Good project management means documenting what you will do as well as what has been done. Both the project charter and project scope are created early in the initiation phase of a project, and they each help steer the project in the right direction. While both of these documents are crucial to getting a project off the ground, one difference between the project scope and project charter lies in their purposes, while others lie in their audiences and content.

Purpose of a Project Charter

The charter has one primary purpose: to authorize a project manager to use defined resources to complete a project. Secondarily, the charter should assign a project sponsor. These two people will manage and support the project across multiple teams and through several phases.

The charter should be a concise document that begins with a brief introduction to the project and should seldom be longer than two pages. Its contents should include:

  • A brief introduction justifying the project to the business
  • Statement of the project objectives
  • List of high-level project requirements (time, quality, scope and budget)
  • Description of what the end product should be like
  • Known project risks and problems
  • Milestones to meet (including end dates)
  • Expected budget of the project
  • List of stakeholders
  • List of critical success factors
  • Table showing the names and responsibilities of all on the project team

The project charter should close with signatures with the named participants.

The Charter and Project Approval

Since the charter is signed by at least one senior staff member, the sponsor, it affords the project documented validity. The charter is often delivered to executives or other high-ranking team members and serves notice that the project has been approved. Since many projects are managed across departments, this approval also serves notice to other teams that their cooperation will be needed. Frequently, the charter is presented along with a business case, and these two documents record the reason for project.

Purpose of the Project Scope

When comparing the purpose of a project charter vs a scope statement, the main difference is the project scope defines the parameters of the project. Initially, a preliminary scope document is prepared (along with the charter and other initiation documents) to map out the goals. This document is usually presented to the team leads who will be contributing members to the project team, though it does not include how tasks will be completed.

For example, in a construction project, the preliminary scope would describe the structure to be built, including the number of rooms, the square footage and the number of entrances.

The project scope should address the following:

  • Description of the project scope (what is and isn't included)
  • Performance requirements for company to accept the project's deliverables
  • List and descriptions of all deliverables
  • List of project constraints (such as time, money and resources)
  • Assumptions about the project

Project Scope Helps With Accountability

The scope document will help stakeholders determine whether a project is complete. Since the scope document defines what the project will deliver, it is useful throughout the project for determining if the project is on schedule to conclude successfully. If your project is to implement a suite of software that includes three applications, and you have completed two, you have not delivered on your promised scope.

Scope documents often change during a project for this reason. Unlike a charter, scope documents are considered "living" documents, and, as new information is discovered, the goals can be modified.