NYU was on spring break this week so there wasn’t really a class to recap (meaning chicken scratch notes for me to transcribe) but there was an assignment to complete and it is probably one of the more interesting ones of the early part of the course which is why I am including it here:
The Project Charter is a high level definition of the key attributes of a project. The initial production of the document compiles the basic information necessary to receive approval and proceed to the detailed planning and then execution phases by outlining broad vision of a project.
Project Charters are beneficial as a project management tool because they:
• Set expectations for the project by defining the:
o Acceptance parameters
• Acts as the central outline for complimentary documentation such as:
o Project Plan
o Work Breakdown Structure
o Project Schedule
o Quality Assurance Plan
o Risk Management Plan
o Scope Document
• Identifies stakeholders and defines responsibilities
• Provides all stakeholders with a central high level point of reference
• Defines the business objective, goals, value propositions, etc.
• Identifies potential risks, threats, constraints, dependencies, etc.
• Highlights priorities, milestones and benchmark criteria
Each of these are necessary to help minimize potential project failure by producing:
• Defined expectations
However, the Project Charter is not without potential weaknesses, including:
• Incorrect assumptions driving key attributes
• Teams treating elements too rigid or too flexibly
• Being perceived as tedious to create and maintain
• Imposing a unilateral vision
In order to mitigate Project Charter problems utilize a change management system to create a dynamic document that:
• Has a clear version control and ownership group.
• Facilitates collaboration between accountable stakeholders.
• Addresses broad variance in Scope, Budget, Timeline and Acceptance parameters.
• Responds to new risks, threats, constraints, dependencies, etc. and adjustments in priorities, milestones and benchmark criteria as new information becomes relevant.
• Recognizes changes to stakeholders and their responsibilities.
In my experience Project Charters, when used correctly, can be an effective tool for a project manager by:
• Providing a guiding vision throughout the project.
This continues to be an asset in my everyday use because:
o It clearly states the overarching business purpose, goals and objectives to which every other aspect of the project must then adhere to.
o It provides a mechanism from which all other documentation will flow.
• Reducing ambiguity through the fixation of key project concepts.
This eliminates two persistent problems I experience by:
o Minimizing important information existing only within a stakeholder’s own brain.
o Reducing confusion and ambiguity within the team on the expectations and parameters of the project.
• Representing a first opportunity for a group of stakeholders to build rapport during the document creation.
This addresses three concerns I face when working with teams by:
o Proving early vetting of feasibility before the formalized approval process.
o Facilitating buy-in, creating ownership.
o Creating familiarity between stakeholders who may not otherwise have much interaction.
• Acting as the central reference point of top level project information.
This is useful to the teams I’ve worked within because:
o It is a single document resource eliminating most stakeholders from having to reference a series of different documents for relevant information to them.
o The document contains only basic information on all aspects of the project without being mired in too specific of detail on any to render it unusable.
o The information can be referenced by any stakeholder, in theory, at any time during or after the project for review and clarification.
While there is some pushback within the Agile community against over documentation the founding elements of the Project Charter have proven invaluable for molding successful projects in my experience and its use fits well within the needs of both traditional and the various agile methodologies of project management.