What is a project charter? Definition, examples & template

What is a project charter? Definition, examples & template

what-is-a-project-charter

A project charter is a valuable tool when starting a project.

Whether you're planning to launch a website, a mobile application, or any other type of digital project, writing a project charter is the first step of a successful project.

To help you write one with ease, you will discover in this article what a project charter is, how to write one, project charter examples, a free template to get you started and a list of the best software you can use to manage your projects.

Taking your time to write a project charter correctly will allow you to be more efficient afterwards, to draw the outlines of the project, to anticipate difficulties and to avoid mistakes.

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Project charter: definition

What is a project charter?

A project charter is a document that defines the framework of a project as a whole. It lists the needs, objectives, constraints, expected features, deadlines and budget as accurate as possible.

Used internally or externally, a project charter can become contractual in the case of a service signature, and it is mandatory in the case of a request for tender.

Here is a short video that explains what a project charter is:

What is the purpose of using a project charter?

A project charter can be used to :

  • get authorisation to start a project,
  • think about objectives and set them.
  • assign the priorities of the project,
  • help key stakeholders to give you the best advice,
  • estimate the budget, resources and the deadlines necessary for the successful completion of a project.

In concrete terms, a project charter will serve as a basis for the planning and management of a project.

Who writes a project charter?

Ideally, a project charter should be written by the company that initiates the project. It can be the project manager or the project owner to :

  • reflect the corporate culture and company values better than an outside person,
  • stay as close as possible to the needs of the end-user.

Don't hesitate to surround yourself with experts that can give you advice, but you must also collect information from end-users, because they will, after all, be the ones who use the solution.

However, if you use a third-party contractor, such as a web agency, to create your project charter, all you have to do is validate the various elements and make sure that the scope of the project is covered well.

How to write a project charter

If this is your first time creating a project charter, we recommend including the information you find most beneficial. It is important to note that the more detailed you make your project charter, the more convincing it will be and it will serve as a key reference for all stakeholders.

Here is a list of 10 steps you should include in your project charter:

  1. Presentation of the company,
  2. Presentation of the project,
  3. Target,
  4. Competition,
  5. Graphic chart,
  6. Budget,
  7. Lead times,
  8. Functional specifications,
  9. Technical specifications,
  10. Appendix

⚠️ This example should be adapted according to the type of project you use and its complexity.

1. Present the company

This first part gives a quick description of the company so that the third-party contractor understands the identity of his customer. The presentation should include:

  • your sector of activity,

  • your core business,

  • your flagship products or services,

  • key stakeholders.

Here, you should not go too much into detail, you should mainly list the key information about your company so that a person can understand in a few lines your project goals.

2. Present the project

Next, it is important to present the project.

  • Name your project

To begin, you must use a descriptive title when naming your project. For example, naming your project “Business Campaign” may not be relevant as it does not describe the purpose of the project nor does it differentiate said project from others. However, if a title such as “ International Business Campaign to Generate new Leads in Europe” is used, you will inform readers about the goal of the campaign right away.

  • Identify the context

The aim here is to explain the ins and outs of the project so that all the stakeholders understand the issues and work to respond to them as well as possible.

  • Set objectives

Each project may have different intentions and objectives. This is why it is essential to know them in order to move in the right direction and make the right decisions.

A good objective is a SMART objective:

  • Specific,
  • Measurable,
  • Attainable,
  • Relevant,
  • Time-based.

smart-objectives

© Digital blanket

3. Set your target

By describing your target(s) accurately, you will have a high chance of reaching them. This is not an easy exercise to do, but it will save you a lot of time once you have done the work.

Describe your marketing persona, i.e. the fictitious profile of your ideal customer, with as much information as possible:

  • first name,
  • age,
  • personal situation,
  • profession,
  • salary,
  • areas of interest,
  • questions, problems encountered, constraints,
  • examples of written or spoken sentences, type of vocabulary used.

