Best Practices

Quick Guide to a Project Charter (Example Included)

Jonathan Friedman
September 21, 2020
Quick Guide to a Project Charter (Example Included)

Project charters. You've likely used them before or heard of them while working on a project. Or maybe you're here because you recently joined a project, and a project team member just mentioned the term, but you're not quite sure what they are talking about. Whether you're an expert or a newbie, we'll share everything you need to know or want to know about project charters in this article. We'll also shed light on why TrueNxus is the only project management software to include a project charter as a feature.

Below is everything we will cover. Feel free to skip ahead.

  1. What is a project charter?
  2. How do you write a project charter (example included)?
  3. The 5 benefits of a charter
  4. 3 Things you should avoid in any meaningful charter
  5. Why are project charters important?
  6. Build your project charter with software by TrueNxus

What is a project charter?

A project charter is a short document, typically one page that provides a high-level summary of the project, why it is being undertaken, and the team involved in planning and executing the work. Occasionally, you'll find project charters, also referred to as project definitions, or project statements. As a best practice, it is best to create a charter during the project initiation phase, the first of five project management phases.

Based on managing hundreds of projects, we at TrueNxus believe that you should capture the below information in any charter.

How do you write a project charter (example included)?

There are many ways to write a project charter; however, we at TrueNxus recommend creating an initial draft yourself and reviewing with the project team and updating it together. Alternatively, you and the project team can build it together through a working session. However, be mindful that everyone is busy, and therefore people tend to perform better and appreciate it when they can react rather than create from scratch.

Irrespective of the approach you decide to take, doing it yourself, then reviewing it as a team, or creating it as a project team from scratch, it's vital that you make the project charter from the very beginning. It is critical that everyone on the project team, from the Executive Sponsor down to someone responsible for delivering work, be aligned on the project objectives.

Try our free Excel project charter template or free Google Sheets project charter template.

The 5 benefits of a charter

Project charters provide many benefits. The information in a project charter level-sets every stakeholder. Here are five reasons why project charters are essential 

1. Defines the project's scope and objective

Working on a project without understanding the project's scope and objective is like being blind: you're going to progress slowly without any knowledge of why you're doing what you're doing.

Thankfully, with a project charter, you will understand the purpose of the project in the first place.


A project charter document clarifies why the project should exist by mentioning:

While the project charter does not go into the weeds of the project plan's specific details, it sets the stage for outlining the project at a more detailed level.


2. Sets a rough timeline

Another project charter benefit is that it sets out a rough timeline of deliverables. However, you can work out project timeline details when creating a more detailed project plan.

A project charter gives you a clear-cut timeline to complete your project in the near term. It allows you and your team to work backward from the target completion date to determine your exact project schedule. 

3. Outlines roles and responsibilities in the project team

The third benefit to a project charter is its ability to set expectations of roles and responsibilities in a project. It outlines the following types of project teammates:

As a result, every stakeholder knows what they have to do, right from the get-go. The project team can avoid confusion and only plan and execute the actual work. They also know how to raise any issues or risks and help them tackle any roadblocks that arise.

4. Describes project requirements

The fourth benefit of a project charter is that it clarifies not just what you're going to accomplish but also how you're going to do it. 

With the information outlined in a project charter, you can determine how to allocate resources.

5. Acts as a contract

The fifth benefit of a project charter is that it serves as a contract for every stakeholder. By including stakeholders at the beginning of a project, you're getting their buy-in through the creation of a project.

With buy-in from stakeholders, they are more likely to drive toward the project's objectives. If you don't do a charter or don't involve the people executing the work, the project will eventually break down. 

3 Things you should avoid in any meaningful charter

A project charter template is a vital project management document. It's like the project's north star. However, the development process is not necessarily easy. There will be disagreement on the who, what, why, and when. A charter is crucial to ensure everyone is aligned and on the same page on what the expectations are.

Here are three key things that you and your team should avoid when writing a project charter.

