Project charters are often overlooked on well established, trusted teams. While this is a typical situation, it doesn't necessarily mean that it's a good situation. Not surprisingly, there are a fair amount of project managers and executive level IT management who are unfamiliar with what exactly a project charter is and how it can benefit the project before it even begins.
A good project charter:
- Identifies the project vision
- Identifies project objectives
- Defines the project scope
- Considers Risks
- Includes a project plan
This PDF from Mosaic Projects begins by explaining what a project charter is: The Project Charter describes the project vision and objectives (the reasons for doing the work. It also summarises at a high level the overall project strategy, scope, organisation and implementation. It helps to set the direction for the project and gain buy in from key stakeholders as to how the project will be organised and implemented. It also helps control the scope of the project, by defining exactly what it is that you have to achieve. Ideally, the Charter is provided to the project manager by the project sponsor and helps set the direction for the project and gain support from key stakeholders as to how the project will be managed. If the Charter is missing or inadequate the project manager should develop or augment the document and have the document agreed and signed by the sponsor or project initiator before starting any other planning process. The PDF then goes on to list elements of a good project charter and what project management, the project sponsor, and executive level management are expected to carry out in the review and approval of the charter. By completely listing the expectations, benefits, and outcomes of the project, project charters allow for some ambiguity to be removed. All parties involved in the project can accurately see what success looks like as well, which helps control scope creep and project costs.