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What Even Is A Project Charter?

Updated: Feb 26

By: Megan Huffman

Business people shaking hands over paperwork

There are many documents and paperwork needed to properly manage a project and the overlap can be confusing and frustrating at times. According to Elizabeth Harrin, the award-winning blogger behind A Girl's Guide To Project Management, project documents are defined as:

"The documentation created by a project manager in order to adequately manage, control and deliver the project."

Organizing the project management process by phase helps define which documents belong to which project phase. Our first phase will always be the concept where the project idea begins as a business case. Following this, we move into the initiation phase where the project charter document will make its first appearance. Here is where Harrin reminds us that: "Without a project charter document, your project doesn't formally exist!"

After initiation, we move onto planning where we will define how the project will be managed, monitored, and controlled through a project schedule. Once our schedule is defined, we enter the execution phase where we will incorporate a RAID tracker, status reports, budget tracker, and more. The final phase, closure, provides us with the lessons learned throughout the project as well as the final project closure document that summarizes the deliverables, project performance, outstanding risks/issues/actions needed, file locations, and any other documentation or information needed to finalize the project.

Image from KISSFLOW

Focusing on the initiation phase, the project charter can and should be referenced throughout the project lifecycle to keep teams focused by defining the scope, the roles and responsibilities of those involved, as well as identifying risks, timelines, and budgets. The charter moves the project from an idea to an actual program that allocates owners, gives authority to project managers, and defines what the project entails.

Since other documents pull information from the project charter, we recommend opting for a more substantial template that can be easily referenced throughout the entirety of the project. Using a more extensive or established template allows you to then "Tailor the project documentation you need so that you can best manage your project". Harrin recommends using project documents as a guideline in order to spend less time creating paperwork that, ultimately, won't add value to your team or project.



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