Project Charter

Published: 2009-07-19
Last updated: 2022-03-16

In its wider sense, the project charter or project management charter is a document that defines project goal(s), participants, organization, scope, schedule, and budget. If we want to focus more on tasks and benefits of the project manager or team members we use a project manager agreement or project manager target agreement.

In the early definition phase, when it becomes clear that we want or have to undertake a project of which we only had fuzzy ideas in the very beginning, we form a project team and assign its members the responsibility for managing the project. Working together with the project stakeholders, the team refines the project vision and defines the project goal(s) and requirements or specifications of the project results. Consequently, a project charter issued in the early definition phase may contain clearly defined project goal(s) as well as team member assignments including their role descriptions; however, scope, schedule, and budget might still be a little rough.

It is common practice to have different teams or team members working on the project over its different phases. Therefore, we usually prepare a charter in its wider sense on the project level and more specific target agreements for the project manager and project team members.

Let us have a look at the typical content of the project charter and the project manager agreement.

Project Charter / Project Management Charter

Project Goal(s) Short and clear statement about the project goal(s)
Problem / Scope / Benefits What are the reasons to undertake this project?
What problem will be solved by the project?
What are possible solutions?
What is the expected scope?
What is not included in the scope?
What are the benefits for the organization, in terms of strategy implementation, innovation, revenue, profit, synergy, saving of cost, net present value (or IRR, etc., cf. sub-section Project Selection)?
Deliverables Short description of project results
Major Milestones Requirements / specification of project results complete
RFP or RFQ issued
Proposal and / or Quotation complete
Proposal and / or Quotation submitted
Project plan complete, contract negotiations finalized
Contract signed
Design Freeze
Manufacturing complete
Deliverables on site
Installation complete
System tests successful
Commissioning complete
Preliminary acceptance issued
List of open points closed
Handover to customer complete
Final acceptance issued
Assumptions Availability of human resources in relevant areas of expertise, on necessary skill levels
Availability of raw materials
Availability of manufacturing capacities
Risks What major risks do we anticipate?
Opportunities What opportunities, not yet covered under benefits, do we anticipate?
Participants, Roles, and Responsibilities Project stakeholders and sponsor(s)
Project control board
Project manager
Commercial project manager
Contract manager
Hardware systems engineer
Software systems engineer
Customer service, etc.
Authorization of the Project Manager Signatures of control board members and project manager

In section Free Downloads, you find a template of a project management charter.

Project Manager Agreement / Project Manager Target Agreement

Project Goal(s) Project goal(s) of the customer
Organization internal project goals
Project Description Scope: deliverables and services, PBS, WBS
Schedule: milestones, detailed time schedule
Budget: accumulated project cost plan
Responsibilities and Main Tasks of the Project Manager Leadership responsibility for the project team
Responsibilities for the project contract
Proposal management
Project planning, implementation, closure
Authorities of the project manager Authority to issue instructions towards team members
Contractual authority
Other authorities
Responsibility of steering committee Authority over the project
First escalation level above project manager
Reporting Regular reporting
Event-driven reporting
Resources Human resources, i.e. team members
Incentives For project manager and team members
Validity period of this Agreement

In sub-section Free Downloads, you find also a template of a project manager agreement.

While project charters focus on the project, project manager agreements tend more towards target agreements for individuals.

35+ templates, tools, and checklists in one set

To save you time in your daily work as a project manager, I packaged more than 35 project management templates, tools, and checklists into one zip file.

  • You un-zip it, and you get all items in formats you can edit to your requirements.
  • They strictly contain only standard functionality and no macros or other code.
  • You are allowed to use your logo.
Templates & Checklists for Implementation and Closure Phase
for only
or click here for more info.

Traditional PM
Learning Path Navigation

Related topics

  • Project Contract Structure

    In this sub-section, we present the basics of setting up a project contract structure.

  • Project Management Handbook

    In this sub-section, we present the basic structure of the project management handbook.

  • Stakeholder Management

    In this sub-section, we introduce the stakeholder management process and stakeholder analysis.

  • SMART Goals

    In this sub-section, we explain the acronym SMART, why SMART goals are important for successful project management, and the basics of management by objectives.

  • Project Definition

    In this section, we present the main activities of project definition phase, defining the project goal(s) and starting stakeholder management.

Return to Definition Phase

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