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Project Day 1. Write Project Charter.

A Project Charter answers the question “How to Start a Project”. You should always have a Project Charter regardless of project type or size. A Project Charter is the tool used to authorize, initiate or start new projects. By definition, a project does not exist without a Project Charter.

Project Charter Template

Start your project out right. Follow proven, successful project management practices. The first step in any project is to write a Project Charter.

A Project Charter is a tool that Senior Management or a Project Sponsor can use to:

  • Initiate the project.
  • Authorize the project.
  • Identify stakeholders.
  • Define project scope.
  • Set project expectations.

The Project Charter also:

  • Names the Project Manager.
  • Sets the initial Budget.
  • Sets the initial Scope.
  • Sets the initial Schedule.
  • Sets the Customer Acceptance criteria.

A Project Charter, once approved and signed by the Project Sponsor, formally authorizes the project.

A Project Charter documents initial requirements (the scope) and required deliverables to satisfy Stakeholder’s needs and expectations. The project charter documents the initial high level project scope. Scope is defined as the work required and only the work required to satisfy the completion of the project.

Scope Creep is the result of working without a defined project Scope. Without a Scope, the Project Manager will not be able to determine if a new request is in scope or out of scope nor defend their position on new requests.

A Project without a Project Charter is an open-ended endeavor running on autopilot.

In the different organizational structures: Project, Functional and Matrix, the Project Manager will have different levels of authority to get things done. Different stakeholders can block, sabotage or overrule the Project Manager, potentially placing the project at Risk. In order to get things done, it is sometimes necessary for the project manager to go up-the-ladder to elicit assistance from the Project Sponsor to overcome project barriers.

What are the contents of a Project Charter? A project charter should identify the following:

  • Project Name and Description
  • Project Purpose, Justification or Business Case of the project
  • Measurable Project Objectives (No vague or general statements.)
  • High Level Requirements
  • Where products or services are involved, Product or Service requirements
  • High Level Schedule
  • Initial Budget
  • Identifies what constitutes project success
  • Identifies who will decide if the project is successful or not
  • Identifies who is authorized to sign the project completion acceptance
  • Names the Project Manager
  • Specifies the Authority Level of the Project Manager
  • Specifies the Responsibility of the Project Manager
  • Name, Title and Responsibility of the Project Sponsor or the person authorizing the project charter.
  • Signed by the Project Sponsor.

The project charter is a high level statement of the project. The project manager will go through repeated cycles of progressive elaboration over a period of months to clarify and develop a detailed project plan with very specific requirements and details prior to, ahhumm, project execution.

Now in the world of SAP, SAP has their own project management methodology known as the SAP ASAP Methodology. The SAP ASAP Methodology (now called SAP Activate), if you download it and study it, also has a project charter phase. Creation of the project charter is not step one on day one. In the SAP ASAP Methodology, creation of the charter takes place perhaps months after project planning work began. In other words, Product Selection has already occurred which in a normal project occurs only after much project planning has already occurred and long after the project was initiated.

So in this How-To Guide or Tutorial on Project Management and specifically on Project Charters, I hope it is clear that creation of a Project Charter occurs first and many months prior to any pre-sales cycle or product or vendor selection.

Want to learn what actions to take after the Project Charter is written? Follow along in our blog articles as I will walk you through all the Project Management steps including providing you with starter Project Management templates.