What Are the Elements of a Project Charter?

by Lester Godsey ; Updated September 26, 2017
Businessman writing on board in conference room

A project charter is the document that formally recognizes a project. The project charter is what gives the project manager the authority to utilize resources and allocate them as necessary. As a result of this, it is generally recommended that the project manager be identified and assigned as soon as possible, at least before finalization of the project charter.


You will typically see a contract if the input for the project charter is coming from an external customer. You may find SLAs (service level agreements) instead for projects internal to your organization. These service level agreements are like contracts in that they define the roles and responsibilities for the parties involved. The contract will help define the potential parameters of the project charter.

Project Statement of Work

The SOW, or statement of work, is the input used to develop the project charter. Elements of a SOW show the business need/benefit of the project, product scope description and strategic plan.

Every project is created for the purpose of meeting some organizational need, and the SOW describes this need.

Since projects are finite in duration, cost and scope, a tangible result is expected whether it is a product or a new business process. The SOW describes this end product or result.

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Working under the assumption that the organization has a strategic plan that the proposed project is working toward fulfilling, this plan is critical in the creation of the project charter.

Enterprise Environmental Factors

When creating the project charter, everything that an organization has and does that can affect the project needs to be taken into consideration. Examples include, but are not limited to: funding, staffing resources, tolerance to risk, political will, governmental or industrial standards and organizational culture.

This input is particularly useful to the project manager, as the project charter is one of the first documents that clearly states what resources exist for him to utilize.

Organizational Process Assets

Every company has its own way of conducting business; this has a direct impact on not only how the project charter is drafted, but any and all subsequent project documentation that is created. In addition to establishing processes by which the project will be conducted, these organizational process assets also represent the sum total of intellectual knowledge the organization possesses. This knowledge should be factored in the creation of the project charter.


  • “A Guide to the Project management Body of Knowledge;” PMI; 2004


About the Author

Lester Godsey has worked in the information technology field for more than 17 years. Godsey, a certified project management professional, holds a Bachelor of Arts in music and a Master of Science in technology, both from Arizona State University. He also teaches for the University of Phoenix, primarily in I.T. and project management.

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