Project Charter

The project charter is a document that formally authorizes a project or phase. The project charter defines the reason for the project and assigns a project manager and his or her authority level for the project. The contents of the charter describe the project in high-level terms, such as:

  • Project purpose
  • High-level project description
  • Project boundaries
  • Key deliverables
  • High-level requirements
  • Overall project risk
  • Project objectives and related success criteria
  • Summary milestone schedule
  • Preapproved financial resources
  • Key stakeholder list
  • Project approval requirements
  • Project exit criteria
  • Assigned project manager, responsibility, and authority level
  • Name and authority of the sponsor or other person(s) authorizing the project charter

The project charter can receive information from:

  • Agreements (contracts)
  • Statements of work
  • Business case
  • Benefits management plan

It provides information to:

  • Stakeholder register
  • Project management plan
  • Scope management plan
  • Requirements management plan
  • Requirements documentation
  • Requirements traceability matrix
  • Project scope statement
  • Schedule management plan
  • Cost management plan
  • Quality management plan
  • Resource management plan
  • Communications management plan
  • Risk management plan
  • Procurement management plan
  • Stakeholder engagement plan

The project charter is an output from process 4.1 Develop Project Charter in the PMBOK® Guide – Sixth Edition. This document is developed once and is not usually changed unless there is a significant change in the environment, scope, schedule, resources, budget, or stakeholders.


Tailoring tips

Consider the following tips to help you tailor the project charter to meet your needs:

  • Combine the project charter with the project scope statement, especially if your project is small.
  • If you are doing the project under contract you can use the statement of work as the project charter in some cases.


The project charter should be aligned and consistent with the following documents:

  • Business case
  • Project scope statement
  • Milestone schedule
  • Budget
  • Stakeholder register
  • Risk register

Elements of a Project charter

Document element Description 
Project purpose The reason the project is being undertaken. May refer to a business case, the organization’s strategic plan, external factors, a contract agreement, or any other reason for performing the project.
High-level project description A summary-level description of the project.
Project boundaries Limits to the project scope. May include scope exclusions, or other limitations
Key deliverables The high-level project and product deliverables. These will be further elaborated in the project scope statement.
High-level requirements The high-level conditions or capabilities that must be met to satisfy the
purpose of the project. Describe the product features and functions that must be present to meet stakeholders’ needs and expectations. These will be further elaborated in the requirements documentation.
Overall project risk An assessment of the overall riskiness of the project. Overall risk can include the underlying political, social, economic, and technological volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. It pertains to the stakeholder exposure to variations in the project outcome.
Project objectives and related success criteria Project objectives are usually established for at least scope, schedule, and cost. The success criteria identify the metrics or measurements that will be used to measure success.
There may be additional objectives as well. Some organizations include quality, safety, and stakeholder satisfaction objectives.
Summary milestone schedule Significant events in the project. Examples include the completion of key deliverables, the beginning or completion of a project phase, or product acceptance.
Preapproved financial resources The amount of funding available for the project. May include sources of funding and annual funding limits.
Key stakeholder list An initial, high-level list of people or groups that have influenced or can influence project success, as well as those who are influenced by its success. This can be further elaborated in the stakeholder register.
Project exit criteria The performance, metrics, conditions, or other measurements that must be met to conclude the project.
Assigned project manager, responsibility, and authority level The authority of the project manager with regard to staffing, bud- get management and variance, technical decisions, and conflict resolution.
Examples of staffing authority include the power to hire, fire, discipline, accept, or not accept project staff.
Budget management refers to the authority of the project manager to commit, manage, and control project funds. Variance refers to the variance level that requires escalation.
Technical decisions describe the authority of the project manager to make technical decisions about deliverables or the project approach.
Conflict resolution defines the degree to which the project manager can resolve conflict within the team, within the organization, and with external stakeholders.
Name and authority of the sponsor or other person(s) authorizing the project charter The name, position, and authority of the person who oversees the project manager for the purposes of the project. Common types of authority include the ability to approve changes, determine acceptable variance limits, resolve inter-project conflicts, and champion the proj- ect at a senior management level.