Topic 2 Project charter

A project is guided by several documents. The project charter is an initial document that formally authorises the project’s existence and enables the project manager to apply organisational resources to the project’s activities.

It offers a high-level, usually short (1-2 pages) description of the project, and summarises the main points of the project’s scope, content and realization (e.g. budget, milestones, characteristics of deliverables, etc.); the project’s manager; and, the project’s important stakeholders. Indeed, a well-designed project charter:

  • Offers a clear outline of the project objectives
  • Describes the project scope, assumptions and constraints
  • Defines the project’s timeline and overall budget
  • Delegates roughly roles and responsibilities
  • Sets core milestones for evaluation and control


A project charter can include the following:

  • purpose or goal of the project
  • measurable project objectives and success criteria
  • high-level requirements
  • high-level risks
  • summary milestone schedule
  • summary budget
  • stakeholder list
  • approval requirements (i.e., what constitutes success, who decides on that, who signs off on the project)
  • an assigned project manager, responsibility, and authority level
  • name and authority of the sponsor or other person(s) authorising the project charter

Project Charter

Project goal: describe high level statements that provide overall context for what the project is trying to achieve and should align to business goals.
Summary milestone: describe deliverables or major events that may be identified as completed or not completed on a specified date.
Project objectives: describe lower level statements related to the project’s specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound products and deliverables.
Summary budget: enter the preliminary budget information needed to support the project.
Project requirements: describe what characteristics the proposed project products must have.
Stakeholders: describe an individual, group, or organization who may be affected by the project activity or result.
Project risks: describe at a high level the most significant areas of risk for this project.
Approval requirements: what constitutes project success?
Project manager: describe responsibilities and authority level of the project manager.
Sponsor: who is funding the project?

Table by Stanislava Milankov (Project Assistant at the Assembly of European Regions – AER)

Clarifying, Goals and Objectives describe the project’s aims.

  • Goals are high-level statements providing overall context for what the project is trying to achieve, and should align to the organisation’s business goals.
  • Objectives are lower level statements describing the project’s specific, tangible products and deliverables. Objectives must be well-defined: namely, Specific, Measurable, Attainable/Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound (SMART), to provide a solid basis for the evaluation of the project’s degree of success.

Success is measured in terms of outputs, outcomes and benefits:

  • A project’s output is the project’s deliverable.
  • An outcome is the result of the change derived from using the project’s output (deliverable).
  • A benefit is a measurable improvement from an outcome.

S.M.A.R.T. objectives. Graph by Maria Kouri

In the case that a project is managed within the boundaries of an organisation, it cannot be stressed enough that the project charter should not antagonise, but support the organisation’s overall mission and long-term strategy.

Indeed, a business strategy can be considered as the “umbrella”, a long-term plan of action which seeks to achieve a set of organisational goals and objectives that will ultimately support the organisation to achieve its mission. A project charter is a business document to undertake the efficient and effective management of a project in order to support the reaching out of the strategic objectives.