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A project charter (PC) is a document that states a project exists and provides the project manager with written authority to begin work.
The document helps the project manager to communicate his authority and explain to project participants and stakeholders why the project is needed, who it involves, how long the project will take to complete, how much it will cost, what resources are needed and how successful completion of the project will help the organization. Once created, the document is rarely (if ever) amended.
Depending on a company's culture and management style, a charter may serve the same purpose as a business case. In a large corporation, the charter may be a multi-page document written up by mid-level management after a business case has been approved but before the project scope has been defined. In a small startup company, however, the charter might just be a few paragraphs with bulleted items and the company president’s signature.
Project charter templates often include the following components:
- Project goal - documents the reasons for undertaking the project in clear, concise language.
- Project participants - identifies what people need to be involved in the project and clearly states their roles.
- Stakeholders - identifies other people who will be directly affected by the project and need to know about the project's progress.
- Requirements - identifies what resources are required for the project's objectives to be achieved.
- Constraints - documents potential roadblocks or bottlenecks.
- Milestones - identifies start date and completion dates as well as dates for other important checkpoints.
- Communication - specifies how the project manager will communicate with project owners, participants and stakeholders through the project.
- Deliverables - documents what specific products, processes or services the project will provide upon completion.
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