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”
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
Template: Project Charter Template
Example 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.
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