After a project's statement of work is approved and before the project planning phase begins, there's a short middle stage, as described
, where organizations draw lines of authority. Everyone involved with a project needs to align around
Who's running the project.
The budget and project schedule.
The project's success criteria.
The roles of each team member.
The project charter is where all these details live. Once a project charter is complete, your project team members will gain alignment across a bunch of important details and set a foundation for effective project planning.
We created a project charter template you can use right now for free. It's fairly straightforward (project charters tend to be short) but deeply customizable with
that makes gaining approval, sharing, and
What is a project charter?
A project charter is a formal document that outlines the high-level details of a project, including its scope, goals, timeline, deliverables, and participants. The purpose of a project charter is to help the project manager gain the approval and authorization they need to start the project.
Put simply, a project charter explains the who, what, where, when, why, and how of a project so all stakeholders can sign off on it.
A "charter," by definition,
. Once it's complete, the project charter gives the project manager the authority to access resources, set up processes, and even circumvent the traditional org structure to complete the project.
A project charter typically comes after the
(or project contract) is signed and before
. The statement of work explains the work involved with the project, the project charter lays out everything the team needs to do that work, then project planning documents explain how the team will do the work.
When they're done well, project charters set expectations and create a foundation for later project plan documents, like the
What's included in the project charter template?
Project charters typically follow a standardized formula and tend to be fairly short, often linking to other more detailed documents that dive into the specifics of the project. For these reasons, a customizable project charter template that you can quickly edit and share is a great tool for your project management toolkit.
No matter how you customize it, your project charter should include ten things:
1. Project statement
A project statement (or project definition) is a very short summary of the statement of work, explaining what the project is. What you put here should be a direct answer (no more than a handful of words) to the question "What is your project?" In our template, the project statement and the project name are the same things.
2. Project description
Your project description is a one-to-two sentence summary of the project and what the team behind it aims to accomplish. Think of it as the "elevator pitch" for the project that everyone agrees on.
3. Project milestones
Project milestones are the major markers of progress throughout the life of a project. Each milestone is almost a mini-project in itself, containing a description, timeline, and status. The role of a milestone is to break down a large project into smaller chunks and provide every stakeholder with a rough sequence of events the project will follow. We've found that using a Gantt chart for your major milestones is a great way to visualize your entire project lifecycle.
4. Project scope and timeline
Explicitly lay out the project timeline using specific start and end dates. The best way to explain the project scope is to be specific in your project description and milestones about what is being accomplished.
5. Project deliverables and requirements
A part of explaining the project scope is listing out all project deliverables and specific requirements from the stakeholders. You can fold both deliverables and requirements into the description of each milestone, or you can create your own section listing them out separately.
6. Project objectives
Another part of explaining project scope is writing out the project objectives. Whereas deliverables and requirements are the granular details of what the project is accomplishing, your objectives are the overall vision. For example, a deliverable could be a web traffic report, while an objective would be "to understand where visitors to our website are coming from."
Like your deliverables, you can also fold your project objectives into your project description or have it as a separate list.
7. Project success criteria & expected ROI
To get sign-off on the project, explain how that project will benefit the overall business and the success criteria around those benefits. In the early stages of a project, it can be tricky to predict the measurable specifics around how exactly a certain milestone will increase revenue, for instance.
Instead, we recommend thinking about ROI as a "business need" or "business case," which is included in our template. An example of a business case is "Updating our mobile app for better user experience."
8. Roles and responsibilities
Next, explain who is involved with the project, what they're doing, and their responsibilities. A person's role is their purpose in the project, for example, "Engineer," "Stakeholder," or "Team Lead." A person's team is what team they're a part of, like "Back End."
Responsibilities are short descriptions of what each person is tasked with completing. In our template, responsibilities are a part of the Role and Team descriptions.
9. Project Budget
Record the amount of money set aside for the project. All key stakeholders need to be aware of what organizational resources they have to work with.
10. Project risks
If you foresee any issues with the execution of the project, list them out as
. These can include anything that might derail the timeline, create complicated dependencies, lead to scope creep, or crash the project.
helps everyone understand what can go wrong and create contingency plans.
👉 Get started with this project charter template
After you copy this template, you’ll be able to edit and customize everything in this template and use this template for your next project.
How to write a project charter using Coda's template
Step 1: Adding a New Project
Start with the
page, where you can introduce a new project for your organization. By filling out the
form, you can identify a
, address the
, choose your
, and add the
of your project.
Once your project is added, you can view the full list of current projects your organization is taking on
table. This will give you a better grasp of which
are taking on the project.
Step 2: Creating Milestones for your Projects
Next, visit the
page to add in new milestones for your projects. You can click the
Add New Milestone
button to identify which project you are adding a milestone and the correlated details for the milestone. Each milestone has a
, and a
on the progress of the milestone.
table, you can see a visual timeline of the milestones correlated to each project
. This allows all the teams in your organization to visually see the statuses of each milestone in real time.
Extra Steps: People and Teams
Finally, in the
page, you can view the different people that are in your organization. You can add a new person by clicking the
Add New Person
button and assign them to different
Along with that, you can add sponsors to your organization from external companies by visiting the
Project charter template FAQs
Who prepares a project charter?
The project manager prepares the project charter with input from important project stakeholders.
What are the benefits of writing a project charter?
A project charter sets clear expectations and lines of authority for a project. It ensures everyone involved with the project understands the project's scope, timeline, deliverables, and participants in the project.
What is the difference between a project charter and an organization's mission statement?
A project charter is a document describing the high-level details of an individual project, including the project goals. An organization's mission statement is the overall goal the organization is trying to achieve across all its projects.
What's the difference between a project charter vs. a statement of work?
A statement of work is the initial outline of and agreement on the work that will get completed during a project. A project charter contains all the high-level details of the project with the purpose of establishing authorization for the project to get started. A statement of work describes what work will get done, while the project charter describes what is needed to do that work.
What's the difference between a project charter vs. a project proposal?
A project proposal is the initial pitch of a project, outlining the ideas and purpose behind the project. The purpose of a project proposal is to get approval for the concept of the project. A project charter contains all the high-level details stakeholders need to agree to for a project to get started. The purpose of a project charter is to align all key stakeholders and gain authorization for the project to start.