Project charters are valued differently by different organizations, depending on how “project-mature” it may be, the nature and scope of the work being done or even the perceived value of a charter by the project sponsor.
Every project, regardless of size or scope should have a project charter. The size and complexity of a project will help determine the nature of the charter document but there are key elements from the project charter that need to be solidified for every project. The charter is not typically used as a contract but more so a verbose description of how the project will be managed, including scope description, schedule, budget, stakeholder roles and responsibilities, risk register and communication plans.
The charter needs to spell out what the purpose of the project is and what the expected outcomes are. This provides a clear understanding to all stakeholders in order to effectively manage expectations on scope.
Schedule and Budget
Some organizations choose not to publish project budgets in the charter due to the document not being a contractual item however most organizations will want budget information in the charter. Schedules are usually published at a high level for charter purposes but at the very least the key schedule milestones need to be communicated in the project charter.
Stakeholder Roles and Responsibilities
A stakeholder is someone who has a vested interest in the success of your project, and that will almost always include people not on the project team or in a sponsorship role. It is important that they are named on the charter as well as describe the role that they will fill on the project.
Risk management is ongoing throughout the project however it is good practice to communicate known risks (and mitigation strategy) at the start of a project.
This is arguably the most important piece of the project charter. As a project manager it is your job to be the hub for all project communications. In large projects with many stakeholders it can be difficult to effectively manage stakeholder communications. By having a communicated plan in place it will not only give the project manager a play-book on managing communications but will also give stakeholders a good understanding of what they can expect for communications on the project. By using a RACI matrix combined with your stakeholder lost you can effectively inventory all stakeholders and communication artifacts.