assumptions and “mission statement” narrative. Even when PMs generate a concise decision-making document, they are vague about the authority they need to successfully manage the project. They want to avoid conflict over this touchy subject. But if you are a savvy PM, you know this conflict is inevitable. It is better to have the debate on authority now than to wait until the project is late and over-budget. It looks like you’re shifting blame if you explain slippage by finger-pointing at cross-functional resources. You need to specify in the  project charter how you will assign work to people from across functional or organizational borders. You should design an achievement network that maps the lines of accountability and shows the sponsor and stakeholders where you need authority. You must make crystal-clear assignments to the team members that are measurable achievements.

You can’t expect to have dedicated resources you can manage as subordinates for all the project project charter templateassignments. So you have to make careful choices. You should ask for direct authority for assignments that are:

  • on the critical path
  • are high risk
  • have a long duration
  • require rare skills.

You can live with indirect authority and even settle for “in the hopper” authority on shorter, less critical assignments. This means your request for resources goes “in the hopper” with all other demands for resources. If you ask for too many dedicated resources, it will backfire. You’ll be stuck with “in the hopper” authority for every assignment on your project.

Project Charter Template: Project Sizes

The project charter template requires some information gathering.  You have choices about which elements to include.  You also have to decide how much detail to give on the elements. As we said earlier, everything flows from the Statement of Work (SOW) that the sponsor  issues to get the project started. Let’s look at initiating a project, the project charter template document, and how you’ll complete the pieces for projects of varying sizes:

Tier 1: Small Projects – Done within an organizational unit. Your manager or your boss is the sponsor

Tier 2: Medium Projects – Projects that affect multiple departments or are done for customers/clients

Tier 3: Strategic Projects – Organization-wide projects with long-term effects on all departments.

Project Charter Template: Identify Stakeholders

Tier 1: Small Projects: This step is not necessary on an in-department project where the department manager is the primary stakeholder.

Tier 2: Medium Projects: You must make an effort to identify the stakeholders in multiple departments. This avoids getting surprised by late arriving requirements that must be added.

Tier 3: Strategic Projects: This step is a process of surveys and interviews to identify internal and external stakeholders who may be affected by the project. Their requirements must be considered.

Project Charter Template: Business Case

Tier 1: Small Projects: This step is not necessary because formal project approval is not required.

Tier 2: Medium Projects: Organizations with sound project management processes require a business case to justify a project’s priority versus other projects in the portfolio.

Tier 3: Strategic Projects: The level of financial and human resources requires detailed documentation and justification of the strategic impact of the project.

Project Charter Template: Scope, Deliverables  and Risks

Tier 1: Small Projects: A 1-page overview of the plan that includes the scope, deliverables, risks, resources and PM authority.

Tier 2: Medium Projects: The project charter document addresses the project acceptance criteria, business justification and rough estimates of the resource requirements (human and financial).

Tier 3: Strategic Projects: The size of the investment in these projects usually requires extensive documentation of risks, benefits, impacts on other strategic initiatives and on the total organization.

Project Charter Template Summary

Depending on your environment, the project charter template can include many components. The charter usually has a statement about the scope or statement of work (SOW) and the principal risks and assumptions that underlie the project plan. It should also include the processes for identifying and approving changes to the project scope. In addition, the project charter template should specify what resources the project plan requires and the project manager’s authority to manage those resources. You can learn how to prepare and present your project charter in our Project Management Basics course. You’ll work privately with your instructor and have as many e-mails, phone calls and live video conferences as you need.

You learn all of those skills in our online project management basics courses. You work privately with a expert project manager. You control the schedule and pace and have as many phone calls and live video conferences as you wish.  More information on the lean project methodology

Take a look at the courses in your specialty. At the beginning, when you and Dick talk to design your program and what you want to learn, you will select case studies that fit the kind of projects you want to manage. Chose you course and then select the which specialty case study from business, or marketing,  or construction, or healthcare, or consulting.  That way your case studies and project plans, schedules and presentations will fit your desired specialty.

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Author: Dick Billows, PMP

Dick has more than 25 years of project and program management experience throughout the US and overseas. Dick was a partner in the 4th largest professional firm and a VP in a Fortune 200 company. He trained and developed 100's of project managers using his methodology. Dick is the author of 14 books, over 300 articles and director/producer of 90 short project management training videos. He and a team of 25 project managers work with client companies & students across the US and in Europe, South America, Asia and the Middle East. They have assisted over 300 organizations in improving their project performance. Books by Dick Billows, PMP are on