The Project Charter – Timeline

Initiation

The Project Charter should contain a high-level timeline so that expectations can be set and preliminary commitments established. If not enough is known at Charter time to be reasonably certain of this timeline, then it should be noted as to when the baseline schedule will be established.

The timeline will contain elements that depend on your organization’s methodology. You will want to note target completion dates for major milestones and phases. Here is an example for a software development project:

  • Requirements – Jan 31
  • Design – Feb 23
  • Development/Unit Testing – April 8
  • System Testing – April 30
  • User Acceptance Testing – May 21
  • Transition to Production – June 8
  • Production Stabilization – July 8

For projects not involving software, your phases and major milestones will be named according to the nature of the project. Here is an example where the project is to order and install new equipment in several locations:

  • Scope established – Jan 15
  • Products Ordered – Jan 30
  • Products Tested – Feb 21
  • Products installed in pilot locations – March 15
  • Products installed in all locations – June 1

The Project Charter – Scope of Work

Initiation

At the Project Charter level, the scope of work is not meant to be all-inclusive and at a fine level of detail. That is done when detail requirements are addressed.

You can derive part of the scope by taking each Project Objective (refer to the post on Project Objectives for more detail) and listing the major work activities needed to accomplish that objective. These should be at a level of detail enough to get a high-level understanding of the effort and duration of the activity. This is a judgment call and varies by type of project.

In addition to the above, you can list the major business processes that are impacted by the project. A process is impacted if one of the following is true:

  • there will be new or changed process steps
  • there will be new sources of data or information for the process
  • there will be new recipients of data or information from the process
  • there will be changed or additional owners of the process.

Listing the major activities and the impacted processes should be sufficient for scope at the Project Charter level. Your organization’s standards may require more, but this should be the minimum.

The Project Charter – Project Objectives

Initiation

Project Objectives are very different from Business Objectives. I have seen Project Charters with the two types of objectives mixed into one objectives section and I find it very confusing. I recommend placing Project Objectives in its own section.

Project Objectives should satisfy the following criteria:

  • Produce a product, service or result that survive and are maintained after the project is over. Some examples of this are (1) a new business “Standard Operating Procedure”; (2) new software installed that meets all of the acceptance criteria.
  • Have a definition of “done” that is agreed to by the Project Sponsor and the Project Team.

Project Objectives are important for the following reasons:

  • They define the scope of the major deliverables of the project
  • They will be used to define much of the activity scope of the project
  • Meeting all of the Project Objectives is one of the criteria for project closing

The combination of having well defined Business and Project Objectives will get your project off to a great start and help keep it on track. Take care to get these right.

The Project Charter – Business Objectives

Initiation

As stated in the post “Building Blocks of a Successful Project Part 2”, Business Objectives are the “CEO’s view” of the project. They should make or save money, take advantage of opportunity, respond to new law and regulations, or increase competitive advantage. They should be specific and measurable to avoid what I call “Mom and apple pie” objectives like “We will be more efficient”. Really? Exactly how efficient? Will be be able to cut costs or deploy those efficiency savings to revenue opportunities?

Why is this important? Because everyone on your project is a decision maker whether you acknowledge it or not. Every day of a project, many “micro-decisions” are made without asking for clarification as that would be very inefficient. People will make these decisions based on assumptions due to lack of clarity in the objectives. Clearly stating the Business Objectives will help everyone make better decisions by asking themselves “does this decision support the Business Objectives as stated?”.

Another reason documented Business Objectives are important is they create a measuring stick for the health of the project. At any point in the project the question “Are the Business Objectives still obtainable?” needs to be asked. If the answer is “no”, the project is evaluated as to whether it should continue or not. Many projects forge ahead even if the Business Objectives are no longer possible because “we have spent a lot of time and money already”. This is a concept called “sunk cost” and this fact is irrelevant in good decision making. If a project no longer offers a return on investment (ROI), there is no point in throwing more money and time at it.

At the end of the project and at regular, predetermined intervals,  the actual outcomes need to be measured against the original objectives. If the outcomes met or exceeded the objectives, congratulations, your project was a success! If the outcomes fell short of the objectives, you can consider doing the following:

  • Find the root causes and address them, which may mean spending more time and money if the ROI warrants it.
  • If the ROI for spending more time and money to correct the root causes is not positive you can leave the project deliverables in place and not make any additional investment.
  • If the project results are actually having a negative impact and additional investment will not help you may need to reverse the implementation (if feasible) to prevent further damage.

My advice is to spend as much time as you need getting the Business Objectives right. It is the most important thing you will do on a project.