Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tools of the Trade: Project Charter

When I manage projects, I like to keep my team focused on project business goals and timeframes, while minimizing the amount of information they need to deal with to deliver. In a project, you have a Business Problem and Solution and I keep them front and center in every meeting and discussion. Most importantly I create a simple Project Charter and get agreement from the team and project sponsors to use it as the guide for what we do and how we do it.

The Project Charter consists of :
  • a simply stated Project Background and Business Problem (3-4 sentences)
  • the proposed Solution (2-3 sentences)
  • major milestones, with timelines
  • key expected Issues and Risks (5 bulletpoints or less)
  • Project team members, roles, and contact information
  • Project oversight committee members, roles and contact information
  • Communication Plan (communication types, methods, roles in a simple table)
One page is the ideal, but the Charter usually rolls into a second page.

I use the Charter to initiate the project and I point to it when we need to figure out how to handle problems, whether to change the Project Plan or Design, and how to know if we're on track to provide a real Business Solution.

To me, projects are about solving real business problems, rather than simply implementing technology or process because it's on our annual objectives. The Project Charter helps the team and the oversight group make sure we deliver something valuable.

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