To glean this information, you can :

  • ask your customers questions;
  • analyse information from your prospects;
  • read the discussions on the forums dealing with their problems;
  • collect more precise information on contact or download forms.

4. Identify your competition

In order to position your project successfully, you need to know your competitors:

  • the main ones,
  • the secondary ones,
  • their strengths and weaknesses,
  • your unique features.

Then, you are free to determine your positioning by offering something fundamentally new, or similar, but by meeting the needs of the target better.

5. Use a graphic chart

It is recommended to write this part when you already have a graphic chart and you want to keep it for the project. It can also be used if you want to create a new graphic chart that is in line with the previous one.

You can list the following elements:

  • logo,
  • typography,
  • colours,
  • etc...

6. Set your project budget

Explain how much the project will cost and where the funds will come from. This section could also list any additional resources needed to execute your project

⚠️ Be careful not to underestimate this section, and make sure it is consistent with your requests.

7. Set a completion time

Set a deadline by which the project must be launched.

As with the budget, don't underestimate the time required to complete each element, and be realistic.

For complex projects, do not hesitate to set different milestones and make a schedule in the form of a Gantt chart.

8. List functional specifications

  • The functionalities

The functional part of the project charter is used to translate the requirements into functionalities.

It is recommended to go as much in detail as you can in this part to ensure that the functionalities are well understood and the deliverables are up to par with your expectations.

Describe each functionality as follows:

  • title,
  • objective,
  • description,
  • subfunctions,
  • constraints and business rules,
  • level of priority.

9. Technical specifications

The technical part consists of describing how the functionalities will be implemented.

Moreover, this part highlights the technical requirements and constraints of the project to meet the needs of end-users.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of elements that can be used:

  • online payment methods,
  • hosting solution,
  • server architecture,
  • choice of platform or CMS,
  • administration tools,
  • integration constraints,
  • computer language,
  • data security management,
  • maintenance,
  • migration,
  • browser compatibility,
  • and so on

10. Appendix

Here you should put all of the documents that are required to complete the project. These may include wireframes, mock-ups, drafts, etc.

Project charter examples

Since project charters can be adapted according to the type of project you use and its complexity, therefore, it is recommended to consider different examples of project charters before writing your own. Here are two project charter examples that may inspire you to use one.

project-charter-example-lucid-chart

© Lucichart

project-charter-template

© Project Charter

Free project charter template

Now that you have learned the key steps you should include and seen project charter examples, you can now begin writing your own project charter.

Here is a free template to get you started:

Best tools to help you manage your project charter

Creating project charters with Lucidchart

Lucidchart is an online diagram software that allows you to visually build your project charter.

Thanks to its intuitive interface, you can use Lucidchart to create project charters and diagrams. Drag and drop shapes in the work area, then complete them with your information (you can import your data from a CSV file) and customise diagrams to your preference.

monday.com: an all-in-one project management software

Once you have created your project charter, it is essential to keep track of the completion of your project with a dedicated tool.

monday.com is an intuitive work management platform that allows you to manage any team and any project while creating a more transparent work culture.

Thanks to its system of customisable tables, you can manage your tasks and sub-tasks using a visual and intuitive tool. Once you have identified your projects, assign each of them the necessary resources and budget.

This project management tool goes one step further, by providing time management features (to meet the deadlines of your projects) and by offering different views of your tables, with a Gantt chart for example.

A project charter and agile management to anticipate evolutions

Project charters are essential to give a framework to your project and help you to reflect and formalise your needs and objectives. They allow you to communicate with team members and stakeholders in the project so that everyone can make informed decisions in a collaborative work environment.

However, you must accept that the project may evolve, either because new external elements change the situation or because it is difficult to be exhaustive and perfectly express your needs.

This is where working with an agile method is interesting because it allows you to present a functional version of the product as soon as possible which will allow you to make adjustments to the project charter.

Selection of software for you

RationalPlan

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Project Monitor

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