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What is a Project Charter?

Smartpedia: A project charter briefly documents the essential information about a project and serves as a source of information and communication tool.

Project charter – condensed project information at a glance

The project charter briefly documents the essential information about a project including

  • project name,
  • project objectives,
  • project contents,
  • project reasons and project benefits,
  • project environment and project organisation,
  • schedule,
  • costs,
  • opportunities and risks, and
  • responsibilities and participants.

It thus contains the essential facts about a project.

Since in practice there are various documents in companies that cover similar or even identical contents – e.g. the project proposal, the project mandate or the project definition – it is important that those involved agree on their procedure and the form of the documentation.

In a way, the project charter – sometimes also named project outline or project profile – is also similar to a project brief, as defined for example by the British project management method PRINCE2: “A project brief serves as a complete and solid basis for the initiation of the project and is created as part of the start-up of a project process.” The project charter also documents solid information about a project, in contrast to the project brief ideally on a single page or a maximum of two pages. It is therefore practically an information sheet and not a comprehensive document on a project.

The purpose of project charter

What is the purpose of project charter? This question can be answered with two main points:

  • The clear, condensed presentation of a project with its essential attributes enables stakeholders to quickly gain an idea of the project in question. The project profile is thus a source of information that provides a view of structured project information in a very short time.
  • It is also a communication tool that facilitates the exchange between stakeholders – e.g. the PMO and project leaders, management and PMO, client and contractor, etc.


Advantages of project charters

A project charter offers the following advantages:

  • It presents the important information about a project at a glance and thus increases the common understanding of all stakeholders.
  • Those involved and interested in the project have a common state of information that defines the scope of the project and at the same time always serves as a reference in the course of the project. Indirectly, it is a kind of insurance against additional tasks and efforts.
  • If an organisation uses a standardised template for documentation, on the one hand the collection of project information is facilitated and on the other hand the readability for stakeholders is improved.
  • Of course, the structured recording of essential project information ensures that central aspects are not easily overlooked in the run-up to project implementation.

In some publications, the project charter is also referred to as a decision-making document for the implementation of a project. Such statements should be treated with caution, because a project charter does not replace a business case, for example.

Project Charter- condensed presentation of essential project information

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How useful is it to update the project charter during the course of a project?


Here you can find a German video about the creation of project outlines.

And here you can find additional information from our Smartpedia section:

Smartpedia: What are the tasks of a PMO?

What are the tasks of a PMO?

Smartpedia: What is a Project Organisation?

What is a Project Organisation?