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Project Initiation

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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

The Purpose of the Project Charter

The most important result of the Project Initiation phase is the project charter, which formally authorizes the work of the project to begin (or continue) and gives the project manager authority to do his job. Someone external to the team and of higher organizational rank issues this authorization.


Per PMI, a project cannot start without a project charter.

In many organizations, the project charter document may have a different name. For instance, the terms project initiation form and project authorization are sometimes used. For the exam, make sure you are clear on what a project charter is to PMI.

The PMBOK recognizes that a signed contract can serve as a project charter.

Elements of a Project Charter

According to PMI, a project charter should possess the following characteristics at a minimum:

  • It should include a description of the business need the project will meet.

  • It should include a description of the product resulting from the project.

  • It should be issued by a manager external to the project who can satisfy the needs of the project.

In addition to these elements, you will generally find a section describing the key objectives and goals of the project. These objectives and goals are often the key assumptions, constraints, and/or target performance metrics for the initiative. In particular, any assumption or constraint affecting the project's schedule, budget, or quality will be listed.


As mentioned in the "Tips for the IT Professional" section of Chapter 1, "The PMP Exam," this area can be a common "gap" for project managers, because their organization may have a different definition for project charter. In some cases, the project charter may actually be the "project plan," or it may require details such as schedules, a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), complete risk assessment, and so on, that are normally developed during the project plan development phase.

Also, given this definition, it should not be necessary to modify a project charter as a project executes.

The Proper Role to Issue the Project Charter

The project charter must be issued by someone external to the project team and at the appropriate organizational level to satisfy the needs of the project. For example, you need someone of the proper ranking who can acquire necessary resources, influence key stakeholders, enforce accountability on all project team members, and so on.

Generally, this "someone" is from senior-level management within an organization—someone who has authority over most, if not all, of the project team members. This also means that no one on the project team (including the project manager) can issue the project charter.

The Importance of the Project Charter to the Project Manager

The project charter is highly important to the project manager for three main reasons:

  • It makes the project manager's role legit. The project charter formally recognizes the project manager role and gives the project manager the authority to "get the job done."

  • It makes the project legit. The project charter formally authorizes the project to exist and/or to continue.

  • It sets the target for the project. The project charter provides the high-level goals and objectives the project should achieve.

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