How to Draft a Project Charter (With Example)

How to Draft a Project Charter (With Example)

Tired of searching for handy project charter examples?

A project charter is one of the first documents you create to describe a project’s purpose. It’s an essential piece of information that helps develop a shared understanding among a project’s key stakeholders

But if you’re new to drafting this document, don’t worry.

A project charter example will help you understand what goes into it to help you craft one of your own.

But remember, an example can only go so far.

If you really want to draft a great project charter yourself, why not learn about what goes into a charter too?

After all, you’ll have to draft a new one for every project. 

So if you’re familiar with it all, everything’s going to be a piece of cake!

In this article, you’ll understand what a project charter is, its benefits, and how to draft a project charter with the help of an example. We’ll also give you a useful project charter template along with some tips to help you create an excellent project charter

This Article Contains:

(Click on the links below to jump to a specific section)

Let’s get rolling. 

Note: The following sections explain the basics of the project charter document. If you’re already familiar with this, click here to jump directly to the project charter example.  

What is a Project Charter?

If your project is like a long-planned road trip, the project charter is like kickstarting your vehicle. 

The project charter document formally acknowledges a project and initiates work on it. 

No kickstart = No project. 

Once approved by a project committee, the project manager and team can start the project.

Besides shifting the project into its initiation phase, a charter document answers vital questions such as:

  • What’s the project’s objective?
  • Who are the key stakeholders involved?
  • What defines project success?
  • What are the various project milestones?

Now, all these may sound like really big questions.

But don’t worry. 

You won’t have to write lengthy, detailed explanations in a project management charter

Why?

As it only provides a preliminary, high-level overview of things before the project begins, it’s just a short document of up to 2-3 pages. You can work out all the remaining details in the project scope or the statement of work documents at a later stage. 

The 5 Benefits of Drafting a Project Charter

We know what you’re thinking.

So a charter kick-starts a project with some basic details? That’s all?

Short answer: no.  

The information in a project charter sets the tone for the project’s execution and has long-term effects. 

Here are five key reasons why project charters are super important: 

1. Clarifies the project objective

Working on a project without understanding the project objective is like walking in the dark: you’re going to progress slowly and possibly even hurt yourself in the process. 

Thankfully, you’ll receive this crucial objective information in the project charter. 

A charter document clarifies why the project should exist by mentioning:

  • The strategic objectives a business is achieving by conducting the project
  • The larger project goal driving the team
  • Specific project milestones to be met along the way
  • Nature of deliverables that’ll be covered by the project

So does this mean you’ll need a magnifying glass to read everything in a project charter? 

Absolutely not!

While the project charter does not drill down to the minute details of the project objective, it sets the stage for this analysis. 

2. Sets a rough timeline

Don’t you hate it when the project’s deadline clock starts ticking?

But there’s no need to be nervous because a good charter lays out a generous (yet reasonable) project timeline. 

Why generous?

You can work out specific deadlines when you create a more detailed project plan document, like the statement of work.  

In the short term, a project charter gives you a clear cut timeline to finish your project. Work backward from the deadline to determine your exact project schedule

So while you can’t stop all the clocks in the house, you’ll be able to meet your deadlines on time.

3. Specifies roles and responsibilities in the project team

As any superhero movie will tell you, simply gathering talented people is not enough. 

They need to know their role in the team.

And your project team is no less important than the Justice League. 

Other than the fact that they’re not in charge of battling alien invaders and saving the world every week.

But hey, that app isn’t going to develop itself, right?

The project charter defines the roles and responsibilities of each project stakeholder like the project manager, project sponsor, development team, etc.

This way, everyone knows what they have to do, right from the get-go.

The team can avoid confusion and simply focus on doing their job right!

4. Describes project requirements

The project charter is like a descriptive menu: it clarifies not just what you’re going to achieve, but also how you’re going to do it. 

Most of this is covered in the project requirements section. 

Here, you’ll find answers to what technical and non-technical resources, and what process requirements go into making a project a success. 

Sorta like the ingredients you need to cook an amazing dish! 

The dish being your project, of course. 

With the information a charter provides, you can determine how to allocate existing organizational resources and what new resources you need easily.

5. Serves as a contract

If the superheroes in your project team are to work together, they need to clearly understand what they’re aiming to achieve. And the project charter helps them out here. 

Usually, the charter is discussed and approved by all key stakeholders in the project. 

This helps develop a shared understanding of all important matters among the major stakeholders

Additionally, if there are any high-level disagreements or concerns, the respective project stakeholder can clarify it immediately. 

