If you’ve ever served as a project manager for a big project, you’re probably used to loads of documents flying across your desk, but you know the most important document is the project charter. The project charter serves several functions. It is a document that identifies the project by name, its purpose, its estimated cost and you as the project manager.
The first section of the project charter serves as an introduction and identifies the project by name and you as the manager, along with the date the charter was prepared.
The next section is the main section of the document and is broken down into several parts that contain more details, including:
- A project purpose that states why the project is being started and the contract that is the foundation of the project, and what function or need it meets
- A project description that details how the project meets the needs described above with detailed descriptions of the structures to be built or services to be provided
- A budget that states the maximum cost of the project and may include specifics such as labour to be hired and the cost of labour, materials and other expenses
- A section of potential risks that informs sponsors of possible causes of delays and problems
- Major milestones that represent significant points in the work as completion nears
- Objectives that state what you want to accomplish and the target date for each objective
- Authority levels that let everyone know you are in charge and establish reporting chains of authority
- Authorizations that contain the signatures of the project sponsors and you with the applicable date
Perhaps the most important role of the project charter is to serve as evidence of authorization for the work and for you to lead it as the project manager. That position makes you responsible for coordinating the efforts of many people and keeping the project moving forward. The project charter makes it clear that it is you, as the project manager, who ultimately bears responsibility for the project’s success or failure.