A Project Charter is a document describing key aspects of why a project team is established, what is expected of it, and what authority and responsibility it has. The Program Manager (PM) creates the project charter during the planning phase with input from key Stakeholders. It serves as a reference of authority for the future of the project and its key objectives. The project charter is usually a short document that refers to more detailed documents such as the Acquisition Strategy, Systems Engineering Plan or Request for Proposal (RFP).
“The project charter should be agreed upon and signed by all stakeholders”
Steps to Developing the Project Charter Content
There are as many parts of a Project that need to be developed but first focus on gathering information and defining the key topics. Once you have the key topics defined the others will be a lot easier to develop.
- Step 1: Write the Introduction: Explain what work needs to be accomplished, the purpose, and who is involved. This forms the baseline for the entire project and helps potential offers understand and set their prices and capabilities.
- Step 2: Determine the Project Charter Purpose: Answer the question of why are we doing this. To do this establish a purpose statement and answer the basic questions of what are the goals, deliverables, and objectives.
- Step 3: What’s the Scope of Work: Determine the process that will be used to complete the work.
- Step 4: What the Main Tasks: Break the project down into more high-level tasks to include so everyone understands what needs to be done
- Step 5: Determine the Deliverables for Success: List each main deliverable, show when it is due.
- Step 6: Determine Organizational Structure: State the role and responsibilities of the main parties and team members in the charter
- Step 7: Develop the Schedule: Start with all the steps/tasks the project needs to accomplish then create a realistic schedule around that.
- Step 8: Assumptions and Ground Rules: Any and all assumptions and rules related to this project must be clearly described.
Create the Project Charter
To create the actual Project Charter it is best to use an established template from your organization or from a legal entity. A template also makes sure you are addressing all questions and you didn’t leave out any content.
Template: Project Charter Template
Project Charter Format
Below is a suggested project charter format:
- Paragraph 1: Formally authorize the project
- Paragraph 2: Project Scope
- Paragraph 3: Identify the Project Manager and give him authority to apply organizational resources to the project
- Paragraph 4: Provide the summary milestone schedule
- Paragraph 5: General project information
- Paragraph 6: Project Budget – state the budget for the project and identify funding sources
Project Charter Topics
Examples of topics that can be included in a project charter include: 
- Purpose: Describe why the team exists and what it is intended to accomplish.
- Goals/objectives: List specific, measurable items the team is focused on achieving to help it exceed its customer’s expectations.
- Critical success factors: List the critical actions the team must perform to ensure it is successful in fulfilling its purpose.
- End products/deliverables: Describe the item(s) the team is responsible for delivering.
- Authority and accountability: Describe what team members are allowed/not allowed to do without authorization from a higher level. Describe what they are responsible for completing.
- Metrics: List measures of progress for critical success factors and goals/objectives.
- Program schedule: List key program/team milestones and events.
- Team membership: List team members and contact information.
- Roles and responsibilities: List specific assignments for improving team performance (e.g., timekeeper, recorder or scribe, scheduler, etc.). Also, list specific tasks and/or action items the team is assigned to complete.
- Resources required: Describe the funding, materials, equipment, support, etc., the team needs to complete its mission.
- Program organizational structure: Define where the team fits within the overall program office structure.
- Project Assumptions: Any and all assumptions related to this project must be clearly described.
- Operating agreements/ground rules: List agreed-upon guidelines describing how team members will interact, what processes they will use, and what they expect of one another.
- Customers, suppliers, and stakeholders: List key individuals, teams, and organizations involved with the team’s output.
AcqLinks and References:
-  Website: ACQuipedia – Team Charter
- GTA Project Charter Template
- Project Charter Template
- Sample: DoD Facilities Project Charter