After all, how often is it that everyone agrees on something?

I mean, it’s hard enough finding a restaurant your entire team loves, imagine how hard it is to develop a project plan they all immediately sign off on!

Once everyone agrees with the project’s purpose and approach, the charter carries their seal of approval, and the project team can begin executing the project (or saving the world) with confidence!

How to Create a Project Charter (with a Project Charter Example)

You’re probably sitting with a pen and paper, wondering how to draft a good project charter, right?

Don’t worry.  

We’ll answer that question using a project charter example for a sample project on:

Building team management software.

Here’s how to draft various sections of the project charter document for our sample project:

#1: Project background details

Do you believe in the power of first impressions?

Well, the first section of the project charter is your place to make a good one!

This is where you introduce your project as briefly as possible. 

Pay special attention to your project name: don’t make it too vague or too lengthy. 

Instead, keep it simple and straightforward.

Example

Date: July 2, 2020

Name: Development team management software for XYZ Company

Project purpose: A handy, easytouse app that’ll help organizations manage their teams efficiently

Project sponsor: Sansa Stark

Project manager: Jon Snow

#2: Details about the project purpose

In this section, you clarify the project purpose introduced in the previous section. 

However, a project charter is no place for lengthy details and plans. All that can come later in an exhaustive project management plan

Here, you describe a business case or the strategic objectives that the project will fulfill. 

If your client has already given you a business case document, you can refer to it. 

If not, determine your client’s business case from the initial discussions you have had. 

Essentially, you have to answer the question: why does the business need the project? 

Example:

  • Increase team efficiency by 10% over a year
  • Help team members collaborate easily
  • Improve transparency in teams

#3: Project risks, assumptions, constraints, and dependencies

Whether you’re playing baseball or running a project, you need to cover all your bases. 

Why?

As projects do not function in a vacuum, you’ll have to work with a number of restricting factors that affect you all along the way.

But that’s no reason to stall your progress, right?

Simply mention these factors as briefly as possible in the project charter. 

This way, the major stakeholders and the project team will be aware of any limiting factor. 

In a project management charter, these factors are divided into:

  • Risks: events, factors, or decisions that can negatively affect your project
  • Assumptions: conditions that’ll probably remain constant during the project’s course
  • Constraints: restrictions that control the scope and pace of your project
  • Dependencies: internal/external factors that your project’s success depends on

Example

  • Project risks: 
    • Lack of adequate funding
    • Product is not ready in time for the launch
  • Project assumptions: 
    • List of product features remain constant for 2 iterations
    • The client will revert within a week for feedback and approval
  • Project constraints:
    • Development team size in the performing organization
    • The first version of the product must be tested in December 2020
  • Project dependencies
    • Insights from the user study conducted by a marketing agency 
    • Client approval to hire freelancers 

#4: Deliverables  

Just like how a recipe book comes with pictures of the final dish, your project charter will give the stakeholders a taste of the final outcome. 

The deliverables section describes how the project’s objective will translate into the project outcome.

It’s sorta like breaking down your project goal into a SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, timely) goal. But more importantly, you define the project scope and mention what falls outside this scope.  

This helps you avoid one of the biggest project risks: scope creep

What’s scope creep?

When a project’s scope uncontrollably expands beyond its original scope statement, it’s known as scope creep. It can put undue stress on your team in terms of resource costs and time. 

So if you want to avoid resource intensive changes beyond the original project scope, you need to clearly define your deliverables

You can always detail your list of deliverables further when you draft your scope statement later. 

Example:

Scope of deliverables for team management software:

  • Web-based platform
  • Android, iOS, and desktop apps

Out of scope: 

  • Video conferencing features in the mobile versions
  • On-site training for users

And while you’ll still have to actually deliver on what you promise, your project charter is sure to get your clients excited for what you’re cooking up!

#5: Project requirements

As a project manager, you plan E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G.

But don’t worry, you’re guaranteed to have a better success rate than Sylvester here because your project plan will include a list of project requirements

This accounts for all the technical and non-technical resources that your project’s success depends on. However, remember that your project charter will only introduce your project requirements briefly.

Example:

  • Technical requirements: software licenses, mobile devices for testing the software
  • Non-technical or human resources: development team, designers, business analysts 
  • Process requirements: training team members on new processes like the Agile workflow or Scrum methodology

#6: Success criteria

Don’t you wish project management was as simple as simple checking things off a list?

Well, it almost is. 

Part of the project charter’s function is to create a shared understanding among the major stakeholders about the project’s critical success factors

These success criteria are conditions you need to fulfill in order to call your project a success. 

