Agile Project Charter: What it is and how to write an effective project charter

What is an agile project charter and how do you effectively write one? Find out all you need to know in this blog.


TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. Definition
  2. Origin
  3. Contents of the charter
  4. How to write an agile project charter?
  5. Sample

What is an agile project charter?

An agile project charter is an important guiding document which focuses on the objectives of the project. The charter is used to keep track and make sure that the team doesn’t stray away from their purpose.

Do not, however, confuse an agile project charter with an agile team charter. While the former focuses on the specific project’s objectives, the latter shows the mission, goals, values, and operational scope of an agile team.

A charter might not seem to be the most necessary document for an agile team, but it’s quite important to align the stakeholders’ expectations to the team’s ability to deliver. The charter contains a lot of information, but the main objective is to make things clear and ensure that the business and tech side of the project are aligned.

The agile team puts together a summary of the main success factors of the project. It’s usually not too big and can be displayed easily in case of a colocated work environment. The description on the charter contains the major project objectives, scope limitations and agreements between the tech and business stakeholders. Charter formats that different teams use for the project charter can vary a lot.

How project chartering came about

In 2001, the article ‘Immunizing against predictable project failure’ was published. In the coming years, this was seen as the basis for agile project chartering.

A couple years later, in 2003, Joshua Krevinsky from Industrial Logic published a set of proposed extensions to XP (Extreme Programming). This set included project chartering in a manner similar to what was described in the article in 2001.

Three years after this, Jean Tabaka, a well known agile influencer, referenced project chartering as an important practice in project collaboration in her book ‘Collaboration Explained.’ Her presentation wasn’t very similar to the 2001 article and showed signs of other references, though.


agile project charter

What does an agile project charter include?

The elements of a project charter or the information contained therein isn’t uniform across teams and projects. Based on the needs, the project charter is modified to include those components that are necessary for the project at hand. However, a project charter generally includes the following:

  1. Product Vision - this defines the ‘Why’ of the project, i.e., why the project exists.

  2. Mission Statement - this is the ‘What’ of the project, which aims to answer how the vision would be achieved and the steps towards it.

  3. Approvals - stakeholders note down their approvals or disapproval as well as give constructive feedback in this section.

  4. Success Criteria - management tests or success factors that help in achieving the project effectively

  5. Key Deliverables - all the information on the deliverables that are related to the project

  6. Team Members - a comprehensive list of all the team members involved in the project and their roles and responsibilities

  7. Timeline - this is a schedule of the milestones that are to be completed and the dates for completion

  8. Assumptions and Constraints - a sort of pros and cons list of the project as well as the internal and external factors that can impact the project

  9. Risks and Issues - this section highlights the risks and threats that may affect the project development.

  10. Budget - the estimated cost of all the resources that would be required to complete the project.

How to write an agile project charter?

As already mentioned, the project charter need not be uniform across agile teams and can be modified to suit your team’s needs. The following steps are considered to be good when writing an agile project charter:

Discuss the charter with the stakeholders and your team

Set a team meeting to discuss the project charter. All the people involved in the development as well as the various stakeholders should be invited to participate in this meeting. Involving all these minds at the start gives a wholesome idea of the various aspects of the project and enables them to give inputs. 

The best steps for the team to achieve the project objectives are to be determined in this meeting. 

Brainstorm ideas

Let all your team members contribute with their ideas. Simply note the most important points discussed on a whiteboard so you can include them in the project charter.

Maintain organized notes

In any discussion you have with your team, make sure to write down notes in an organized manner. This is very important in keeping track of all the important questions and points discussed during the meeting.

The discussion should ideally be around the primary objectives of the project, but if other things are discussed, noting them down ensures that no information is lost.

Make use of templates

Instead of making a dedicated project charter yourself, simply use a template downloaded from the internet. This extra effort that you’d put in creating the project charter outline can be instead directed towards something more productive.

Include the vision and mission statement

These things serve as a guide for the team throughout the development process. Make sure that the mission statement isn’t too elaborate so that team members can easily remember it and refer to it at any point in the process.

Establish a set of rules

A code of conduct is necessary to allow everyone in the team to feel safe expressing their opinions and also do so in a non-offensive way. Let your team members give inputs on what rules are important to them when including these in the agile project charter.

Make your scope clear

Clearly outline what the members of the team are responsible for and what their functions would be. Also avoid overlaps between roles.

Outline the expectations and goals

Write what your team aims to achieve through this project. The key objectives and expected results should be clearly given in the project charter. These should also be realistic in nature so as to ensure success.

Note down specific information

Along with the mission, scope and goals, also include the project specifics in the charter. Answer all relevant questions such as when the project will be completed or how many users will be affected by the project in this section.

This information should be properly documented to avoid any confusion. Team members should be able to refer to it when required.

Use an agile framework if you wish

You can pick famous agile frameworks to guide you in the process of developing the project from start to finish. These frameworks act as a guide so that you can focus on the development and all necessary aspects of the project.

Review the project charter and get it approved

After the project charter seems complete, review it with the key stakeholders involved. This helps to determine that all the necessary information is contained in the charter. Once the agile project charter is deemed credible by all, it can be finalised.

Sample agile project charter

Consider this sample agile project charter as an example of what yours would eventually look like:

Project name:

Applicant tracking system

Vision:

Make it easy for the HR department to keep track of the various applicants and smoothen the recruitment process

Mission statement:

Create an applicant tracking system with an easy to use form and real time applicant tracking. Let the hiring managers get access to the complete profiles and move applicants to relevant stages through easy communication tactics.

Success Criteria:

  1. Complete the comprehensive database by 18th November
  2. The applicant review rate should increase by 50% by Jan 26th
  3. HR department survey should show 90% satisfaction rate

Project Team:

Here’s where you list the names and contact details of the various team members.

Code of conduct:

  1. Respect other team members at all times
  2. Make sure you don’t miss team meetings unless due to unavoidable circumstances
  3. Update the tasks on the update board at regular intervals
  4. Team members will be responsible for meetings on a rotating basis and minutes will be shared within 12 hours
  5. In case any meeting is cancelled, this will be intimated to the members in advance.

You can add the other sections to the project charter as need be.

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