Difference Between Project Charter & Project Scope

by Celeste Banner; Updated September 26, 2017
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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, they have vastly different purposes, audiences and content.

Authorization

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 that includes goals, purpose and target end date; include a table listing the project manager, sponsor and any other executive stakeholders; and close with signatures with the named participants. The charter should seldom be longer than two pages.

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.

Goals

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.

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.

About the Author

Celeste Banner has been writing for publication since 2005. Her articles have appeared in lifestyle magazines and websites, special interest books and literary journals. She has worked as a project manager and technical writer for over 10 years.

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