But if the success criteria are weak, vague, or not in line with your project goal, you can set the wrong model for project success. Instead, make your critical success factors into a list of metrics that are easy to calculate and judge.  

Example:

Critical success factors for the team management app:

  • 100,000 app downloads in the first month
  • 40% of total users are daily active users
  • A minimum 30% retention rate

#7: Project milestones and timelines

Everyone likes updates. But no one likes the time spent on giving and receiving them.

The project management charter hack for this problem is the same as everything: plan it all!

For long term projects, make a summary milestone schedule in your project charter. 

This lets your clients know what you’ll be delivering and when. 

With this information in hand, they know exactly when to expect important updates from you. 

And you can plan all your deliveries in advance to meet your summary milestone schedule

These project milestones are also opportunities for your team to take stock and restrategize if needed

Example:

Summary milestone schedule for the team management app:

Project milestone

Due

Detailed project management plan August 1, 2020
Wireframes for V1 September 1, 2020
Working V1 October/November 1, 2020

#8: Key stakeholders and team roles

Remember your team of superheroes

This section of your project charter is dedicated to learning everything about them!

Well, Dopinder, if you read the project charter, you’d already know the answer to that question!

(It’s because Deadpool thinks its slimming #redisthenewblack)

And while an actual project charter might not go into as much detail about your team, it definitely clarifies a lot of things.

Naming key stakeholders will let your project team members know who’s in charge of what during the project. This enhances transparency and accountability in your team. 

Once the charter is approved, you’ll have to build a communication plan to keep the stakeholders and team on the same page. 

Moreover, when it’s time to celebrate your project’s success, everyone will know who to toast to!

Example:

Name and designation of each key project stakeholder:

  • Project initiator: Ned Stark, Co-founder and CEO
  • Project sponsor: Sansa Stark, CTO
  • Project manager: Jon Snow, Team Leader

#9: Project budget

Once you’ve mentioned all that goes into making the project, you can answer the biggest question on everyone’s minds: what’s it going to cost?

Here, you can either mention the total project budget or attach it to various phases of delivery. 

Either way, make sure your figures are based on previous project budget estimates and discussions with your client.  

Ultimately, the project plan must reflect how the budget will help your team achieve the project’s objective

Example:

Project milestone

Due

Estimated Budget

Wireframes for V1 September 1, 2020 $120,000
Working V1 October/November 1, 2020 $120,000
Working V2 January 1, 2021 $120,000
Final Version April 1, 2021 $125,000
Total $485,000

Note: You may also include a section on ‘project manager authority levels’ to further clarify their role in the project. 

A Project Charter Template You Can Use

Click here to download this project charter template.

The 3 Things to Avoid in a Good Project Charter

A project charter template is the essential formative document for your project. 

But the process is not going to be rainbows and sunshine throughout!

Most project managers can get stressed out by the documentation demands of a project. 

And this sometimes affects their decision-making abilities and drafting skills.

So here are three key things to avoid when drafting your project charter: 

#1: Detailed explanations

The project charter is only a high-level overview of your project management plan and doesn’t require granular details. 

 Phew! That makes the task super easy, right?

Think again.

While the charter only gives an overview, you’ll still need to maintain absolute clarity about everything because it’ll shape the project’s future. Ideally, there should be a balance between being brief and detailed.

Additionally, you can supplement the charter with additional documents like the client brief or requirements list for reference. This will help the stakeholder or team understand the project’s purpose better, making the charter precise and to the point. 

#2: Including only text and no visuals

Imagine a stakeholder who’s reading your charter after a long, monotonous day. For them, this might just be another piece of information to read and forget. 

Even the hardened company man here can’t keep up with the details!

Avoid this with simple visual hacks. 

Usually, the project charter is no longer than 4 pages. So ditch the boring rulebook format of a simple Microsoft Word document

Instead, download a charter template that uses a grid format to place relevant information side by side. This lets your reader get a complete overview at one glance. 

Additionally, add images (graphs, Gantt chart, etc.) for the summary milestone schedule

And make sure you use text formatting to highlight the most important details. 

#3: Not involving your team

The project charter is certainly one of the smallest and simplest documents to draft. 

But this does not take away its significance. 

If you draft it all by yourself, without any help, you might end up representing a partial picture of the project.  

You’ll need your team’s support to iron out crucial details. 

I mean, superheroes do their best work as a team, right?

For example, the development team members who attended your client’s training session may have a better idea of their delivery expectations. Whereas the business analyst can offer you some insights into the right time to launch your product. 

