No Project Charter- No Project
Have you ever noticed when you take your vehicle in for service, you wonder what is the issue, what is the needed fix, how long until you get your car back, and what is it going to cost? Normally, the dealer or auto-repair person writes up an estimate and then discusses it with you. Many times, they will throw on some suggested services as well and then it is up to you to negotiate those services in or out of the agreement. This is similar to developing the project charter. It is a high level view of the project that is being proposed and may take place.
Just like any project, the project charter is extremely important. According to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), it is the document that formally authorizes the project and so much more. In the example above, it is similar to the estimate being created by the auto-repair shop, only you are the sponsor (payer) of the project and when you sign that estimate, it gives the shop authorization to do their project on your vehicle.
This is one step that cannot be ignored, regardless if operating in a Waterfall or Agile environment. (Read “With the Growth of Agile, is Waterfall Dead?”)
Below are a five reasons this step should always take place and should always be in writing.
1. It authorizes the project to take place:
This is very important as the sponsor agrees with the pre-planning that took place such as developing a business case for the project. The worst thing you can do is not have this in writing. If it becomes a he said/ she said and money was spent, then this may be bad juju for your company or your job.
2. It defines what issues the project will address and why the project is needed:
The business need will be discussed at a high level view in this document. This will also prevent what is called scope creep (customer adding to requirements later on a whim) or gold-plating where those working on the project try to add value when not asking for the added features or services.
3. Identifies who the Project Manager is:
Ever heard of the term, too many chiefs and not enough braves? Depending on the organization handling the project, the project manager will be a powerful manager or an on-loan manager leading the project. More on that in another article. The project manager is the one who owns the responsibility of completing the project on-time and on-budget while meeting the specifications. A project manager can delegate authority, but can never delegate responsibility.
4. Provides the budget:
In the Army, we used to say, never mess with the governments money. This is true in the corporate world as well! Operating without a written charter is risking spending money that someone may later deny allocating. The charter will define total expected budget and where the money may come from.
5. Provides major milestones:
Nothing like knowing what is expected of you and when. There is a comfort in knowing that you should pass a certain milestone by a certain time. There is a lot of stress when you don’t. So be careful!
Conclusion: Make sure your sponsor signs the document and file it away for future reference. Never, ever start a project without this.
Nathan J. Kerr, MS, PMP is the co-owner and founder of PMCertDC – Washington D.C.’s metro area premier project management boot camp provider. With our primary location in Tysons, Virginia, we hold classes throughout the Washington D.C. metro area and anywhere online.
We are a proud Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business with a huge impact on the project management world. Visit us at https://pmcertdc.com
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