Successful IT Projects – Project Charter

Posted on September 23, 2011


When starting an IT Project make sure  all stakeholders and the core team (systems analysts, subject matter experts,  developers, managers) agree on what the project will accomplish and document it in the Project Charter. Here’s a list of project charter essentials:

  • Company letterhead
    • Identifies who owns the charter, and who should be interested.
  • Descriptive Title
    • If it’s a struggle to write a specific and meaningful title for the project charter more definition of project goals are needed.
  • Document History
    • A simple grid showing what was done and when on the project charter.
  • Authorization to Proceed (with signatures)
    • Asking stakeholders to sign the charter helps ensure they read the document.
  • Project Background
    • A couple of paragraphs to provide the reader a frame of reference. This is a good place to mention the issue the project will address.
  • Goal
    • One sentence stating goal. For example, “Maximize benefits and minimize risks of _________.”
  • Business Needs
    • A list of business activities that will be adversely or positively affected by the project outcome.
  • Business Opportunities
    • A list of enhancements to business activities that will be realized by successful completion of the project. Expected performance improvements of business assets (software, personnel, other assets) can be listed here.
  • Scope
    • Very important. Like looking through a rifle scope. Here a couple of paragraphs identify what can be seen through the scope. What’s outside the scope is for another day, or the next pull on the trigger.
  • Project Objective
    • One sentence identfying what will be done to achieve the  Goal. For example, “Implement _________ software.”
  • Project Phases
    • A high level list of tasks required to complete the project, broken down into phases. The list of tasks in each phase ends with a milestone. For example, “_______ go live”.
  • Assumptions
    • What needs to be in place for the project to succceed. For example, ________ staff will be available to assist.
  • Constraints
    • What is not available or cannot be done. For example, ________ cannot be accomplished in this phase because the organization only has $______ to fund the project.
  • Success Definition
    • One sentence, or two… maybe, definining success. For example, success will be achieved when organization staff are using _______.
  • Project Sponsors, Members, Stakeholders
    • A list of everyone governing, working on, affected by the project. For example, Steering Committe, Systems Owner, System users, development team members (core team).
  • Roles and Responsibilities
    • Who is responsible for what. For example, the Project Leader will be responsible for _________.
  • Resources
    • The project resources should include:
      • System Owner
      • Development team members (core team)
      • Subject Matter Experts (individuals who understand the business process to be affected by the project)
      • Experts who are not members of the core team but whose services will be required. For example, database experts, network experts, contractors, software vendors.
  • Costs
    • Financial costs, time required, assets or infrastucture required to support the project.
  • An assessment of:
    • Strengths
      • A list of organization attributes that will contribute to project success.
    • Weaknesses
      • A list of organization attributes that will contribute to project failure.
    • Opportunities
      • A list of specific opportunities. For example, improvements to the organization’s business processes.
    • Risks
      • A list of potential pitfalls. Again, be specific. For example, staff are not available to work on the project, data corruption during upgrade.
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