So instead of doing it all alone, involve your team members in the process.

How to Create Your Own Project Charter Template with ClickUp

If you’re a project veteran, you know what’s about to happen as soon as the project is authorized. 

But if you’re new to the game, brace yourself!

Tasks, deadlines, plans, and more are about to drop on you from the sky. 

So having a project management tool that allows you to create project charter templates can be a lifesaver!

But how do you do that? 

Simple: with a powerful project management software like ClickUp.

The best project management tool for 2020: ClickUp

ClickUp is the world’s leading project and scope management tool that’s used by 100,000+ teams in businesses ranging from startups to giants like Google, Uber, Nike, and Airbnb. 

It’s got a wide variety of features that’ll make everything, from drafting charters to managing projects, a cakewalk. ClickUp is the only firepower your project team needs to work efficiently!

Here’s a quick look at how ClickUp helps you out:

A. Create your project charter in Docs

Want to create your own project charter template

While creating a charter from scratch can be as tiring as running a marathon, it doesn’t have to be.

Just go over to ClickUp’s Docs for all the functionality and none of the effort!

With its rich collaboration features, you can invite your team members to draft along with you. All without toggling between a dozen windows.

And once you’re done drafting, organize and store your docs safely in your ClickUp project space for future reference. It’ll always be just a few clicks away.

Here’s how it makes drafting an intuitive and collaborative experience for you:

  • Embed URLs and customize their appearance
  • Nest pages within docs for better categorization
  • Customizable access rights for collaboration
  • Rich text-formatting 
  • Let Google index these docs to show up in search results

B. Set up and assign Tasks, Subtasks, and Checklists

The humble notepad could have been a loyal friend all your life. 

As a project manager, you’ll have to coordinate multiple tasks assigned to your team members. And your pen will surely run out of ink before you can write down all the to-dos.

With ClickUp as your loyal friend, it’s another story. 

Just create: 

  • Tasks and subtasks for various project parts and assign them to each stakeholder or team member
  • Checklists that simplify the task into steps and check them off as you progress 

You also get bonus features like:

  • Nesting: create as many sub-items as you need in the Checklist
  • Drag and Drop functionality: simply move the items and reschedule them
  • Assigning items: assign Checklist items to any team member directly
  • Templates: prepare Checklist templates based on the nature of your project

C. Track progress with Goals

Running a project without an eye on the project goal is like going on a road trip without a map: it’s risky and time-consuming. 

For efficient project management, you need to set strategic objectives and measure progress regularly. 

The biggest advantage?

You can always feel good about how far you have come when you look at your progress. 

And that’s exactly what you get with ClickUp’s Goals feature!

In ClickUp, a Goal is a high-level container broken down into smaller metrics called Targets

For example, if your Goal is “build a team management software”, you can divide it into various Targets like:

  • True/False: whether a feature has been developed or not
  • Tasks: completion rates of the various development cycle stages
  • Currency: budgets for the development process
  • Number: app downloads

As you complete these Targets, ClickUp automatically updates the overall progress percentage, showing you exactly how far you’ve come.

D. Experience smooth workflows with Automation

Whether you’re planning charters or managing a project, there can be many routine, repetitive tasks. However, these are still essential tasks which you simply can’t ignore. 

If only you had some cutting-edge, alien technology to do these tasks, project management would be much easier…

Well, you don’t need one when you have ClickUp’s Automation feature!

This feature lets you automate tasks, helping you save time and focus on things that matter more.

The formula?

If a trigger happens and a condition is true, a specific action is executed automatically.

Access 50+ prebuilt Automations as well as customize your Automation processes according to your needs.

Here are some of the prebuilt Automations ClickUp has in store for you:

  • Automatically change the assignee when a task’s status changes
  • Apply a template when a task is created
  • Update task priority when its checklist is resolved
  • Change tags when a task’s due date arrives
  • Archive a task when its priority changes

But ClickUp’s feature list is far from over.

This project management software also offers features like:

Conclusion

Without a project charter document, you don’t have a project, you just have ideas. 

But drafting one doesn’t have to be a herculean task.

Just use the project charter examples covered in this article to get an idea of what should go into a charter. 

If you’ve downloaded the project charter template from here, you can get started on drafting it right away. 

But beyond documentation, the key to project success lies in efficient management. 

And if you’re looking for help in that department, why not sign up for ClickUp today?

ClickUp has a comprehensive set of features that’ll help you throughout the project development process. And since the software will be doing most of the legwork, you can focus on making your project a grand success!

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