1. Avoid minute details

The charter is a high-level overview of your project's scope, objectives, and resources. It's not the project plan itself. However, it is the baseline for any project details to be developed after an agreement is met.

While the charter only gives an overview, you'll still need to sure everyone provides their sign-off because it'll shape the project. In an ideal world, you should balance between being brief and detailed.

More often than not, additional documents will supplement the charter. , As a result, it's not necessary to put all of the details in the project charter.

2. Don't include visuals or other types of media

Avoid using any fancy media or visuals. Project charters are supposed to be quick and to the point. We recommend keeping the charter template to no more than one page. That's why our built-in project charter template is brief and gets you and your team the information you need.

3. Not including every stakeholder in its creation

If you take away anything from the best practices in creating a project charter, it is to always include every stakeholder in developing the project charter.

If you don't include the people that will be assigning resources or developing the deliverables, the project is bound to fail. Always involve stakeholders in developing the charter, and get their sign-off.

Why are project charters important?

Project charters are a best practice in project management. Charters are essential so that everyone is aligned on the project's objectives, benefits, risks, team assigned, and reporting cadence.

Without a charter, you'll soon experience confusion on the project's objectives and annoyance by various stakeholders as to why they are being asked to do work. Furthermore, colleagues' responsibilities inevitably change, and as a result, project team members will be substituted over time. By having a project charter, you can quickly get the new project team members up to speed as to why the company has embarked on the project and why their involvement is critical.

Build your project charter with software by TrueNxus

TrueNxus is the only project management software that has a project charter template built into the project. As a result, you can align every project team member in the web app, rather than creating a separate document and saving it on some shared drive.

Project charter example illustration

Not only that, but TrueNxus has everything you need to properly plan and execute project management.

Whether you need help with:

TrueNxus has got you covered!

In addition to the built-in project charter, here's a look at some of its features:

1. Multiple views

Personalized views illustration

Your employees and clients require different ways to visualize work across time. Not only that, but each individual specializes in a specific domain, and as such, each thinks about work differently. To ensure successful planning and execution, you need software that provides personalized views that make sense everyone involved in executing the actual work. These views need to be in sync as well.

TrueNxus provides you with the following views:


Plan screenshot

A list is a table that allows you to manage your cross-functional projects easily. You can organize your project work into groups such as workstreams or any logical way to categorize tasks.


Product roadmap or project timeline screenshot

With TrueNxus's Timeline, a Gantt-chart like view, you can visualize your project plans across time. It lets you understand how all of the work fits together. You can make updates to the project plans through an interactive interface.

3. Automated project status reports

Automated project status reports illustration

We understand that each member of your team is busy balancing multiple priorities, from your day-to-day responsibilities to various programs and projects. Therefore, TrueNxus successfully executes monitoring and controlling projects by automatically analyzing the project's health in real-time, giving senior leadership and the team the insights they need to make decisions and move the ball forward.

4. My Work

View all of your work in one place

Another essential thing for everyone involved in project management is understanding what you're on the hook for delivering. With TrueNxus, you can view every task and every dependency vital to you, across every project, in one location, ensuring success.

5. Dependencies


Additionally, we know that you don't want to let your colleagues down or be let down. You can ensure the successful delivery of programs and projects through collaboration and documenting task dependencies. By doing so, you can be accountable when others are reliant on you. You can understand dependent tasks, change implications, and adjust course as needed.

6. Automated notifications

Automated workflows - notifications

No matter your role as defined by the project charter, you can also successfully execute work by leveraging software to notify when changes occur. With TrueNxus's 20+ out-of-the-box automated notifications, you will have the transparency you need to stay in-the-know.


Cross-functional team collaboration - comments

Additionally, the entire company can ensure project plans are successful by collaborating directly in the app. With TrueNxus, you can communicate with colleagues, clients, consultants, and contractors in one place.


So, if you're ready to get started with the only software that has a built-in project charter, along with everything else you need to effectively plan and execute projects, then check out our free trial of TrueNxus today.